In a Tuesday night vote, the Lowell City Council joined over a dozen other Massachusetts communities in calling for the Commonwealth to altogther divest its funds from fossil fuels. The move comes after a grassroots call to action led by 350MA, a Massachusetts environmental non-profit. In Lowell, the organization’s victory was secured in part by the active local support of several members of CAJE (Community Activists for Justice and Equality).

Divestment, of course, is a positive and sensible policy even if it can hardly be said to wholly address the issue of impending catastrophic climate change – but the significance of this win lies in much more than a single policy. In fact, this win must serve as yet another reminder that community organization, commitment, and mobilization really can yield results. Even more significantly, community organization, commitment, and mobilization will lead to more community organization, commitment, and mobilization.

I caught up with CAJE member Derek Pelotte, who was one of several to speak at the council session in favor of the divestment resolution. “Divestment was a macro-idea,” he told me, “trying to get Lowell on the map as a town looking to address global issues.” He agrees that the point and the strategy here have to be about much more than this one singular issue. “The immediate future is going to be about growing our strength in the community so we can find ways to make Lowell a leader in creative climate solutions.”

The experience itself, he says, provides valuable training and education for future action. “The last 9 months was a great lesson in civics and local politics, as well as learning how to engage with community members who often had never heard of divestment. That forced us to spend a lot of time getting to know people on a 1-on-1 basis and networking those people who wanted to get involved.”

That’s it right there. Organization begets organization. Action begets action. And it’s never a bad thing to feel comfortable speaking boldly before elected officials in their august chambers.

Join me in giving your props to CAJE, 350MA, and the people of Lowell, in celebrating their victory, and in taking these lessons as our own!


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