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In response to the Stanford Review

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In response to Andrew Han’s piece in the Stanford Review titled “Fossil Free Stanford: Clearer Rhetoric, but Still Misguided.”

My name is Andrea Martinez; I was one of the speakers at the Fossil Free Divestment Rally in support of the student sit-in. I appreciate the concerns outlined in the Stanford Review, and agree that we should be vigilant when evaluating our movement’s rhetoric. As such, I would like to engage with your article, and clarify a few common misconceptions based on my personal experience.  

The argument that “the nations that are home to the ‘people of color’ that Fossil Free Stanford has appropriated for its message – still rely on fossil fuels as their primary source of energy” is one that we have thought deeply about. Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the political or economic dynamics behind this statement, I must admit that I am saddened by your use of the word appropriated in this context, as the two main examples cited in my speech referred to Colombia and the Oakland community. I should make clear that I am a citizen of Colombia. I was born there and now am working towards a master’s degree in sustainable development in Latin America through the Earth systems department, with the hopes of aiding my own country.  

As for the other statistics cited during the speech referring to Oakland, I would also like to explain that I have been in contact with a leader of the West Oakland Indicators project, Margaret Gordon, during conferences and my own personal work in the Bay Area. She referred me to the statistics I cited in the speech. I am not appropriating her experience, but rather following her guidance in spreading an urgent message she has devoted a large part of her life to promote.

I recognize that the environmental movement has historically not always been all-inclusive. I would even dare to say that expressions of environmentalism have at times been oppressive. My choice to include these two experiences was a part of my long-standing attempt at addressing this issue. It is important to recognize that there is a diversity of perspective and action within this multinational movement and we should be careful when speaking about a specific rally or group.

The reason we often cite the experiences of marginalized communities is due to the disproportionate burden they carry due to climate change. While we use this rhetoric, we did not pull it out of the blue; it is that of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). They state with “very high confidence, based on robust evidence, high agreement” that “socially and geographically disadvantaged people exposed to persistent inequalities at the intersection of various dimensions of discrimination based on gender, age, race, class, caste, indigeneity and (dis)ability are particularly negatively affected by climate change and climate-related hazards.” We give these communities increased attention because they will, based on scientific consensus, face the most harm if there is climate inaction. 

Lastly, a common fallacy is that developing nations believe that continued excessive use of fossil fuels is in their economic best interest. If you analyze the coming COP21 international climate negotiations texts, you will find that the groups requesting the most stringent regulation on carbon are generally developing country groups, like the Vulnerable 20, and AILAC. In the coming climate negotiations, the majority of developing countries are not asking for the right to continue polluting uncontrollably. Rather, they are requesting technological transfer and assistance with their mitigation and adaptation.

The question you pose is ‘Why, if America was given the chance to industrialize through ‘dirty’ fuels, does it not have the same chance at economic prosperity?” In actuality, the sentiment of many developing countries is more along the lines of: America was wrong to have industrialized in such a harmful way and should pay loss and damages for this behavior while helping us with technological transfer and mitigation and adaptation support so we can develop through a cleaner route.

As a student devoting my career to the sustainable development of Latin America, I see time and time again how falsely creating a dichotomy between development and fossil fuel independence diverts attention away from constructive strategies for the region. However, I am grateful for the opportunity to elevate this dialogue away from generalizations.

* Link to Mrs. Margaret Gordon’s work: https://www.whitehouse.gov/blo…

Contact Andrea Martinez at andreamv ‘at’ stanford.edu.