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Save the world by fossil fuel divestment

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Fossil Fuel Divestment

Expecting any support from the U.S. government on climate change has been looking increasingly bleak as of late. With a staff of climate change deniers at the head of Washington, it looks like for the next several years, at least, caring about the environment is going to be in the hands of the people. One of the biggest grassroots movements to stop carbon emissions in its tracks has been fossil fuel divestment.

A brief history of fossil fuel divestment

The movement is widely traced back to college campuses around 2011, where students were pressuring their universities to divest from fossil fuel. It has since gone mainstream with protests happening right on Wall Street. The movement’s been fueled mainly by protests, petitions and other means of social pressure.

A key author and activist in the movement, Naomi Klein, told Grist in 2015 that she got involved when she and another author and activist, Bill McKibben, read the Carbon Tracker research. It said that the fossil fuel industry has five times more carbon dioxide in proven reserves than the atmosphere can absorb while leaving global warming below the widely accepted 2 degrees Celsius benchmark. Between their writing and activism, these two have been at the forefront of making divestment a mainstream issue.

In the last several years, major universities, governments and foundations have withdrawn investments from fossil fuels, or have made steps towards it, in an effort to hit the fossil fuel industry right where it hurts the most: the wallet. Notable places to divest in fossil fuels include Glasgow University, the Berkeley, Calif. city government and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund announced plans for fossil fuel divestments totaling over $50 billion in worth.

What you can do

If you’re not exactly an investment buff or a regular activist, all of this can seem pretty intimidating. Yet the movement still needs help, even if in little ways. Divestment battles are still raging, one of the most notable ones being at Harvard, where the Divest Harvard movement has seen the university increase its fossil fuel investments by tens of millions of dollars.

There are several actions you can take, ranging from simple steps to full-out activist work:

Sign petitions: One of the huge pushes right now through is to urge the Vatican to divest in fossil fuels. So sign the petition, or another like it.

Start a petition: You can start a petition campaign here, where you can also find petition resources like strategy consultation and a global network of activists.

Take a look at your own investments: If you’re investing already, you’ll want to make sure you’re not investing in fossil fuels. This guide helps you through divestment options and helps you know where to invest in sustainable technologies.

Start or find a campaign: All over the world there are local groups fighting to end fossil fuel investment. You might even be able to start one if there is not a campaign close to you. You can find resources for connecting directly to or starting campaigns here.

Sadly, we live in a world where just knowing your actions are harming the environment isn’t enough. Not when there’s too much money to be made from wrecking the planet. So maybe, with enough help from tons of people, we can turn the real moneymaker into renewable energy.

Kristen lives in the Michiana area, where she enjoys lake-effect weather, apple orchards and occasional South Shore rides into Chicago. She can probably tell you more about apple cider vinegar than you'd ever want to know. You can reach her at:

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