Economics in Brief: University Climate Activists Fight for Fossil Fuel Divestment

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Economics in Brief: University Climate Activists Fight for Fossil Fuel Divestment

A look at New York’s newest guaranteed income program, and more.

(Photo by niekverlaan / Pixabay)

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University Climate Activists Fight for Fossil Fuel Divestment

Students at Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Vanderbilt have filed legal complaints against their universities for what they say are illegal investments in fossil fuels.

The plaintiffs argue that the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act forces universities to invest their resources into “socially beneficial ends,” and that conflicts with the school’s current investments, the Washington Post says.

“It’s crazy,” Molly Weiner, a Yale Endowment Justice Coalition organizer, told the Post. “I’m here studying environmental policy, yet my school is contributing to the climate crisis.” Last June Yale announced a list of companies that would no longer be eligible for investment, and MIT has reduced its fossil-fuel investments over the last 15 years.

City governments have also pledged to divest in the name of combating climate change. In December, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu signed an ordinance forcing the city to divest from fossil fuel, tobacco and private prison industries by the end of 2025.

Steven Bloom, assistant vice president for government relations with the American Council on Education, however, doesn’t think the students’ legal complaint will go far: “It seems like a stretch, if you look at the law itself, that they have failed to act in ways consistent with their legal requirements.”

Editor’s Note: Next City is hosting a panel discussion on Feb. 23, to talk about climate change, clean energy, cities’ progress on environmental justice and more. Details here.

New York Artists Can Apply for Guaranteed Income Program

Creatives Rebuild New York, the state’s newest guaranteed income program, will provide financial support to local artists, the New York Times reports.

Sponsored by the Mellon Foundation, the $125 million initiative is two-pronged; up to 2,400 artists will get $1,000 a month for 18 months, and 300 creatives will be employed at a community organization or municipality for a $65,000 salary.

This support is significant as research by Americans for the Arts found that 63% of artists were unemployed during the height of the pandemic. The nonprofit arts industry experienced a financial loss of nearly $18 billion, and though job losses have rebounded, rates of employment are still below pre-pandemic levels.

“As we continue to envision and work towards our post-pandemic reality it’s critical that we not overlook the artist workers whose labor is an essential part of our economy and whose continued work sustains us,” said Mellon Foundation President Elizabeth Alexander.

New York is not the first to support artists that have struggled during the pandemic. Next City previously reported on a similar program in St. Paul that launched in April of last year. And organizers of San Francisco’s own 18-month project are hoping to extend aid past 2023.

Applications for New York’s program are open until March 25. Find out more about the guaranteed income programs Next City has been tracking here.

Calls for and Progress on Reparations in Three Cities

Locals and students living near the University of Chicago are demanding the institution provide more than $70 million annually to promote affordable housing and education programs in Chicago’s South Side.

Activists point to the university’s past support of restrictive regulations—one having residents agree to not sell to people of color—as proof of its contributions to gentrification. And while a university spokesperson pointed to free college readiness programs and millions spent in procurement with local businesses as proof of their commitment, residents feel that UChicago’s aid to the community does not outweigh their costs.

“The majority of folks [living near campus] are not going to go to that school, so the inherent public good of the school is never felt by folks,” said Dixon Romeo, a South Shore resident and member of Not Me We.

Elsewhere, Asheville, North Carolina is interviewing candidates for its Reparations Commission, ABC13 News reports. And Evanston, Illinois, which already launched a reparations program, has announced the first cohort of recipients set to receive $25,000. The money must go toward a house down payment, mortgage payment or home repairs.

Ramona Burton, one of the 16 recipients, said: “I just hope that everybody that signed up will eventually be picked and I wish it could be expanded to more and more cities in the United States.”

This article is part of The Bottom Line, a series exploring scalable solutions for problems related to affordability, inclusive economic growth and access to capital. Click here to subscribe to our Bottom Line newsletter. The Bottom Line is made possible with support from Citi.

Solcyre (Sol) Burga was an Emma Bowen Foundation Fellow with Next City for summer 2021. Burga graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in political science and journalism in May of 2022. As a Newark native and immigrant, she hopes to elevate the voices of underrepresented communities in her work.

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Tags: climate changeguaranteed incomereparations

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