Year 4, Month 10, Day 11: The Words In My Heart Reveal How I Feel About You

USA Today, on the divestiture movement:

Students also express their concern for the planet through green majors such as environmental science, sustainability and environmental policy.

Colin Nackerman, a sophomore at George Mason University, was inspired to major in environmental policy after growing up in a small town in Southern California that was affected by environmental issues.

“I kinda wanted to get into the regulation side of policy to hopefully save places like my hometown from being devastated by environmental disasters,” Nackerman says.

At George Mason, he is also involved with the Environmental Action Group, whose goal this year is to fight for more transparency on funding the school receives from the Koch brothers, opponents of climate-change regulations.

Students cite their future as the reason for getting involved with climate change activism on campus.

“We’re the ones inheriting these issues and we’re going to have to be dealing with them in the future, so it behooves us to act now,” Bruck says.

Good luck, kids. You’ll need it, I’m afraid. October 3:’s founder Bill McKibben and many other environmentalists have frequently likened the movement to divest from the fossil fuel industry with student-propelled social initiatives to end financial ties to apartheid South Africa in business, government, and academia. In the 1980s, young people felt the moral imperative to end the injustices of institutionalized racism, and translated their outrage into action. Today’s environmental activists are likewise driven by a deep sense of social responsibility and the need to disassociate from the wrongdoing of a group of highly irresponsible and extremely powerful economic actors. The similarities are profound. But there is one important set of differences.

Apartheid’s victims lived in a single state on a single continent — and at a single pivotal point in time. That the burgeoning climate crisis will claim its casualties everywhere on Earth for centuries to come is a fact which dramatically strengthens the ethical necessity of divestiture.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 9, Day 20: Rinse And Repeat

The Somerville Journal (MA, next town over from me) argues for divestment:

There is currently a global movement to get cities, universities, and other institutions to divest from the fossil fuel industry. Cities such as Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, Madison, Providence, and our neighbors in Cambridge have already agreed to do so. I and others in Somerville believe that our city should be at the forefront of this movement.

We have known for quite some time now that we cannot keep releasing carbon dioxide into the air indefinitely without terrible consequences for the ecosystem and the sustainability of our way of life. This point has recently been underlined by an analysis from the Carbon Tracker Initiative ( showing that we can only burn around 20 percent of currently known fossil fuel deposits and keep climate change within internationally accepted limits.

And yet, despite this knowledge, fossil fuel companies continue to try to increase extraction, extract from currently untapped deposits, and find new deposits. This is their business model, this is their reason to exist, and their profitability depends on extracting the fossil fuel deposits they own and have rights to. They will continue to use their enormous wealth and power to make sure this happens.

I revised yesterday’s letter and sent it along. September 13:

When William Lloyd Garrison began agitating to end the great societal evil of slavery, the Civil War was decades away, and much of the public couldn’t have cared less about the issue. “There have always been slaves; without them our economy would collapse.” But the dedication of Massachusetts’ voice of conscience helped build a movement that transformed our society and hastened the end of a humanitarian crime.

Today we are beginning to recognize our collective servitude to the giant multinational corporations which sell us fossil fuels, sources of energy which we now realize are compromising our planet’s health and the lives of our posterity, most of the public still couldn’t care less. “We have always burned fossil fuels; without them our economy would collapse.”

The campaign for Massachusetts to divest from fossil fuels is the economic and moral inheritor of the fight against slavery, a hundred and fifty years ago.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 9, Day 19: Just The Word I Was Looking For!

I sure am proud to be from Massachusetts. The Boston Globe:

Some Massachusetts lawmakers want the state to join a growing national movement that is fighting climate change by pressuring institutional investors such as pension funds and university endowments to divest holdings in companies that produce, distribute, and support fossil fuels.

Fossil fuels include oil, natural gas, and coal, which, when burned, produce carbon dioxide, the major culprit in climate change. Earlier this week, the Legislature held its first hearing on a bill that would require the state pension fund to unload over five years some $1.4 billion in investments — about 2.6 percent of the $54.4 billion fund — in oil companies, mining companies, refiners, and similar corporations. An estimated 200 people rallied in support of the bill in front of the State House Tuesday.

If the legislation is approved, Massachusetts would become the first state in the nation to divest its fossil fuel holdings, said state Senator Benjamin B. Downing, a Pittsfield Democrat sponsoring the bill. He argued that divestment makes economic sense given the quickening adoption of wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources.

“At some point, those fossil fuel companies will not be a good investment, and that will have an impact on our pension fund,” Downing said. “We need to transition away.”

This sprang naturally to mind. September 12:

It was in 1831 that Massachusetts’ voice of conscience, William Lloyd Garrison, excoriated public indifference to the evils of slavery, writing, “The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and to hasten the resurrection of the dead.” His dedication, and that of countless other abolitionists motivated by a profound sense of justice, helped hasten the end of a crime against humanity.

