A 97% consensus of scientists say we need to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels to keep from cooking the Earth, but it's not going to be easy. Petroleum has become so deeply ingrained in our society over the last century that we'll need every tool available to help us move to a low-carbon future based on solar, wind, and other forms of renewable energy. Divestment is one of those tools, and it's been making some waves this year as churches (United Methodist), universities (Syracuse $1.8B), and nations (Norway $900B) jump on board. Closer to home, the group 350 Mass is working on divesting the state pension fund, and a local chapter is urging the City of Lowell to take the same step.
Divestment is the opposite of investment and consists of taking money out of a company or project that you don't support. Some critics say it's better to be an engaged shareholder and to try to get fossil fuel companies to move into renewables or focus on carbon capture, but clearly that strategy isn't working; shareholders of Exxon and Chevron voted down resolutions on climate change this week, and the CEO of Exxon is openly disdainful of the accepted science on climate change. Others say that Divestment won't have much financial impact on fossil fuel companies, but the aim is really to have a moral & political impact, taking away the social license of these companies and making it easier for our elected officials to ignore their lobbyists so that society can make safe, science-based decisions on our energy future. Fossil Free has a good FAQ on Divestment that covers many of the common criticisms and myths.
Divestment is only one tool in the fight to limit climate change, but it's proven useful in the past to marginalize companies (like tobacco) and governments (like apartheid S. Africa) that hurt society, and it's time to bring this tool to the fight for renewable energy. The local petition simply asks Lowell City Council to take a step that 13 other MA communities have taken, to divest city funds from fossil fuels and to ask the state pension fund to take the same step. If you agree that it's time to step it up, please join the petition and support 350MA of Greater Lowell in Divest Fest and other upcoming events.