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[Event Recap] [BASIC Event] Investing in Climate Justice Solutions

Robin Miller

[Event Recap] [BASIC Event] Investing in Climate Justice Solutions
On a balmy day in November, over 30 people gathered at Zevin Asset Management’s offices for a discussion with leaders and supporters of Grassroots International about opportunities to invest in climate justice solutions.

The speakers included Grassroots International’s Executive Director, Chung-Wha Hong and Director of Grantmaking and Advocacy, Sara Mersha who spoke about the organization’s work to connect people in the United States with global movements solving the root causes of inequality and climate change. Robert Zevin, Founder of Zevin Asset Management, joined them to speak about why he has supported the organization for several decades. 

Grassroots International functions on the fundamental belief that the global economy relies on the exploitation of natural resources but that this extraction is not fairly distributed. Because of this, the organization works along broad issue areas including sustainable livelihoods, defending human rights, and movement building. The organization spends time developing key, long-term partnerships with select organizations, people, and movements in places such as Latin America, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and West Africa. The partners Grassroots International supports through grant making provide local solutions to global challenges around climate justice, food sovereignty, and resource rights.

Chung-Wha Hong provided a three-part strategic frame for their work: 1) stop the bad, 2) build the good, and 3) build the people-power to change the systems. Additionally, she and Mersha cautioned that there are a broad range of both solutions and non-solutions, and that it is imperative to think critically about the unintended consequences of action or inaction. To illustrate this, the speakers cited a recent article published in Nature that shows even if the voluntary pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are fulfilled by those who signed the Paris Agreement in 2015, the planet will still warm by 3-4 degrees Celsius.

The speakers highlighted their support of frontline Honduran activist, Berta Cáceres, and her work with Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH). Through grassroots activism and education of local communities, Cáceres and COPINH were successful in blocking a dam that would have destroyed the livelihoods of the Lenca people. Unfortunately, through this work Cáceres became a threat and was one of several activists killed by forces associated with the Honduran government and corporate interests. This example brought up the importance of tracing corporate activities back to the human rights violations they stem from and to identify and lift up solutions to these root causes.

Many more partnerships were highlighted including supporting food sovereignty and agroecology projects in Haiti and solar panel production and creating charcoal from food scraps in peasant movements.  A new project Grassroots International will be kicking off is to end land grabbing in Brazil, which is indirectly supported by TIAA-CREF and other foreign investors. At its core, Grassroots International is working to change the architecture of our global economy by starting with the building blocks of local resilient economies.

BASIC-Boston’s President, Carly Greenberg, was especially happy to welcome so many new faces to this event, and hopes that we continue to see new and familiar faces at future gatherings.