Summer 2013 Update!

Here’s a list of topics discussed below:
 – PowerShift 2013
– UChicago Divestment Report Drafting
– G.R.O.W Chicago
– Future Campaigns

Powershift 2013

An exciting opportunity is fast approaching for UCAN and it’s time to gauge interest.

PowerShift essentially is a biannual (every other year, not twice a year) environmental organizing conference, where youth from all over the country converge for a series of trainings and ‘movement-building-sessions’. This year it will be in Pittsburgh from Oct. 18-21 (the weekend of 3rd week). For more information check it out here.Personally, I think this would be a great opportunity for UCAN and would love to see us go! PLEASE respond here with your thoughts (the sooner we start planning/fundraising the better!)

UChicago Divestment Report Drafting

We have started the process of drafting the report and if you are interested in helping, please shoot Paul an email and he’ll get you looped in.

Any help, research and/or ideas would be greatly appreciated!
G.R.O.W. (Gather Rise Organize Win) Chicago Divestment Meet-up: Next Week!
For anyone in Chicago next Saturday there’s an exciting event happening at Roosevelt University that is being put together by CYCC. 

What are these meet-ups you ask? They are convergences of student organizers and off-campus environmental justice groups, meant to build strong coalitions that will lay the groundwork for future collaboration. Students will return to campus having built the infrastructure for student-driven national and regional networks for communications and coordination. As both the divestment movement and the movement for climate justice seek escalation on a large scale, G.R.O.W. meet-ups will forge the vital connections needed to create a broad-based movement to confront the fossil fuel industry.

Needless to say, it’ll be a great opportunity to strengthen our SFCC campaign while connecting with students and community members.

Here are the specifics:

Date: Saturday, August 17th 2013
Place: Roosevelt University, 430 S. Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60605
Time: 10am-2pm (Event is free of charge)

Will you be there? Register here and check out our Facebook event.
Help us spread the word! 

Future Campaigns
With plenty of summer left, it’s always good to start brainstorming early for campaigns we can become involved in as a group for the upcoming year.
Feel free to comment here with ideas for the upcoming year and check-out the responses here.

Chicago G.R.O.W Meet-up

Have you heard of the G.R.O.W. (Gather Rise Organize Win) Divestment meet-ups?

They are convergences of student organizers and off-campus environmental justice groups, meant to build strong coalitions that will lay the groundwork for future collaboration. Students will return to campus having built the infrastructure for student-driven national and regional networks for communications and coordination. As both the divestment movement and the movement for climate justice seek escalation on a large scale, G.R.O.W. meet-ups will forge the vital connections needed to create a broad-based movement to confront the fossil fuel industry.

G.R.O.W. Divestment meet-ups are happening throughout the summer, in cities across the nation. And we’re bringing one to Chicago!

Here are the specifics:

Date: Saturday, August 17th 2013

Place: Roosevelt University, 430 S. Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

Time: TBA (The event is free of charge)

Register here and check out our Facebook event.

If you’d like to be a part of the planning process email Jonny at

Divestment Referendum Passes at UChicago for Divestment from Fossil Fuels.

Say yes to divest

Passage of divestment referendum shows student desire for University that values environment more than illusion of neutrality.

yes divest

“What will you say when the referendum passes?” I asked my friend, a fellow member of Stop Funding Climate Change (SFCC), the night before the Student Government election results were released.

“Nothing. I’ll probably be reading,” he said.

Along with the University Climate Action Network, SFCC sponsored the divestment referendum on the Student Government ballot. The referendum asked, “Should the University shift its investment strategy to account for the environmental impact of oil, gas, and coal used by the companies it invests in?” 2,183 students voted yes.

I was with the same friend when we got word of the referendum numbers, and one glance his way was enough to reveal how deeply he was invested in the referendum’s success. He beamed along with the rest of us when the number was announced: 70 percent of student voters favored divestment.

Beyond the elation of this moment, there was nothing sweet about the referendum itself. As it happens, it may have come off as unnecessarily extreme, considering that most companies use fossil fuels in some way.

But, in fact, divestment only means taking University of Chicago investments out of the publicly traded companies thatextract fossil fuels and hold the vast majority of the world’s proven coal, oil, and gas reserves. It’s a wholly reasonable proposal that seeks to undercut these companies’ power to continue the search for new hydrocarbons and to lobby the government for subsidies.

