February 13, 2015

Divesting from Destruction: How to Fall out of Love with the Fossil Fuel Industry.


Today is a perfect day to fall out of love—with fossil fuels.

Today and tomorrow (February 13th and 14th) are Global Divestment Days, organized and promoted by 350.org, one of the most successful climate change movements on the planet today. The global campaign will involve thousands of individuals and institutions on five continents, taking direct action to reduce the fossil fuel industry’s political influence, by hitting them where it hurts.

Investments are quite simple; we buy stocks and bonds from companies that will generate money for us. Thousands of colleges, universities, religious organizations, businesses, retirement funds and other organizations invest billions to generate funds for their operations and savings.

Divestment is the antonym of an investment—it simply means getting rid of stocks, bonds or investment funds from the fossil fuel industry. This will weaken the industry’s economic and political influence, which is leading us down a path of destruction.

The campaign will focus on encouraging individuals and institutions to forego any new investments in fossil fuel companies and divest from any fossil fuel investments in the next five years.

In addition to being one of the main contributors to climate change, the fossil fuel industry also has the world’s political system under siege. With one of the most massive lobbying budgets in the world, the fossil fuel industry continues to manipulate public policy decisions. Through lobbying efforts and contributions to political campaigns in the United States, the fossil fuel industry spends some $250 million (more than 10 times the efforts by alternative energy lobby) a year to influence political decisions and effectively thwart the development of significant climate change legislation.

The fossil fuel industry and many (paid) politicians continue to refute the relevancy of climate science, though at this stage in our precarious development, such claims are absurd.

The earth is surrounded by a natural layer of greenhouse gases, which is what permits life on this planet by keeping warmth in the earth’s atmosphere. This is the greenhouse effect. When fossil fuels are burned, carbon dioxide is released, which contributes to the thickening of the green house layer, making the earth warmer. Rising temperatures are responsible for the erratic weather patterns and natural disasters that we have witnessed in recent years.

Without question, fossil fuels are one of the main contributors to the process of global warming.

Instead of responding to this crisis and investing in renewable energy sources, the fossil fuel industry is in the process of extracting and selling their current reserves. Because reserves are declining, they are currently exploring ever more delicate natural areas to find new ones. The continued exploration of fossil fuel deposits jeopardizes the future of our world. If we are to avoid catastrophic global warming, fossil fuel deposits must remain in the ground and investments must be made urgently in renewable energy sources.

In 2015, the United Nations Climate Change Conference will meet in Paris for the purpose of creating, a binding and universal climate change agreement. However, if the fossil fuel industry continues to dominate the political arena, actions will not be taken to reflect the urgency of the climate crisis.

Through divestment, the fossil fuel industry’s powers can be significantly weakened.

According to 350.org, “Since 2012, 181 institutions and local governments and 656 individuals representing over $50 billion in assets have pledged to divest from fossil fuels.” Change is possible, when we unite our efforts to protect our planet and ensure the safety of future generations. Less money for the fossil fuel industry means less lobbying, less exploration, less extraction, less destruction.

We can all participate in the Global Divestment campaign. Actions will be planned across the globe to encourage individuals and institutions to fall out of love with the fossil fuel industry. Each one of us can take action, here’s how:

>>> We can look for an event near us, and add our voices to the Global Divestment campaign.

>>> We can encourage our employers, universities, school, churches, businesses, friends and family members to get rid of their investments in fossil fuels and to shift them to renewable energy investments.

>>> We can check our own, personal investments to be sure that we aren’t contributing to climate change by investing in the fossil fuel industry. This can take some research, as some investments may need to be traced back to the source.

>>> Perhaps most importantly, we can make changes in our lifestyles to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. This means walking and biking instead of hopping into the car. It also means consuming fewer petroleum derived products, such as plastic and Styrofoam. By lessening the demand for fossil fuels, we continue to weaken their political and economic dominance.

Together we can take positive action to avoid destruction.

Movements are built by people and people change the world. As Mahatma Gandhi said “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you.” The fossil fuel industry recently released this short video, in response to the Global Divestment campaign.

They are scared. It’s working. (May I note, this is a message from the Environmental Policy Alliance.)

When in reality:

Author: Peter Schaller

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Light Brigading/Flickr


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Peter Schaller