Seattle Calls on Bill Gates to Divest From Fossil Fuels


September 11, 2015 by John Crapper

I live in Seattle and this last Wednesday a major campaingn was announced.

As reported in the Guardian Wednesday, 9 September, 2015

Microsoft founder Bill Gates is facing fresh calls to move his charity’s investments out of fossil fuels from the community in Seattle where it is based, led by the city’s former mayor.

The Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation is the world’s largest charitable foundation and funder of medical research. It had $1.4bn (£1bn) invested in fossil fuel companies, according to its latest available tax filings from 2013.

Speaking to the Guardian, former mayor Michael McGinn said that Gates could not simultaneously “hit the brake and the accelerator at the same time” in his approach to tackling climate change.

The campaign launched this last Wednesday with a demonstration outside the foundation’s visitor center under a sign which read “Every person deserves the chance to live a healthy, productive life”. The protester’s sign read “Yes they do! Divest from fossil fuels now.” They plan to be there every day until the foundation makes a commitment to divest away from fossil fuels.

Here is a video featuring former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and E Johnston, the communications director for 350Seattle announcing the launch of the campaign.

As Emily states in the video:

Seattle is literally a crossroads for the fossil fuel industry. Coal trains, oil trains, Shell’s Arctic drilling fleet: They are all here – and we’ve been fighting them all. But even here in progressive Seattle, the corporate power of oil and coal companies puts us at a disadvantage.

We have the people power, but they have the money and political power. But can you imagine a world where oil companies no longer have that power?

Let’s not forget that the fossil fuel divestment movement was launched right here in Seattle by Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org. Since launch the divest from fossil fuel movement has grown tremendously with over 700 individuals representing a total of $1 trillion having already been divested from fossil fuels. Now the time has come to increase the pressure on the Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation.

In Bill Mckibben’s own words:

“What a help it will be when the investments of this generous foundation align with its mission. Climate change is the great shadow across our planet’s future, and we must try to lift it with every tool we have.”

And this effort is being launched while celebrating a great victory in California. This spring the California Senate Pro Tem introduced SB 185, calling for coal divestment.  Last Wednesday, SB 185 passed on a 47-30 vote, and Gov. Brown is expected to sign it.

RL Miller, the Chair of the California Democratic Party Environmental Caucus and co-founder of Climate Haws Vote had this to say:

SB 185 is part of my philosophy in founding Climate Hawks Vote: the climate movement needs both outside pressure and political insiders willing to lead. Meaningful progress starts small, but when it snowballs it becomes an unstoppable force. To replicate this success, we need to beat back the climate deniers and elect more climate hawks across the country.

350 is on the move on numerous fronts and that includes our local chapter 350 Seattle. 350 Seattle scripted a letter to the Gates foundation. Here is the first paragraph (Full text here):

We at 350 Seattle, supported by a coalition of organizations who have co-signed this letter, wish to open a dialogue with the Gates Foundation over the possibility of your joining the fossil fuel divestment movement.

We would first like to acknowledge and pay respect to you for the vast resources that the Gates Foundation dedicates to philanthropy every year, and the good work that you thereby achieve.

The list of signers to this letter is impressive and growing fast.

Sierra Club, Seattle Chapter

Audubon Society, Seattle Chapter


Backbone Campaign

Echoes Lutheran Church

Eastside Friends Meeting, Bellevue (Quaker Church)

Unitarian Universalist Church, Edmonds; Peace and Justice Committee

Seattle Green Party

Mangrove Action Project

Capitol Hill Community Council

Capitol Hill Urban Co-Housing


The Compassion Games

Catalytic Community

The Dignity Virus

Seattle Environmental Activists

Restoring Eden

Earth Citizen Center

Earth Ship Seattle

UW Divest

Seattle University, Sustainable Student Action


I urge all to get involved in this effort to divest from fossil fuel and if you live in the Seattle area the place to plug into things is here at their website.

This is one of many efforts 350 Seattle is engaged. They are an energized organization tackling our environmental problems on multiple fronts.

Here is a few selected 350 Seattle happenings. (Please visit their website for a full listing.)

Climate Justice “Local to Global” Event on October 14th, and hear Naomi Klein!

After the event, you can run over to SIFF, where they’ll be showing the Seattle premiere of This Changes Everything. Tickets are on sale now for that first show, where Klein and her husband, the director Avi Lewis, will be available afterwards for Q&A. Get ’em before they sell out!

Race and Climate Justice

On September 12th and 14th, Heather Hackman will be back in Seattle to lead two workshops on race and climate justice.

The first is on September 12th (a Saturday) from 9:00am until 4:30pm. This is an introductory workshop entitled: Climate Change Mind-Set: Why a Critical Racial Justice Mindset Is Essential for Effective Climate Justice

Build Art in the Park to Music!

Sunday, September 20th, from noon to 6pm, our final Seattle Peace Concert Art Build for this summer will be at Gas Works Park in Wallingford.

Panel of 350 Seattle Activists

On Sunday September 27th at 10:00 am, Plymouth Church has invited a panel of 350 activists.

Youth Fighting for Their Climate Future

And finally mark your calendar for October 30th at 10:00 am King County Superior court. This is when we can show our support to the kids who have been successfully suing the WA Dept of Ecology for their future. The kids were not satisfied with a plan that did not get us back to 350 parts per million, so they filed a brief requesting one that did, and the judge today ordered Ecology to respond to it. Arguments by both parties will be heard on the 30th. I’ve written about this before in this article: Breaking: Big, BIG Positive Climate Change News!

But 350 Seattle is not the only place to plug into the environmental movement. The opportunities in our area are numerous.


The Cascadia Climate Action Calendar


Connect and Help Our Local Environment
Seattle and the Puget Sound area have ample opportunities for concerned citizens to get involved. Because of the work of some dedicated people at Cascadia Climate Action it is now easy to find an event or organization that fits your passions and schedule.

With just one easy click on the Cascadia Climate Action Calendar you can easily review and find the perfect event in which to participate or organization you wish to become involved. You can even sign up to receive weekly updates of upcoming events sponsored by 350-Seattle, Sierra Club-Beyond Coal of Washington, , Citizens Climate Lobby of Seattle, CarbonWA and many other groups all now compiled together in one weekly email, organized into sections.

Meetings/Recurring Events
There are organizations and groups working on climate issues that meet monthly to plan, strategize, network and implement events and actions. These include

Sierra Club – Beyond Coal Washington (3rd Thursday)

350 Seattle (1st Wednesday)

Citizens Climate Lobby (1st Saturday)

Sustainable Seattle and other SCALLOPs groups

Local 20/20 – Port Townsend

GreenDrinks – Seattle (2nd Tuesday) and Bellingham (1st Wednesday)

Recurring meetings are posted on the Cascadia Climate Action meetings calendar.

If there are other groups that would like to be listed, get in touch with them at admin@cascadiaclimateaction.org.

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Our climate is changing. I'm humorously serious about addressing it. I'm convinced my ego is the main culprit. My religion, Holy Shitters, demands I humble myself and celebrate the fact my shit stinks.
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