The referendum takes aim at the Kalven Report, which was drawn up in 1967 to establish the University’s political role—or lack thereof. The report claims that the University wishes to maintain a non-active role in world politics. Although this desire for neutrality is largely admirable, it isn’t possible in the case of divestment. When it comes to matters of investment, financial involvement amounts to complicity, which makes neutrality almost unattainable. Unfortunately, the administration hides behind the Kalven Report and considers environmental concerns political, and therefore irrelevant, when investing its endowment.

Paradoxically, the University’s claim to neutrality has allowed it to invest in companies that are deeply political: Companies involved in fossil fuel extraction are heavily embedded in the political arena and circulate large sums of money to lobby Congress. Their efforts have been undoubtedly effective; the federal subsidies they’ve obtained are currently hindering a large-scale shift toward sustainable energy use. By supporting these companies under the cover of political neutrality, the University partakes in the very partisanship it aims to avoid.

With the Kalven Report in mind, the referendum can be understood as a way to gauge how many students disagree with the University’s current stance, or its self-proclaimed lack of one. It will show the Board of Trustees that it should consider divestment as a conscientious move in the interest of its students, since climate change is becoming a very real concern among us—after all, our generation will inherit the bulk of the wreckage caused by the unsustainable culture of subsidized fossil fuel extraction.

Two years ago, students voted overwhelmingly to establish a Socially Responsible Investment Committee to make recommendations to the University’s endowment managers. With this most recent show of broad support, we demand to present our divestment proposal directly to the Board of Trustees this quarter. In doing so, we will need the support of an attentive student body and an active press—both of which we will keep informed about our progress with administrators.

We are not asking the University to take broad action on ethical investing—only on a case in which scientific consensus and student voice are shown to be a “party” of interest (to use a term President Zimmer used in a speech to Columbia University in describing exceptions to the Kalven Report). Administrators must see that the circumstances of climate change warrant a “crisis” mentality, and would therefore constitute grounds for an exception to Kalven Report restrictions. And, most importantly, they must realize that their actions are in fact playing an active role in world politics. When we invest our endowment dollars as a university, we effectively vote. From now on, we must make our investments line up with this latest vote.

Natalie Wright is a first-year in the College and member of UCAN.

Check out the article publishein the Chicago Maroon here:

We Said Goodbye to Some Pretty Epic People

Caroline Wooten

From Sandy Carter:

When I met Caroline Wooten at the very first meeting of Students for a Just and Stable Future (what became UCAN) in September 2010, I had no idea that my life was about to radically change. Over the past year and a half, Caroline has become the “grandmother” to all of us. On behalf of the rest of the members of UCAN, I would like to apologize to you and the other 4th years for not recognizing your achievements and your influence at the end of your time at UChicago. We wish our schedules and our spaciness had not prevented us from saying thank you in the massive exciting spectacular way that you deserved.

Since we can’t go back and throw you that awesome party that you should have had, I will try to make up for it here by singing your praises.

Caroline Wooten is one of those few special people in life who when you meet, you realize you won’t be able to forget her. She lights up the room with her funny jokes, her gorgeous smile, and her awesome guitar. I remember one meeting that first fall, when we were still in that tiny room in the basement of the Reynolds Club, and Caroline pulled out her guitar and convinced us to sing folk songs with her. None of us could really sing, but Caroline didn’t care; and it turned out to be a complete failure. But also wonderful. Especially when followed with the peanut butter pie Caroline always brought for us. Speaking of…Caroline, get back to Chicago! I want some pie!

On a more serious note, Caroline is an amazing organizer and a wonderful friend. She was an instrumental part of founding UCAN and turning it into the group of students that it is today. As if turning UChicago students into activists wasn’t enough, she was also one of the founders of the city wide environmental network we now call CYCC. Caroline has been the environmental activist we all wish we could be.  She can make you feel important and like you can make a difference in the world. She has that perfect way of convincing you to do something and stay involved without making it sound like you are signing up for real work. No other student I have ever met can organize people the way Caroline can, and no one can do it while smiling as much as Caroline does.

Caroline has been my mentor and my friend these past years, and I know that without her pushing me and encouraging me I would not be the environmentalist that I am today. I also know that without Caroline, UChicago and UCAN would not be the same either. I’m not sure if UCAN would even exist today without her, and I’m not sure that the fantastic bonds of friendship that have formed among our members would have been forged.

