Last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Comptroller Scott Stringer announced that they plan to divest the city’s five pension funds of approximately $5 billion from fossil fuel investments. It was news that resonated with Manhattan Country School’s eighth-graders, who dedicated a considerable amount of time last school year to raising awareness about this topic.
The seventh- and eighth-graders researched the issue and developed their position. Using the slogan “Divest From Corporate Greed, Invest in the Future We Need,” the students educated others in the MCS community.
“We knew the effect that [climate change] could have, especially in a city where there are so many people living and things distributed and made,” said Kyle ’18, about selecting the activism project topic. “It put us at risk.”
Students were moved by the January 10 announcement from the mayor’s office.
“I was very happy because me and the rest of the Fifth Floor worked really hard on that project,” said Cruz ’18. “Having one of your dreams become reality is very fulfilling and exciting for me.”
“I know that we weren’t the only ones working toward this—obviously there were lots of protests—but it’s always good to know you can make a difference.” said Stella ’18.
“I was surprised it happened so quickly because movements aren’t so successful so immediately,” said Emma ’18, who choose climate change for the topic of her Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative March speech. “I was relieved because, like I said in my speech, it’s going to be too late very soon and we have to do something right now.”
The eighth-graders have a great sense of pride about this news because, as seventh-graders last year, they had the opportunity to meet with Mark Chambers, the director of sustainability for the New York City Mayor’s Office.
“When we talked to Mark Chambers, it kind of gave him a different perspective because most of the people he’s been talking to are adults,” said Cruz. “I think hearing the youth perspective on this was very impactful.”
“He called us the most woke group of seventh-graders he knew,” added Stella. “It seems like they were affected by us. I knew that it definitely wouldn’t be just us alone to make the difference but I hope that we did help tip him on that.”
As satisfied as the eighth-graders are in the recent decision, they know there is still more work to be done to address climate change.
“Divesting is really important, but so is putting limits on carbon emissions and making agreements on how much the global temperature can rise,” said Emma. “New York is a big step forward, but the United States as a whole is one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions, so the federal government would be the next step.”