"Divestment and a People’s Crisis"

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A post from Colorado College student organizer Ben Criswell and Colorado College alum Chris Edmonds, class of 2014. 

Our congressional delegation is one of the least productive in history, and its approval ratings linger below cockroaches and Nixon during Watergate. But when pushed hard enough, Congress does act out of necessity. When committed to an outcome, Congress has has bailed out Wall Street, protected Social Security, and allocated billions abroad attempting to police the world.

President Obama declared “no challenge  poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change” in January’s State of the Union; still, Congress contests anthropogenic climate change. Last year’s Pentagon report states that climate change is an immediate threat to national security through terrorism, infectious disease, global poverty and food shortages; still, our representatives recklessly deny the facts.

We know that if we accept our lawmakers’ deficient agenda and stick with “business-as-usual,” global warming will change everything about our world. Major cities will drown, ancient cultures will be washed away by the ocean, and nearly all forms of life will have to cope with extreme droughts and violent storms. And all we have to do to bring about this future is nothing. We just have to continue to deny this full-blown climate crisis and invest in the fossil fuel industry.

Fortunately, legislators aren’t the only ones who can declare a crisis. There is a reason why the American people are a constitutional check on our elected officials. The struggle against oppression does not begin within marble walls, but in our living rooms and libraries, our streets and our parks.

Apartheid wasn’t a crisis until the anti-apartheid movement (with divestment campaigns) turned it into one. Gender discrimination wasn’t a crisis until feminism turned it into one. Similarly, climate change will not be a crisis until the climate justice movement (with fossil fuel divestment campaigns) turns it into one.

Climate justice will not be given due respect in a legislative hearing but will be demanded by millions who act with both their feet and their wallets. Our economy largely consists of savings accounts and institutional endowments. Let us use the money that we as individuals and as members of institutions collectively own to divest from the problem and invest in the solution.

Divestment is based on the idea that anyone with a basic grasp of arithmetic can see how much carbon fossil fuel companies have in their reserves, subtract how much climate scientists say we can emit without warming more than 2 degrees Celsius, and conclude that the fossil fuel industry has every intention on pushing our planet into peril. This youth-led grassroots movement sends a powerful sociopolitical message: it is wrong to value profits over unprecedented and pervasive harm. “No tactic in the climate wars has resonated more powerfully,” says Naomi Klein on divestment in her book This Changes Everything. Every time students, alumni, professors, and leaders across the world make the case for divestment, we are chipping away at the social license under which the fossil fuel industry operates.

Fossil fuel divestment is not just for polar bears and tufted puffins. The forces that perpetuate climate change pollute our most underserved communities. They encourage a lifestyle, food system, and transportation network that converge into the leading public health issue of our time. This is why divestment is not separate from the Black Lives Matter campaign. Divestment is not separate from our fight to save our forests from beetles or our cities from drought. Divestment is not separate from your decision to buy a Pineapple or ours to invest in a college endowment.

We at Colorado College are calling on our Board of Trustees to reexamine their idea of fiduciary responsibility and take a stand against climate change and the inequity perpetuated by the fossil fuel industry. The Student Divestment Committee announced the Colorado College Responsible Endowment Fund to the Board this February. This donor-advised fund gives proponents of divestment a way to leverage their support, and has received thousands of dollars in donations. This money will be withheld from the college until the Board agrees to divest from the top 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies.

The clock is ticking—it’s time to decide whether or not Colorado College will stand on the right side of history. We call on you to bring divestment to your personal and institutional financial decisions. We ask for your support.

To support fossil fuel divestment at Colorado College, please donate to the Colorado College Responsible Endowment Fund! 

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