So thank you Caroline. Thank you for teaching us all that we can stand up for the environment and stand up for what we belief in. Thank you for showing us how to beat out the apathy in ourselves and in our fellow students. Thank you for being the positive one when we all have our doubts that we could transition our nation away from fossil fuels.

She’s leaving us now and bringing her guitar and her love of peanut butter to the rest of the world. We hope you are having a wonderful (and fun!) time this summer learning Spanish in Central America. We also offer our congratulations to you for joining the ranks of Green Corps. The communities you will be working are going to be so revolutionized by you! So good luck, Grandmother Caroline! And remember, wherever you go, whatever you do, you have UCAN’s support and love.

Ross Carstens

From Alicia Klepfer:

The first time I saw Ross, I could only see the back of his head and all I could think was, “…is that Fabio’s hair?” A year later: yes, I realize Ross does have Fabio’s hair. However, Ross is also one of the most amazing people I have met in a long time, so don’t hold the hair against him. I would apologize to Ross as Sandy did to Caroline for not throwing you an epic party, but I’m fairly certain the last month of his 4th year may be a little fuzzy so I’m just going to stick with a story of “sure we had a party! It was that one where you drank so much you fell over!” (One thing I love about Ross: I can make these jokes and he would usually have some witty banter and ideas to throw back at me!)

Ross didn’t get involved with UCAN until the end of his third year, and I think we’ve all taken to shaking our fists at the sky for it. He jumped into just about every campaign we are a part of, most notably taking point on attending Southeast Side meetings and quickly becoming one of their favorite members. Alana and I attended one of their meetings when Ross couldn’t make it, and they basically told us we were inadequate replacements. I wasn’t sure whether to be proud because he was a part of UCAN or incredibly offended. Every protest, every event, and every meeting, Ross was there. Not only did he show up, but he came with a legitimate smile on his face.

Ross contributed greatly to our group as his role of Political Action Coordinator as well. Aside from actually lobbying and setting up meetings with various political figures in Illinois, he organized a training in early May 2012 for other UCAN members to better understand and prepare for lobbying. Need someone to give a 30 second speech to a Senator? Ross is super great at that. (I know, I got to play fake Senator at the training and Ross tried to lobby me.)

Coming into UCAN as a fourth year, he didn’t hesitate even slightly with getting involved in the campaigns against the Fisk and Crawford coal plants. He stood in as “one of forty” killed by the plants every year with other concerned citizens at a City Hall Meeting, following a loud and powerful press conference. Soon after, years of collaboration came together to push the plants to close quickly, and Ross was there with us to see it through. At the party in Pilsen celebrating the victory, Chicago’s Mayor, Rahm Emmanuel showed up to shake hands with everyone (gotta congratulate the people who had enough umph to change policies) and most notably came to tell Ross, “You need to smile more.” As we all hid our margaritas and were twiddling our thumbs like we weren’t underage, I’m pretty sure Ross was hiding his scoffs of laughter.

Although Ross seems like a really nice guy that you want to be your friend, you should also be aware, though, that I’m pretty sure he’s an extreme environmentalist at heart. This past year we were driving to the CYCC Retreat, and as we were talking about Greenpeace demonstrations and other pretty extreme measures, Ross tells us “That would be so cool. I’ve always been attracted to danger.” The car got a little quiet after then, but we were soon howling in the backseat as we planned Ross’s life as an extremist blowing up logging equipment in Brazil. He has shown such dedication to UCAN and I’ve been able to see his passion for our planet in practically every conversation I’ve had with him. Even if he doesn’t become an extremist, environmentalism is already a huge part of Ross’s incredibly admirable life.

We only got a year of Ross’s time, but it was an absolutely fantastic year. The gratitude UCAN owes Ross is immense, and I think words are failing to convey how much appreciation all of us have for him. I can’t even imagine the wonderful things you are going to do in your life, but I hope you’ll keep us posted and still let us creepily admire you from afar. Good luck, and I hope this was able to prove that we love you for more than your car!


I thought these photos were too hilarious not to post all of them.

Awkward moments at my internship

Hey everybody,

First, hope you’re having a good summer! Only 2 months left until we’re back at school to convince the new firsties that we’re awesome and they should join UCAN.

Second, there were two quite awkward moments at my job today. I’m interning at a solar company that does utility sized solar projects around the world. Turns out they’re actually not “the good guys” like I thought (that’s a whole other conversation though). But today I was sitting in on a meeting about a project that’s in Nevada and the woman running the meeting started talking about how she was headed down to the project site later this week to meet with “national environmental groups that won’t get out of her hair.” The Sierra Club was one of those groups, and she basically said she was going to shmooze with them so they would hopefully stop delaying the project.

