I’m a proud fossil-fuel divestor - no small feat living in a country that has attached its economic growth paradigm to resource extraction. Divesting from fossil fuels was an exciting step for me to make in taking control of my participation in the economy, and connecting my finances with my values. I’ve since been unpacking the privilege of being able to set money aside for investments, the privilege in being able to accumulate savings and not live paycheck to paycheck, and the privilege to invest in my future.
It was during this unpacking process that the lines between impact investment and social justice philanthropy became blurred for me. So when RAVEN (Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs) approached Resource Movement to launch a collective fundraising campaign for the Tar Sands Trial in support of Beaver Lake Cree Nation, I decided to put my money where my mouth was, and turn my values-aligned financial plan into a redistribution plan. For years, I had avoided direct support to social and environmental justice movements. I had grown up in a culture that devalued and delegitimized BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) voices as “radical”. If their work was action-oriented, involving rallies or demonstrations – legal or otherwise – I was taught to dismiss them as disrupting the peace, as a threat to “our” values of law and order and democracy. I was not taught to consider the systemic oppression that enabled some folks to be rights-holders, and to accumulate wealth and power, while actively dispossessing entire cultures of their land, wealth, power and identity. I was not taught to think about “resistance” as a legitimate and powerful means of communication when you’ve been built out of a system. (And yes, I, in all of my privileges, had to be taught what other people know through lived experience since the day they were born).
I realize now that the reasons that I wanted to divest are the same reasons why I was drawn to participate in social justice philanthropy like the Tar Sands Trial campaign. Two things that I have learned our capitalist system does extraordinarily well are (1) isolate us from one another, and (2) make us feel disempowered to make any impactful change for a more equitable, sustainable economy. I have since learned that where I invest my capital is a part of the equation, but how I redistribute my access is where I am really fighting back against this economy, because it enables me to stand behind those most directly impacted by social or ecological inequality, those who have always led the charge. The Tar Sands Trial is a particularly special case, as the momentum this challenge is collecting can change the conversation of legal permitting in the tar sands forever – and isn’t that the shared purpose of divestment from fossil fuels anyways? This case is also noteworthy in that its defense is incorporating the sovereign Indigenous law of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation. In divestment, we decided that our current economic system enabled ecological and social injustice – and therefore, it could not be the system that secured a better future. Likewise, our State legal system helped to create our injustices – so of course we ought to be looking at other legal values to rebuild the world that we want to see. And as Dr. Joseph LeBlanc (Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory) reminds us, Indigenous folks are not another group of stakeholders – they are rightsholders. My redistribution plan, different from my original financial plan, is not designed so that I can accumulate more wealth. It is designed so as to share the abundance of wealth and resources that are available. We are living in some pretty scary times. Yes, I have made financial decisions to invest in my future – but it’s my redistribution plan that invests in our future. Start redistributing your access today by supporting my page in the Resource Movement Raven fundraising campaign, or lead your own campaign here!
For those who find themselves travelling often, consider “offsetting” your carbon by contributing to local grassroots organizers like RAVEN – check out how here. Molly Fremes is an organizing member of Resource Movement based in T(ka)oronto. She can be reached at email@example.com.