“Convince those in power to reduce our carbon pollution. Push your own communities to adopt smarter practices. Invest. Divest. Remind folks there’s no contradiction between a sound environment and strong economic growth.”
The reaction from college students to the word divest brought to mind the posting I wrote on July 3rd entitled As a Retiree Living Off Investment Income What Should Be My Take On Energy Stocks?
Apparently thousands have petitioned their schools to divest their portfolio of fossil fuel stocks to put pressure on carbon producers to address climate change. Right now a half dozen colleges are on board and active campaigns have started on 300 more campuses. Cities are getting into the act as well with 20 mayors and city councils pledging divestment from fossil fuel stocks. A counter revolution is afoot as well, reacting negatively to the speech about divestment, and led by climate change deniers and some college-age Republicans who describe the President’s call for action as “nanny state climate-change policy.”
If you want to learn more about this youth led divestment movement check out Fossil Free, a website that states boldly, It’s Wrong to Profit from Wrecking the Climate. On the website students learn to organize campaigns, manage petitions, upload signatures. The site also provides a wealth of information resources including a Campus Guide to Divestment.
The colleges that have signed up include San Francisco State University, Hampshire College, Unity College, Sterling College, College of the Atlantic and Green Mountain College. Cities who have joined include Seattle, San Francisco, Portland (Oregon), Eugene, Berkeley, Richmond (California), Santa Monica, Boulder, Santa Fe, Madison, Bayfield, State College, Ithaca, Truro, Providence and Provincetown. Religious institutions, county governments and foundations have joined as well.
When I asked the question in my original posting my point was about the true value of fossil fuel-based energy companies. If these business had perceived value based on reserves in the ground and those reserves are never exploited because of climate change policies, what will be the real value of the company stocks?
The students have taken a different tack driven not only by the President’s remarks but also by organizations like 350.org who are active on many campuses. The students want college administrations to take a stand against the burning of carbon and its contribution to global warming. After all they see themselves and their descendants as the ones who will have to live with the consequences of present inaction.
In this Internet Age with social media-based action groups like Avaaz.org and 350.org, it is clear to me that political and policy change is no longer driven top down. Will Fossil Free prove this to be right? It will be interesting to see how the divestment campaign begins to impact the 200 or more fossil fuel companies that are in its target sites.