A little later I was sitting at my desk (we all sit in open cubicles on the 15th floor of this office building) and there was a lot of loud shouting and banging going on somewhere outside the office. Everybody was curious so a bunch of people went to look out the window and there was a protest parade going by on the street. They were pretty loud, so I was impressed. But this lady next to me scoffed in amusement and they all started chatting about “which one of our policies they’re pissed about.”

Twice in one day! I held my tongue pretty well. I’ve had quite a few comments thrown my way when I say that I’m the director of an environmental group at school, about how I’m “one of the enemies.” hehehe I’m glad we’re pissing somebody off!

Year in Review and the Year Ahead

From Alicia:

A year ago at this time, UCAN was spending the summer waiting for the chance to take a larger role in the city’s environmental movements. Fisk and Crawford didn’t have any huge updates; there weren’t any major hearings for the EPA, and UCAN was a small but willing group.

When I think back over the past year, it seems a little surreal still. UCAN grew to almost double its previous size, we held an amazing panel which over 100 students attended, we testified for the EPA’s carbon standards hearing in Chicago, and we made national impact with securing acceptable closing dates for the Fisk and Crawford coal plants. All of this happened with extreme dedication and support from UCAN members and allegiances.

As this past school year closed, I think our group strongly recognized the strides we had already made within Chicago, but it was also very clear that there are always more battles to fight. There were many other battles on our radar during the past year, such as the landfill issue which was thankfully also resolved in our favor, and many others that haven’t been completely finished such as Leucadia and Tenaska. The Coal Curriculum has made great progress as well, but will need a much larger push to move it closer to being cancelled. So many of these projects are incredibly uncertain as well, like the Keystone XL Pipeline (which I think we would all agree is the most obnoxious zombie we’ve ever met), but the one thing I can say for certain is that UCAN has the passion and potential to follow all of these issues through.

You’ll have to excuse me for being so cheesy and sentimental, but I gained so many friends this year and I don’t think UCAN couldn’t have been nearly as successful without each and every one of our members.

I hope everybody has a great summer, and we can come back next year ready to do anything.

Taking Action Against Coal at City Hall

(written by UCAN member, Angela Li)
Last Wednesday, Februrary 15th, several UCANers joined an effort at Chicago’s City Hall to pressure Mayor Emanuel to take action with the Clean Power Ordinance to shut down Fisk and Crawford coal plants. Also present were activists from the Pilsen Alliance, Chicago Respiratory Health Association, and the Southside Steelworkers Union. During a press conference attended by local TV stations, activists (including Grace Pai, UCAN’s very own Assistant Director!) spoke about the harmful impacts of coal plants on human health and Chicago communities. Grace emphasized the importance of our generation taking action to improve conditions for the future. Continue reading

UCAN Attends Retreat with CYCC (Chicago Youth Climate Coalition), Day 1

(written by UCAN member, Caitlin)

On February 3rd and 4th, young people ranging from middle school students to those in their mid-twenties gathered together at The First Lutheran Church of the Trinity in Bridgeport, an area neighboring Pilsen and Little Village, the two districts that the Fisk and Crawford Coal Plants are located in. Students from schools such as University of Chicago, DePaul, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago middle and high schools, and organizations such as the Chicago Clean Power Coalition and Sierra Club had an opportunity to meet each other, learn more about the environmental issues affecting Chicago, and share their stories of activism and environmentalism. The highlight of the night for me was the 1-on-1 training by Christine Nannicelli and Alicia Klepfer, in which we learned how to establish a ‘common ground’ with another person within the movement just simply by meeting them for coffee. These personal relationships hold the movement together! The most touching moment was when Alicia, now director of the UChicago Climate Activist Network, talked about the impact that UChicago’s trip to Powershift had on her involvement in environmental activism. She said she found out about the event from table tents, small posters we placed on dining hall tables promoting the events. I remember making those table tents for Powershift, not knowing how widespread the effect was on students I did not even personally know! This goes to show how meaningful environmental work can be not just for the cause itself but for the positive impacts it can have on the lives of those involved. I was also especially inspired by the middle and high school students at the retreat who cared so much about issues in their city. The event was great for meeting people from other schools, connecting with those who care about similar issues, and learning how to organize around these issues. I cannot wait for future Chicago Youth Climate Coalition events!