We now confront another kind of bondage — a servitude to the giant multinational corporations which profit hugely by selling us oil and coal to heat our homes, run our automobiles, and power our infrastructure — but which we now know are damaging our planet’s health in ways which will make our descendants’ lives all but intolerable. The movement to divest from fossil fuels is morally and economically analogous to Garrison’s tenacious campaign against another “peculiar institution” one and a half centuries ago.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 8, Day 13: I’ve Enjoyed About As Much Of This As I Can Stand

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette publishes the driveling of an unintentional apologist for our corporate overlords:

The resolution on climate change approved last month by the General Synod of the United Church of Christ has garnered mostly admiring attention from the news media. But I admit to a degree of perplexity and sorrow over the document, which seems to place the blame for our heavy use of fossil fuels mostly on the companies that produce them — not the consumers who demand them.

The resolution is intended to create a path toward divestment of church funds, including pension money, from “fossil fuel companies” unless they meet certain benchmarks. The text never defines “fossil fuel companies,” but it’s a good bet that the target is oil and mining enterprises.

The resolution also calls upon church members to “make shareholder engagement on climate change an immediate, top priority for the next five years” and to “demand action from legislators and advocate for the creation and enforcement of carbon-reducing laws.”

Poor pathetic little sociopaths. Sheesh. July 21:

Yes, when it comes to our societal dependence on fossil energy, we’ve all got to go beyond the call of ordinary duty to reduce our consumption of the prehistoric carbon which has fueled our civilization and triggered a rapidly accelerating greenhouse effect. But to feel “perplexity and sorrow” over deploring the roles played in the climate crisis by oil and coal companies is breathtakingly naive. In the service of higher profits, these corporate miscreants have invested countless millions of dollars in manipulative media campaigns, and even more millions in the co-optation of US lawmakers, resulting in hopelessly muddled public discussion of climate issues, and a legislative paralysis which would be hilarious if it weren’t tragic.

These “corporate persons” are the worst sort of planetary citizens, and they deserve the worst sort of reputation. There’s plenty of blame to go around, but there’s not enough blame for them.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 7, Day 27: Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down

The NYT discusses divestiture in the context of the POTUS’ speech:

It was a single word tucked into a presidential speech. It went by so fast that most Americans probably never heard it, much less took the time to wonder what it meant.

But to certain young ears, the word had the shock value of a rifle shot. The reference occurred late in President Obama’s climate speech at Georgetown University two weeks ago, in the middle of this peroration:

“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.”

That injunction to “divest” was, pretty clearly, a signal to the thousands of college students who have been manning the barricades for nearly a year now, urging their colleges to rid their endowments of stock in fossil-fuel companies as a way of forcing climate change higher on the national political agenda.

“The president of the United States knows we exist, and he likes what we’re doing,” Marissa Solomon of the University of Michigan wrote soon after. Other students recounted leaping to their feet or nearly falling off their chairs when the president uttered the word.

Good stuff. I recycled an older letter, which takes exactly as much time as writing a new one. July 9:

Recent studies have demonstrated that college endowments won’t be adversely affected by divesting from fossil fuel companies, but this shouldn’t be the ultimate arbiter in any case. Economic rationales are ultimately secondary to the moral argument which recognizes that big oil and coal corporations rely on a profoundly destructive business model, atmospherizing huge quantities of fossilized carbon every year without regard for the consequences to our climate, our environment, or our posterity.

Higher education’s mission is expected to go beyond mere careerism to inculcate a responsibility to ensure a better future for all. While fossil fuels may be astonishingly profitable, colleges and universities investing in them are voting with their dollars for a future of devastating climate change instead.

Student campaigns for divestiture are environmentally, morally, and economically sensible. As in the long campaign against apartheid, it is the voices of youth which express the better angels of human nature.

Warren Senders

Published (and heavily truncated).

Year 4, Month 3, Day 25: You Only Gave Me Your Invitation

The Hyde Park Herald (IL) notes UofC students’ divestiture campaign:

Students at the University of Chicago aren’t remaining silent in their demand that the university stop investing its money in companies that deal in coal and fossil fuels.
“The petition is something we’ve been working on getting signed all quarter,” said Marissa Lieberman-Klein, a fourth year anthropology student.

The student organization Stop Funding Climate Change, UChicago delivered a petition with more than 500 signatures to president Robert Zimmer’s office on Friday afternoon.
The students asked the university to immediately stop investing any money in companies such as Exxon Mobil or Arch Coal and within the next five years have removed all of its financial investments from companies that produce fossil fuels.

Last quarter, the students delivered a letter to Zimmer’s office demanding a meeting on the topic with the board of trustees. Lieberman-Klein said the students had yet to receive a response.

This is a rewritten version of the letter published in the Journal of Higher Education. Sent March 14:

In the fight against climate change, the student-led campaign encouraging colleges and universities to end their fossil-fuel investments is a genuinely hopeful sign. While financial analyses have shown that divestiture won’t negatively impact institutional portfolios, doing the right thing shouldn’t require a fiscal rationale.

Education is based on the principle that knowledge can be transmitted across boundaries of age and culture, thereby ensuring a future of steadily increasing wisdom. Such a future is gravely imperiled by climate change, a planetary crisis precipitated by industrial civilization’s rapid introduction of millions of years’ accumulated carbon into the atmosphere in a geological instant, and exacerbated by the destructive business practices of big oil and coal companies.

Continued support of fossil fuels may be profitable in the short run, but it is a betrayal of our societal commitment to a better future. In striving to change UChicago’s investment policies, these students demonstrate a profound commitment to the true ideals of education: fostering responsibility to and for the greater social good.

Warren Senders