Police were called last night as climate protestors interrupted a Town Council meeting in the sleepy market town of Helston in Cornwall.
18 protestors, wearing vests which read “Divest”, were asking councillors who are trustees of the Downsland Charity to remove their considerable financial reserves from dirty oil and put the money (shortly to be over £2 million) into renewables and regenerative projects. Sales of land for retail development by the charity will double the amount the Downsland Trust is likely to invest in businesses that keep climate destruction accelerating.
One placard read
“Charity Money Must Fund Life, Not Death”.
The protestors had started humming when the Chair of the Council refused to let them speak for three minutes.
For several years, local environment groups have been requesting that the Trust ‘divest’ from Barclays, Centrica, Shell, Royal Bank of Scotland Group, Rio Tinto Zinc and other major players at the heart of destructive climate change, and, instead, stay true to its aim to look after the children and old people of Helston.
“Spontaneous wildfires burnt down homes and businesses in several parts of the UK earlier this week, which senior firefighters in the north of England categorically said were caused by climate change. The fires spread so quickly and so ferociously that the firemen cannot put them out.” said member of Divest Helston, Julia Schofield.
“ We have to stop tinkering round the edges, and get to the root cause of these catastrophes which will damage us here in Cornwall as surely as they are killing people in Greece, France, Spain and Portugal. In Brittany, less than 200 miles from us here in Helston hundreds of people had to be evacuated as wildfires came near their homes. People are terrified. We have to stop it getting worse. Every pound the Downsland Charity and similar organisations invest in fossil fuels, makes their Trustees knowingly culpable of this terrible climate destruction. “It isn’t going to be in 2050, it isn’t going to be 2030 when it happens, climate change is here now and it’s right at our door. Helston Councillors’ complacency in this matter is astounding”, said Julia. “They have been asked to divest so many times and they wilfully continue to ignore the evidence which surrounds them.”
The umbrella group, Divest Helston, hand-delivered a letter to trustees with a demand that they put a clause in their constitution preventing investment in fossil fuels. Instead, money should be directed to projects which will help the people of Helston to live better lives, rather than subject them to continual fear of drought, wildfires, flooding, crop failures and food shortages. Further, the trustees should agree that they will immediately seek sound financial advice which will protect them from being greenwashed.
“We politely requested commitments from those Helston Town Councillors the majority of whom are on the board of the Charity, but their form of climate avoidance was to deny us a legitimate opportunity to speak. We’re hoping they will rapidly stop funding dirty oil. There is not much time left before climate change is unstoppable.”
And what of the police:
The solitary policeman walked into the council chamber, took one look at the group standing there peacefully and walked out again. He did linger outside smiling at the protestors, until they began to pack up.
This is the letter:
To the Chair and Trustees of Helston Downsland Trust Charity No: 235477
Dear Tim Gratton-Kane,
As signatees [sic] to a previous letter sent to you in early March, requesting that Downsland Trust would divest financial reserves from fossil fuels, we tactfully point out that we have not yet received your reply. After 10 weeks we reasonably expected at least an acknowledgement to that letter, but none has been forthcoming.
As a charity one of your responsibilities, according to the Charity Commission, is openness and transparency in dealing with the public, yet we can find no point of public access. This is despite Mr. Tim Gratton-Kane currently in position as Chair of both the Downsland Trust and Helston Town Council, and current Trustees serving as Helston Town Councillors.
We are extremely concerned that your current reserves are knowingly invested in some of the world’s worst carbon emitters. We cannot see how you uphold your declared mission of supporting children, the elderly and mankind through refusing to divest from fossil fuel and extractive industries, which currently kill people in less fortunate countries than ours, through drought, floods, storms, fires, crop failure, sea level rises and murderous self-protecting industries, and in less than a generation will be killing the children and elderly of Helston. We beg you to immediately divest your current holdings and place them into truly ethical investments such as wind power, wave power and solar. These provide increasingly stable financial returns, are increasingly providing cheaper power than fossil fuels, and threaten nobody. We would like to see a clause in the Downsland Trust Constitution to the effect that none of your investment funds and insurances may be invested in any fossil fuel or extractive industry.
We are happy to meet with you to suggest ethical investments which are not the subject of greenwashing or gaslighting techniques by fossil fuel and extractive industries, or their financial advisors.
We look forward to your considered response to this request,
Diana Wilson for XR Helston