This fall, the City of Minneapolis is voting on a resolution endorsing divestment from the fossil fuel industry.
Divestment, the process of removing investments from something, is a way of prompting social or political change through exercising one’s moral voice. I've been working throughout the summer on this resolution in favor of divestment, and I wanted to take a moment and explain why it's important.
Our climate is in danger. The current output of fossil fuels, through our cars, our factories, our energy grids, is unsustainable. It threatens us with a destabilization of the weather systems we are used to, the ones that our lifestyles and livelihoods depend on. From temperature shifts to extreme weather events, we all have heard of the threat of climate change. But our elected officials seem powerless or unmotivated to fix this issue, and without their influence, the fossil fuel industry is set to burn all the reserves they hold- five times the carbon that we could release into the atmosphere without seeing truly catastrophic warming.
Divestment is how we change this pattern from the grassroots level. It's a way of conveying we are not OK with the damage to our planet, we are not OK with the fossil fuel industry continuing with business as usual in a time of crisis, and we are not okay with funding it. Historically, divestment movements have been successful in influencing large scale policy and industry, with the most famous examples coming from the fights against Big Tobacco and Apartheid South Africa. Today, people everywhere are applying this tactic as one vehicle by which to address climate change and climate justice on a global scale.
Divestment movements are sparking up all across the state. Eight colleges and universities have student groups calling for their endowments to be divested, and these campaigns are supported by over 350 campus groups nationally. At the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and Morris campuses, the undergraduate student governments have passed resolutions in favor of divestment. Communities of faith have also played an integral role in the movement: Mayflower Church in south Minneapolis not only divested, but brought divestment to the entire United Church of Christ, their national denomination. Over in St. Paul, legislators and citizen groups have begun an organizing effort to divest the state's pension funds, and will likely result in legislation in the next couple years.
At this time when the divestment movement is growing quickly but still looking for a foothold, we need the city to show that they're behind us. The city has plenty of leverage with local colleges, nonprofits, foundations, faith institutions, and the State of Minnesota, and it's time to make it count.
Noah Shavit-Lonstein & Patty O'Keefe