When Bill McKibben set out on his 350.org’s Do the Math Tour, he and a slew of green celebrities asked people and institutions to divest from fossil fuels. The 350.org organization believes divestiture from fossil fuels and investment in renewable energy is essential to health of the planet and all its living systems. Some colleges have listened. According to a 350.org update: Unity College in Maine became the first in the nation fully divest from fossil fuels. Hampshire College in Massachusetts has also passed a sustainable investment policy that effectively divests them from fossil fuels. At Harvard, a student resolution supporting divestment passed with 72% of the vote, and students are now pushing to meet with President Faust about divestment. UNH students delivered 1,000 signatures to their president to call for a meeting on divestment. At Brown, students rallied to push their administration to divest from coal. Perhaps most surprisingly, an entire city appears to be doing the math. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn sent a letter to the city’s two chief pension funds in late December, formally requesting that they “refrain from future investments in fossil fuel companies and begin the process of divesting our pension portfolio from those companies.”
Along with encouraging the pension funds to divest, Mayor McGinn also committed to making sure that city funds stay out of the fossil fuel industry, writing, “The City’s cash pool is not currently invested in fossil fuel companies, and I already directed that we refrain from doing so in the future.”
Valued at $1.9 billion, SCERS is also the largest investment portfolio yet to consider fossil fuel divestment. While the full value of SCERS fossil fuel investments is still unknown, according to the city’s finance director, the system currently has $17.6 million invested in ExxonMobil and Chevron, which represents roughly 0.9% of the system’s assets.
“Mayor McGinn deserves great credit for being a pioneer,” said 350.org founder and Bill McKibben, who has helped spearhead the new divestment movement. “Sandy was a reminder of just how much our cities have at stake from climate change--standing up to the fossil fuel companies isn't easy, but it's much easier than standing up to an ever-rising ocean."
In his letter to the pension boards, Mayor McGinn highlighted the threat climate change poses to Seattle and the reasons why divestment was both the moral and responsible thing to do.
“There is a clear economic argument for divestment,” wrote McGinn. “While fossil fuel companies do generate a return on our investment, Seattle will suffer greater economic and financial losses from the impact of unchecked climate change.”
At this time, no other city has publicly announced plans to follow McGinn's lead in fossil fuel divestiture. Politicians who lack a green conscience will likely be moved only by political pressure that exceeds the financial influence of the significant fossil fuel lobby.
What others are saying about Every Natural Fact
"If you combined the lyricism of Annie Dillard, the vision of Aldo Leopold, and the gentle but tough-minded optimism of Frank McCourt, you might come close to Amy Lou Jenkins,...I, for one, would follow her anywhere."—Tom Bissell author of The Father of All Things
Jenkins' polished literary style makes it, sentence by sentence, a joy to read." —Phillip Lopate, author of Waterfront