Getting down to business – divest from fossil fuels

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If we want to keep temperatures from changing more than a few degrees Celsius, then we need to keep most of the oil, gas and coal in the ground. There is no need to develop new technologies to sequester carbon (trapping carbon and then storing it) when nature already does it so well in the form of fossil fuels. The problem is that fossil fuel companies have a lot of money invested in products underground, and they can’t realize the profit on it until they bring it up and convert it to CO2.  The oil industry is a powerful lobby group that spends a lot of money on political campaigns to protect their interests. From the recent election, it seems they are pretty effective.

How can we diminish their political power? Fortunately, there is a strategy out there that has worked before and can work again. Do you remember divestment from South Africa in the 1980s? Universities, local governments and even the federal government divested from South African companies and those that did business with them.   Nelson Mandela credits the University of California divestment of $3 billion as the tipping point that brought the South African government to the negotiating table.

There is a similar movement to divest from the fossil fuel industry. Many universities, cities and religious organizations have already committed to divest from fossil fuels. They feel it is unethical to invest in an industry whose financial survival is tied inextricably with climate catastrophe. Members of the UH community are asking the UH Board of Regents to divest. Community members, students, alumni, faculty and staff can all sign the petition. Go to the link above and check out what they have to say!

I signed the UH petition as a faculty member, and then looked online to see about places I studied. I signed petitions for Harvard and Columbia, and was happily too late to sign for Pitzer – they already divested! If you studied on the mainland, Google to see if your University has a petition you can sign. Or start a divestment movement. A great place for global divestment information and support for new campaigns is  

Global warming brings to mind a joke I heard. A guy was caught in his house during a flood. He turned down the rescue truck saying, “God will save me.” The flood rose and he went to the second floor. When a boat came by to rescue him, he sent it away saying, “God will save me.” When the waters rose further he climbed on the roof but refused to get in the rescue helicopter saying, “God will save me.”   He drowned. At the pearly gates he said, “God, why did you abandon me?” God said, “First I sent you a truck, then I sent you a boat, then I sent you a helicopter. What else were you waiting for?” For climate change, I feel like we have the understanding, we have clean technologies, and we have organizations to manage our collaborative efforts. What else are we waiting for?


About Dr. Lisa Marten

I love my children, I love the ocean and the mountains, and I don't feel reducing my carbon footprint is enough anymore. I fear the things I love are at risk and I am doing all I can to learn more about how to stop that and to bring others along for the ride with me.
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