Trying to convince an addict to give up their drug of choice is often an insurmountable task. Addiction, whether physical or psychological or both, is a craftier, more resourceful foe than many of us can conquer.
In the fight to shift America toward a clean energy future, we are up against an entire nation of addicts. America is physically and psychologically addicted to fossil fuels. For generations it’s all we’ve known. When asked, many Americans can’t even imagine a future without gas stations and coal mines–and many of our politicians and business leaders won’t even try.
When up against an economical blockade of this magnitude, it’s tempting to make signs and march and sign petitions. Indeed, these direct actions help to expose issues that the mainstream media might otherwise ignore. But all across the world, a much quieter, much more powerful revolution is taking place, and it’s hitting the fossil fuel industry in its most vulnerable organ — the wallet.
It’s called the Global Divestment Movement.
Spearheaded by climate activists Bill McKibben and 350.org, the push for divestment asks local governments, organizations and, perhaps most significantly, educational institutions to pull their money out of direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds. The initiative is based around the principle that it’s wrong to profit from destroying the planet and, in dozens of cities across America, it’s working.
In California alone, San Francisco, Richmond, Santa Monica and Berkeley have all publicly committed to divestment from fossil fuels within the next 5 years.
In Berkeley’s case, it marked the first time a city council adopted an official policy to divest funds from companies like BP, Chevron Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp. “The policy prohibits the city from making any future investments in the listed companies and aims to complete the divestment process within the next five years,” reports DailyCal.org.
But this movement isn’t limited to California — not by a long shot.
In Ithaca, New York, Mayor Svante Myrick, one of the youngest Mayors and youngest African-American elected officials in the country, committed to pursue fossil fuel divestment and urge the New York state pension funds to divest as well.
GoFossilFree.org reports that Portland Mayor Charlie Hales recently urged the Oregon State Treasurer, the Local Government Investment Pool and the Oregon Investment Council, to divest of all state holdings in fossil fuels.
“By acting locally, we can send a message to the world that investment in fossil fuels is a losing proposition, and that loosening our dependence on fossil fuels will increase our quality of life,” said Mayor Hales.
Just days ago, the United Church of Christ voted to divest its pension funds and investments from fossil fuel companies because of climate change concerns.
“This resolution becomes a model for all faith communities who care about God’s creation and recognize the urgent scientific mandate to keep at least 80 percent of the known oil, gas and coal reserves in the ground. . . This vote expresses our commitment to the future. By this vote, we are amplifying our conviction with our money,” said UCC Rev. Jim Antal in a statement.
According to GoFossilFree.org, the UCC is just one of nearly a dozen religious organizations to make divestment commitments.
Outside America the push for divestment is reaching into the business community. Most recently Storebrand, a Norwegian pension fund and insurer, announced that it had excluded an additional 19 coal and oil sands companies from its investment portfolio. Similarly, Holland-based Rabobank told a Dutch newspaper that it would “no longer lend money to companies involved in shale gas extraction, or make loans to farmers who rent their land to shale gas extraction companies.”
Encouragingly, young people have been front and center in this bold movement to deprive the fossil fuel industry of the money it craves. Divestment groups have sprung up on college campuses, forcing administrative leaders to hear student concerns about the climate, and in many cases, spurring immediate action.
If you’re interested in seeing your school or local government divest from fossil fuels, check out the wealth of resources (spreadsheets, research, templates and tools) offered by GoFossilFree.org.
Image credit: 350.org