Jersey City Council joins the ‘girlcott’

Council supports Girl Scout troop's palm oil ban; seeks to divest from fossil fuel investments

During a virtual meeting of the Jersey City Council, the council unanimously adopted two environmentally conscious resolutions.
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During a virtual meeting of the Jersey City Council, the council unanimously adopted two environmentally conscious resolutions.

Keeping an eye on the future of climate change, the Jersey City City Council unanimously adopted a resolution calling on pension boards to divest in the fossil fuel industry as well as a resolution supporting a local Girl Scout troop’s “girlcott” of Girl Scout cookies containing palm oil.

The resolution supporting Girl Scout Troop 12026 pushes for Girl Scouts of America to find an alternative to the palm oil in some of their cookies due to the unsustainable practices of harvesting palm oil.

According to the resolution, the extraction of palm oil and its use harms the environment and rain forests.

The extraction and harvest of palm oil contributes to deforestation and harms wildlife habitats. Studies link the palm oil industry to child labor and human trafficking.

“I’m calling in support of the resolution supporting the boycott- what we call girlcott- against the use of palm oil in Girl Scout cookies by our Troop 12026 and requesting that the Girl Scouts of America seek an alternative to palm oil in their products,” said troop leader Gina Verdibello.

She said in January, the troop was made aware of the palm oil controversy in cookies by Olivia Chaffin, a Girl Scout from Tennessee, and decided not to sell cookies.

“These brave girls in Troop 12026 decided it was best not to sell cookies this year because they didn’t feel it was right knowing that children their age are forced to work, and animals are left without food or homes,” she said.

Instead, the troop created an awareness campaign with the aim of making the Girl Scouts of America change the ingredients in their cookies or source 100 percent sustainable palm oil.

Emily Thompson, a cadet with Troop 12026, said unsustainable palm oil needed to banned from Girl Scout cookies because harvesting palm oil is harmful to the environment, “It has killed dozens of animals, especially in Malaysia and Indonesia,” young children are unable to go to school because they are being forced to work harvesting palm oil, and the children and parents harvesting the palm oils are getting little to no payment.

“This problem is contributing to climate change,” said sixth-grader Aja Chambers. “Instead of adding to the cause of climate change and making it worse, we could be giving these kids a chance to go to school.”

She said if they went to school they perhaps would be able to become scientists to help the cause.

The council unanimously adopted the resolution, sponsored by Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey.

Divesting in fossil fuels

Jersey City Ward E Councilmember James Solomon sponsored a resolution calling on local and state pension boards to ban future investments in fossil fuels

It calls on the New Jersey State Legislature, the New Jersey State Investment Council, and the Pension Committee for the Employees’ Retirement System of Jersey City to divest from current fossil fuel investments.

“As a state and a city that knows climate change’s ravages firsthand, New Jersey and Jersey City should be leaders on fossil fuel divestment,” said Solomon. “The time for half measures on climate is over. The state should sell their current investments in fossil fuels. Rules should be established to prevent any future investment in corporations that poison the earth.”

Solomon partnered with DivestNJ on the proposed resolution.

“Fossil fuel investments threaten the profitability of the New Jersey State Pension Fund and increasingly threaten the very existence of humanity,” said Divest NJ CoChair Tina Weishaus. “The best institutional investors today state that climate risk is investment risk. We need the State Pension Fund to be preparing to move into a low carbon global economy and say good-bye to fossil fuel investments for the health of our pension and the health of our planet.”

Several residents spoke in favor of the resolution which they said would not only be good for the planet but also pockets.

“They expect the average annual hurricane-related damages in New Jersey to increase from 1.3 to $3.1 billion and estimate half of that will be in Hudson County,” said Eleana Little, of the Progressive Democrats of Hudson County, citing a report from Rutgers University. “So we will bear the brunt of that.”

Resident Rachel Rodriguez of Solidarity and Mutual Aid Jersey City said the fossil fuel industry is responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions.

“I believe this move will not only assist in the accountability of fossil fuel companies for their contribution to climate change and its effects on our communities but would also be a benefit to Jersey City residents as pensions are vital to community members transitioning out of work,” she said.

“I believe divesting would not only be our way of forcing fossil fuel companies to reckon with their own faults, but we would also be helping out our fellow community members in the long run by not putting our pension funds in the wrong pockets.”

For updates on this and other stories check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.