The Case for Fossil-Fuel Divestment
Posted Feb 28, 2013 by Bill McKibben
[Excerpt]: It's obvious how this should end. You've got the richest industry on earth, fossil fuel, up against some college kids, some professors, a few environmentalists, a few brave scientists.
And it's worse than that. The college students want their universities to divest from fossil fuel – to sell off their stock in Exxon and Shell and the rest in an effort to combat global warming. But those universities, and their boards, have deep ties to the one percent: combined, their endowments are worth $400 billion, and at Harvard, say, the five folks who run the portfolio make as much money as the entire faculty combined.
Oh, and remember – this is supposed to be an apathetic college generation. The veteran leader Ralph Nader, in a speech in Boston last year, said kids today were more passive than any he'd seen in 45 years. "Nothing changes if you don't have fire in your belly," he said. "You are a generation without even embers in your belly."
But here's my bet: the kids are going to win, and when they do, it's going to matter. In fact, with Washington blocked, campuses are suddenly a front line in the climate fight – a place to stand up to a status quo that is wrecking the planet. The campaign to demand divestment from fossil fuel stock emerged from nowhere in late fall to suddenly become the largest student movement in decades. Already it's drawing widespread media attention; already churches and city governments are joining students in the fight. It's where the action all of a sudden is.
I had a front row seat to watch this explosion – actually, I was up on stage, on a nationwide tour that sold out concert halls across the country early this winter. With a bevy of progressive heroes (author Naomi Klein, indigenous activist Winona LaDuke, filmmaker Josh Fox, Hip Hop Caucus founder Lennox Yearwood) and with Rolling Stone as a media sponsor, we took our biodiesel tour bus from Seattle to Atlanta, Maine to Utah, trying to spark a new front in the climate fight. Unknowingly, we'd timed this DoTheMath tour pretty well: Post-Sandy, as the hottest year in American history was drawing to a close, we had no trouble finding allies. In fact, we were serving less as a virus then as a vector, letting activists glimpse their emerging strength. Every night, kids from a dozen local colleges would shout out their resolve, and then gather in "Aftermath" parties to get down to organizing.
By the time we finally finished, in December in Salt Lake City, 192 college campuses had active divestment fights underway, a number that's since grown to 256. And people were noticing. On the Senate floor, Rhode Island's Sheldon Whitehouse told his colleagues that "as Congress sleepwalks, Americans actually are taking action on their own. These students are imploring their schools to weigh the real cost of climate change against the drive for more financial returns, and divest from the polluters." The New York Times, in what became the week's most e-mailed story in the paper of record, said the campaign could "force climate change back on to the nation's political agenda." A few days later, Time magazine ended its account of the mushrooming movement like this: "University presidents who don't fall in line should get used to hearing protests outside their offices. Just like their forerunners in the apartheid battles of the 1980s, these climate activists won't stop until they win."...
Read the full article at Rolling Stone