In the 80's and early 90's, Earth Matters! was involved in advocating the clean up of PCBs in the Hudson Bay, protesting the commercial development of James Bay, successfully boycotted PepsiCo when it supported the military dictatorship of Burma, and petitioned against Shell Oil for them to stop funding Nigeria's corrupt government. Coffee houses, where students would gather for environmentally friendly and fair trade coffee and discuss eco-issues was also a common event.
Here's a description of some Earth Matters! endeavors over the past few years:
In 2000, Earth Matters! started its Citigroup campaign, targeting the world?s largest financial institution for its systematic destruction of the environment, exploitation of poor communities and communities of color, and refusal to adopt even the most basic environmental and social standards in its practices. Over the next few years, the Citi campaign was to become one of EM!'s major activities. Citigroup, composed of Citibank, Salomon Smith Barney, Traveler?' Insurance, and the Associates Lenders, was and probably remains the world?s largest funder of oil and forestry projects which are pushing our planet closer and closer to environmental and political catastrophe. In Chile, Citi had acquired one of South America's largest pulp mills and forestry operations. In Venezuela, Citi was sponsoring a $2 billion drilling project in the traditional land of the Warao people. Here in the United States, Salomon Smith Barney, a Citigroup subsidiary, is a major financial suppo rter of the logging company Maxaam Group Inc., which has violated California's Forest Practice Rules more than 325 times since 1995 and which is the only remaining logging company to own redwood forests. (For more info on redwood logging and resistance to redwood forestry, check out www.wesavetrees.org.) Citigroup?s involvement in rainforest destruction in Indonesia was also driving the last orangutan populations to extinction, and its support of the World Bank funded Chad-Cameroon pipeline in Africa was underwriting massive environmental and human rights abuses.
Earth Matters! at NYU was one of the first campuses in the nation to work on the Citigroup campaign. It allowed us to work with such great groups as the Rainforest Action Network, Green Corps, The Inner City Press, and NYC N.O.W., among others. The east coast campaign kicked off with an EM! organized protest in front of Citi's midtown headquarters. Over the next four years, Earth Matters! frequently protested Citigroup throughout the city, held annual Caroling for Justice actions (including such classic EM!-penned songs as "Rudolph the Redlined Reindeer" and "The Twelve Days of Christmas - Global Warming Version"), and testified at NYC financial inquiries about Citi's destructive practices. It was around this time that Earth Matters! acquired its now famous Orangutan mascot. As the campaign continued, EM! gathered thousands of petitions, started a student boycott of Citibank, protested Citi's annual board meetings, and eventually engaged in civil-disobedience, with three EM! members chaining themselves to a midtown Citibank, shutting the branch down for several hours to draw attention to Citi's support of ecocide.
In 2004, the campaign finally ended, with Citigroup agreeing to prohibit investment in any extractive industry (e.g. oil and gas, mining, logging) in primary tropical forests and place severe restrictions on destructive investment in all endangered ecosystems worldwide. "Citigroup's New Environmental Initiatives" also contains the finance industry's first illegal logging policy, requiring documentation of legality prior to investment in any logging or logging-related projects. Lastly, Citi's policy commits the company to audit its climate-changing investments and invest significant capital in renewable energy projects. Quite an accomplishment for a few dozen environmentalist kids and their local orangutan!
In 2000, Earth Matters! and many other student organizations began organizing the NYU Coalition to Stop the FTAA, or Free Trade Area of the Americas, an expansion of NAFTA to the entire western hemisphere, minus Cuba. The FTAA, like NAFTA, contains little to no provisions to protect the environment or workers rights, is being organized with minimal public input, and threatens expand corporate power and to undermine nation?s ability to protect the environment. The Stop the FTAA Coalition at times grew so big that meetings would overflow our small, public meeting space in the Mercer Lounge. The Coalition wrote an anti-FTAA sock puppet play, organized local educational events and teach-ins, started petitioning campaigns, and funded a bus to bring sixty NYU students to Quebec city in April 20th, 2000 to protest the annual meeting of the Organization of American States, where the 2000 FTAA Ministerial was taking place. This voyage was chronicled by a reporter from Seventeen Magazine, a publication with high regard in environmentalist and activist circles, and can probably still be seen somewhere.
In 2004, EM! continued its opposition to the FTAA with several members traveling to the FTAA Ministerial in Miami, Florida, bringing with them a message of Orangutan love, girl-boy-beast revolution, and environmental justice. The protest, unlike that in Quebec, turned into a spectacularly violent police riot, where an EM member was hospitalized by police violence while fleeing the protest. Nonetheless, the FTAA meeting was considered a failure by many, putting the future success of the corporate venture in doubt, and EM! students returned to NYC a little roughed up but none the worse for wear and more committed to ecological justice. SEE PHOTOS?
In 2003, Earth Matters! worked on a campaign to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from being opened to invasive oil extraction which would threaten its biological stability, natural beauty, and the livelihood of many surrounding indigenous communities. On November 30th, Earth Matters! put on the Concert for the Arctic to raise money for groups campaigning for ANWR's protection. By all accounts, the concert was a bust, and we only have Casey Sullivan to blame for that. But the show, featuring Dirt Bike Annie, Cherubino, and Semiautomatic, did raise several hundred dollars.
In the fall of 2003, EM! member Jenn Vanatta organized a community forum with the then new university President John Sexton, for student groups to address thier concerns and ideas for the university community. Only four people showed up. They were: Michael Malmberg, Jenn Vanatta, Casey Sullivan, and some kid named Andrew. There might have also been a representative for Students for Justice in Palestine briefly in attendance as well. John Sexton did not show. As we had a nice room and a good sound system, we played on microphones for about an hour and then called it a day.
In Spring 2004, a couple dozen Earth Matters! members traveled to Coney Island to participate in the American Littoral Society's annual beach clean up. EM! members removed pounds and pounds of trash from the beaches, including innumerable cigarette butts. CAN MUMBLES WRITE MORE ABOUT THIS?
EM! participated in the 2004 Gandhi Day of Service, traveling to NYC's Alley Pond park in the Bronx to plant over a hundred trees in under an hour as part of the Parks Department's park restoration program. We then had lunch and played in the grass.
As part of Earth Matters! unofficial 2002 Earth Week activities, we hosted a lecture by Dr. Helen Caldicott on "The New Nuclear Danger." The event was co-sponsored by the NYU Peace Coalition. Throughout her life Dr. Caldicott has campaigned for peace and nuclear disarmament, she confounded Physicians for Social Responsibility, part of an international umbrella group (International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War) which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985. She has also been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize herself, and she has won the Peace Medal Award (United Nations Association of Australia), which she shared with her husband, William Caldicott; Integrity Award (John-Roger Foundation), which she shared with Bishop Desmond TuTu; Peace Award (American Association of University Women); SANE Peace Award; the Ghandi Peace Prize and more.
In Fall 2004, Earth Matters! gave birth to a new tradition, the fall camping trip. About 20 EM! members and fellow travelers traveled to Water Gap, Pennsylvania, to camp along the Appalachian trail for the weekend. Poor planning left many walking through some of the worst parts of the trail with heavy bags of food strapped to their back in the dark of night, but it all ended up being worth it, as we sequestered ourselves away in the woods for few days enjoying nature. Much fun was had.