Author: Iliana Salazar-Dodge
I am a Mexican immigrant and a senior at Columbia University who’s been organizing around fossil fuel divestment since freshman year. Two years ago, I had a bit of a crisis. I suddenly felt disillusioned with the movement—not with the tactic of divestment, but rather with the fact that national campaigns were solely focused on taking down the fossil fuel behemoth. Don’t get me wrong; it’s extremely satisfying to hear of another divestment win, to see the fossil fuel industry take a hit. But I began to realize that while we need people to fight the bad in this world, we also need people creating the society we do want to live in. I want to be one of those people.
That summer, as a 350.org Fossil Free Fellow, I was introduced to the reinvestment campaign. I learned about a way that we, as students, can build off the successes of the divestment movement to fight for what we want. This campaign is one tactic we can use to facilitate the transition out of our current economy into a regenerative economy. But before we talk about where we want to go, let’s talk about where we are now.
America’s extractive economy
Whether or not we care to admit it, our current economy is extractive—that is, it’s built on the exploitation and extraction of human labor and the earth’s resources. It relies on corporations that force workers to work long hours in unsafe conditions for insufficient wages and benefits. It exists by the continual removal of nutrients from the soil, minerals from the mountains, and fossil fuels from underground. This system isn’t working for us today, and it isn’t going to work for us tomorrow. We know that infinite growth is not possible, but this economy depends on it.
In contrast, a regenerative economy satisfies the needs of the present planet without diminishing the prospects of future generations. It builds community wealth by shifting economic power, making workers the owners of their own businesses, community members the decision makers about their resources. It also strengthens the public sector such that it serves the people rather than private interests. A just transition to a regenerative economy restores our relationship to food, Mother Earth and our communities.