Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Fossil Fuel Divestment Isn’t Just About the Numbers; It’s About Us

The fossil fuel divestment movement has been building momentum for years. The dialogue and narrative regarding the necessity of divestment has largely focused on the numbers: how many parts per million of CO2 can be released into the atmosphere? What quantity of coal, oil and gas do companies have in their reserves? And how many degrees can the planet warm before human society collapses and the planet experiences mass species extinction?

Though the movement has emphasized, and provided strong answers to these questions backed by hundreds of climate scientists, fossil fuel divestment didn’t start with the numbers or the science. And it won’t end there, either.

In 2014, Tim DeChristopher visited UVM and spoke about the climate crisis and the challenges we face as a movement working towards a just and sustainable future. I was in the audience of a filled lecture hall at the University of Vermont, and DeChristopher hailed the LGBTQA-rights movement’s strength at making their movement fun, about making it solutionary and accepting and intersectional. And though sectors of the LGBTQA movement have some work to do regarding anti-trans and racist violence within the queer community, I do think DeChristopher had a point: the climate justice movement, as it stands, is not the all-encompassing, broad, intersectional and accessible movement that will bring transformative and liberating social change. Rather, the environmental movement must adopt the values, goals, and principles of a movement centered on climate justice, and highlight not only environmental degradation and the extractive oil economy, but the extractive human economy; the economy that is built and sustained on the oppression and domination of poor and working class people, queer people, people of color, transgender people, differently abled people, and indigenous people.

It is in this vein that Student Climate Culture, a UVM student group running UVM’s divestment campaign, is reframing and refocusing our messaging and our goals. In conjunction with divestment campaigns across the country, UVM students are not only demanding that our university cease its investments in the fossil fuel industry; rather, we demand the money currently invested in fossil fuels be re-invested in the liberated future we seek: one that does not tolerate police brutality and the imprisonment of people of color in the new Jim Crow; one that does not tolerate the subjugation and servitude of the working class for the good of the 1%; one that abhors the violence and brutality queer and transgender people face; and one that survives with ecologically sound and sustainable principles, refutes US imperialism and capitalism, and values local, democratically controlled and participatory communities over corporate and US hegemony, domestically and globally.

Student Climate Culture as an organization has much work to do to truly live out the values of collective liberation, anti-racism, anti-sexism and anti-ableism.  We see reinvestment as a step towards aligning our actions with our words, and are prepared to engage in the work of building allyship and solidarity, as well as education within our organization, with the vision of building the comprehensive, intersectional and just movement necessary for change.

We invite all interested and passionate people to join us on Friday, February 6th, 2015 to pressure the UVM Board of Trustees to commit to Fossil Fuel Divestment and Just Reinvestment, at 11:30 am in the UVM Davis Center.