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Hayden Smith
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Friday 12 April 2013
As disturbing as it is, accepting failure as a movement truly means condemning millions of people to death and hundreds of thousands of species to extinction.

Colleges Pledge Divestment From Fossil-Fuel Stocks in a Movement to Solve the Climate Crisis

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Nationwide college divestment from fossil-fuel stocks has been one of the primary darlings of the liberal environmentalist movement since Bill McKibben, arguably the most influential contemporary environmentalist, published his famous article, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math”, in Rolling Stone. My campus is one of over three hundred with grassroots organizations promoting divestment, many receiving some form of training or support from 350.org, the organization McKibben co-founded.

Several colleges have already pledged to divest from the 200 fossil fuel companies identified by 350.org as holding the vast majority of underground hydrocarbon reserves. The movement has received national press coverage and has drawn endorsements from Green Party leaders and vigorous condemnation from conservative commentators-both of which have encouraged those of us involved. Anyone paying attention to the growing ecological crisis has been lamenting the lack of an organized resistance movement for years. Finally, it seems, we’ve found a movement ready to confront the problem head-on. This is more like it.

But is it?

As inspiring as their efforts are, 350.org’s strategy cannot, as the front page of their website promises, build “a global movement to solve the climate crisis.” Although the organization’s sporadic use of nonviolent civil disobedience is an outlier among the timid American professional environmentalist movement, the practice of this so-called grassroots movement looks a lot like business as usual. Despite the rhetoric, liberal environmentalists rarely approach the combativeness of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, who was understanding and patient enough to give the “arc of the moral universe”, or the existing power structure time to bend towards justice.

The planet, or at least my generation and much of the rest of life on Earth, don’t have that luxury. Global temperatures will rise at least 3 degrees in the next 30 years alone. As positive feedback loops like the melting of glaciers, permafrost, artic sea ice, ocean acidification, and drought take effect and worsen, our ability to stabilize the climate will be drastically reduced. People, overwhelmingly people of color, women, the poor, and children, are already dying as a result of climate change caused primarily by the developed world’s use of fossil fuels. As species loss, deforestation, and extreme weather incidents increase, the casualties will exponentially increase.

As disturbing as it is, accepting failure as a movement truly means condemning millions of people to death and hundreds of thousands of species to extinction. Given that sobering reality, we desperately need to rethink our strategy not in terms of what is politically feasible or economically sound but what our ecosystems can endure. We have long been warned that we cannot place the health of the economy above the health of the planet. The gap between what the science demands and what the global power structure can allow reveals that the stakes have been raised such that we may have to choose which we let die.



ABOUT Hayden Smith

Hayden Smith is a freshman studying Environmental Policy at Green Mountain College, where he helps to lead the on-campus divestment campaign. He has organized campaigns with the Sierra Student Coalition, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, Occupy DC and national labor unions.

I might have missed a bit of

I might have missed a bit of the thinking in this thread.
What is the exact reason colleges should not have any investments
in Exxon/Mobile or other oil/natural_gas companies?

If the answer is CO2 causes global warming, then, I am also not
convinced of that. Can anyone show me conclusive evidence
that human emited CO2 (human being exhaling+coal-fired-electricity+
natural-gas-fired-electricty) are the one an only causes of global warming?

I have spent some time searching for such convincing arguments but
have not found any.

If we are to embark on a mission to stop burning organic stuff, we should all know
the particulars.

Hey freshman I challenge you

Hey freshman I challenge you to the ice making question. If every refrigerator in the country made 4 gallons of ice a day and that ice were to be either dumped into a river or stored in shaded cool places how much ice would be made in a year across the planet? Further more if it is calculated that a 4% addition of water into our enviroment is what is now causing extreme weather conditions
the ice making would make a considerable difference. Maybe it is time to stop blaming and do something positive about it make ice all year long the whole planets refrigeration units are running already so making ice will not use more energy then what is being used now. Figure that one out for us your in college so go experiment if the math is right then the ice making may be feasible.
What does it hurt to study this for one semester. Nobody will listen to me maybe you will have better luck with this idea but it sounds like no one will listen to you either.

350.org is not a one-trick

350.org is not a one-trick pony. College divestment is just one piece of their approach. They are considering pension fund divestments, they have rallied in San Francisco & Atherton along Obama fundraising routes and are developing robust social media campaigns.

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