The Dharma of Divestment

The Dharma of Divestment

News: Global Divestment Day is this weekend (13-14th Feb)
Let’s make fossil fuels history!
gofossilfree.org/divestment-day/

We humans desperately need to end our reliance on fossil fuels and replace them with renewable energy sources. Yet the system that holds us addicted to burning oil, coal, and gas is pressed heavily in place and there are many with vested interests in maintaining that status quo. How can we help expedite the shift to a healthier planet and global society?

There are many ways of course. But recently, in addressing this issue, veteran human-rights campaigner Archbishop Desmond Tutu emphasized in particular one of the possible avenues:

It is clear that those countries and companies primarily responsible for emitting carbon and accelerating climate change are not simply going to give up; they stand to make too much money. They need a whole lot of gentle persuasion from the likes of us. And it need not necessarily involve trading in our cars and buying bicycles! There are many ways that all of us can fight against climate change: by not wasting energy, for instance. But these individual measures will not make a big enough difference in the available time.

People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change. We can, for instance, boycott events, sports teams and media programming sponsored by fossil-fuel energy companies.

In the 1980s and 90s a concerted global divestment initiative was a major contributing force in the battle to end the injustice of apartheid in South Africa. Today, led by organizations such as 350.org and People & Planet, a similar divestment movement is rapidly gathering momentum, seeking to end the stranglehold that oil corporations hold on our society and the vast injustices of climate change that flow from fossil fuel dependency.

This contemporary initiative is growing so fast, in fact, that in Australia the coal industry is trying to make 350.org’s fossil fuel divestment campaign and other boycotts illegal. According to a recent article in the Guardian, “The powerful mining lobby is considering whether to join the push by resource industries to ban environmental boycott campaigns as it battles an escalating grassroots movement calling for banks, superannuation funds [i.e. pension funds] and institutions to ditch fossil fuel investments.” You can help by signing this urgent petition to Tell the Australian government that you are against a ban on divestment campaigns.

In addition to supporting 350.org and People & Planet, who aim mostly at encouraging and helping large institutions to divest from fossil fuels, there are also many ways, large and small, that we as individuals can begin to personally divest from fossil fuels. See our Divestment Links page for a whole range of suggestions and info.

Divestment, then, can take many forms and work in different ways. And there are still other significant kinds of divestment possibilities that exist. Organizations like the Reclaim Shakespeare Company, part of the Art Not Oil Coalition, are having fun exposing the attempts of oil companies such as BP to whitewash their public image through sponsorship of the Arts. BP is, for example, sponsoring the British Museum’s Vikings exhibition which will be broadcast to cinemas nationwide beginning on April 24th. The Reclaim Shakespeare Company write: “By providing a tiny percentage (less than 1%) of the annual income of institutions like the British Museum, BP gets a huge amount of positive publicity in return, helping the company to present itself as a responsible part of society rather than the climate-trashing, clean-energy-blocking, human-rights-abusing berserker it really is. BP is only sponsoring our history to help it get away with destroying our future.” Check out www.bp-or-not-bp.org/vikings to see the brilliant Reclaim Shakespeare Company’s most recent spoof film.

And if you want to help, there are a number of things you can do:

  1. You can share the film. Instructions for doing so on their website.
  2. You can sign a petition, also on that website.
  3. You can email the British Museum on feedback@britishmuseum.org or tweet your thoughts using the hashtag #VikingsLive.
  4. You can print out some copies of this wonderful, tongue-in-cheek leaflet and hand them out at your local screening of Vikings Live. (“Viking costumes not essential but nonetheless encouraged 🙂 “) Find your local screening here.
  5. You can spread the word.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead

Thanks for all that you do,
The Gaia House Sangha DANCE team

One Response to The Dharma of Divestment

  1. Amanda May 8, 2014 at 10:29 pm #

    A meeting organised by the Environmental Funders Network that may be of interest …
    **Trustees and Chief Executives** Divest:Invest Philanthropy: Will your trust join the growing global movement? — 18 JUNE, 16.00-17.30 — BOOK NOW
    The Polden-Puckham Charitable Foundation, Frederick Mulder Foundation and EFN invite you to join a meeting to learn about Divest:Invest Philanthropy, part of a growing movement encouraging institutions around the world to divest their assets from fossil fuels and invest them in clean energy.

    As the current organisations leading the initiative state: We are foundations divesting from fossil fuels and switching to clean energy investments, joining college, health, pension funds and religious endowments doing the same. Three of the most persuasive reasons to join the movement are:
    1) Considering long-term financial responsibility: Science tells us that up to 80 per cent of fossil fuel reserves need to be left in the ground if extremely dangerous climate change impacts are to be avoided. Fossil fuel stocks are essentially greatly overvalued stranded assets—a compelling reason to divest on financial grounds.
    2) Aligning ethics and mission with finances: The impacts of climate change will disproportionately affect the poor and vulnerable, the people whose lives most of us are striving to improve. Surely we should not allow our investments to undermine our purpose and activities?
    3) Creating a new future: The UNFCCC is calling for a further $1 trillion in investments in clean energy every year to transform the energy economy and avoid catastrophic climate change. What if trusts and foundations harnessed not just their grant-making but their assets to lead the way to a cleaner future?

    At the meeting, we will hear from Ellen Dorsey, Executive Director of the Wallace Global Fund and leader of Divest:Invest Philanthropy, who will talk about the growing momentum behind the initiative, answer questions and share information about the financial performance of the Wallace Global Fund’s portfolio since divesting.

    For more information:
    Divest:Invest Philanthropy website: http://divestinvest.org/philanthropy/
    Interview with Ellen Dorsey and financial advisor Thomas Van Dyck on US television: http://billmoyers.com/episode/putting-the-freeze-on-global-warming/
    Desmond Tutu’s call to action: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/10/divest-fossil-fuels-climate-change-keystone-xl
    New York Times article on the movement: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/01/29/foundations-band-together-to-get-rid-of-fossil-fuel-investments/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0
    For notes from a meeting with Ellen Dorsey hosted at the WHEB offices last month, please see the attached document–many thanks to WHEB for their summarising!

    For those who can’t make the in-person meeting but are interested in learning more, Divest:Invest Philanthropy is holding a webinar on 11th June at 5pm UK time. Register here: http://divestinvest.org/philanthropy/register/.

    To register for the 18th June meeting, please email Florence Miller at Florence@greenfunders.org. Central London location tbc shortly.

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