Hannah Evans works at Restless Development UK, supporting our active network of Young People to take action on the issues that matter to them most. Her personal area of focus is Climate Change and is currently supporting the Restless Development UK’s ‘Last Half Climate Campaigners’ with their Climate Actions, coinciding with COP22.
If you’re a regular reader of ‘lefty- press’, DIVESTMENT is a word that has likely flashed across your radar recently. And I forgive you if this term, DIVESTMENT, has been nothing but a vague concept up until now, as sadly (like most things related to Climate Change), it isn’t the sexiest of terms.
But, if you find SAVING THE EARTH as alluring as I do, READ ON. As here I am folks, breaking divestment down into edgier- chunks, and eagerly professing that Divestment, in my opinion could be the Secret Ingredient to WINNING our life- long siege against Cataclysmic Climate Change.
So, What is Divestment?
Divestment, is most simply thought of as the opposite to investment.
This means that at whatever level of business; customers, shareholders and pension holders; that DIVESTMENT is the act of moving money (and in some cases we’re talking about huge swathes of dollar), out of a business.
And so in case you haven’t figured it out yet, The Fossil Free Divestment Movement works tirelessly to move as much money as possible out of the Fossil Fuel Industry, and then usually encourage investors to place such money into Clean Energy Alternatives.
A History of Divestment Winning
The practice of DIVESTMENT being used as a ‘Campaigners Best Friend’, is actually pretty old school.
Throughout the last century in fact, we can pay our dues to DIVESTMENT’s effectiveness for being fundamental in the success of several historical turning points in humanity’s quest for civil liberties:
Long before we knew about our self- afflicting destruction of the atmosphere, in 1930’s India, a lawyer known as Mahatma Gandhi, led nation-wide boycotts of British produced materials. He did this in the knowledge that as long as India was inadvertently giving it’s purchasing power over to British Industry through the regular purchase of items such as cloth & salt, that Indian nationals would never have the power to change the British- Governed Rule that India was currently under.
Gandhi actively and fervently encouraged and led successful nationwide boycotts of British Produced cloth & instead proposed India’s population to be self sufficient, and to use their own materials and natural salt. Through this non- cooperative action on mass, alongside consequent negotiations, India was able to master autonomy of its own money and with it, it’s own governance by 1947.
Forty years down the line, in 1980’s South Africa, whilst Nelson Mandela was still imprisoned, a similar practice was adopted- and this time internationally, by international business and states. As a formal sign of disregard for the South Africa’s apartheid policy, the UK and US actively refused trade with South African business for several years. The movement was effective in putting direct pressure on the South African Government to change their policies, which in time began their negotiations for Mandela and his ANC colleague’s freedom just few years later.
And so a little begrudgingly, as a bit of an anti- consumerist myself, it seems history has shown that when done effectively; money talks & money wins. And it may be the ultimately ironic situation that money, in the right places, is the key to intervening Climate Change.
Climate Change & Divestment
Thankfully, in the climate change movement we have quite a few experienced campaigners that clocked onto this effective strategy for change a while ago. And so soon after the turn of the millennia, the Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement was born.
The movement not only works on it’s efficacy of being a direct action, but also recognises the powerful shift in the public conscious every time an investor makes the realisation that Fossil Fuels are indeed a thing of the past by challenging the industry’ legitimacy as a good long- term investment.
This argument has been convincing enough in fact, that in 2014 the heirs to the US Rockefellar oil- dynasty divested the last of its funds that remained in the fossil fuel industry, and invested into philanthropic projects instead.
Fossil Fuel Divestment, The Young Person’s Movement
Because I know my audience, I know it may come as no surprise for you to hear that Young People and student bodies have been mobilising many of the Big Wins in the Fossil Free Divestment Movement to date.
This is foreseeably due to the convenience/ inconvenience that universities have been some of the easiest targets, and noticeable culprits of Fossil Fuel Investment. When the Environmental Research Department of your university is certifying the destructive nature of carbon emissions, and yet is partly funded by an Oil Company; it’s pretty easy to cry foul.
And so the student & academic bodies of The University of Surrey, the University of Arts in London (UAL) and Glasgow University (to name but a few) have pushed to achieve exactly that, which has contributed to the divestment of 3.4 trillion US dollars out of the Fossil Fuel Industry.
But of course, key divestment targets aren’t limited to universities. Your own council could possibly be a current Fossil Fuel Investor. This was the realisation of many constituents of Hackney Borough in London, for example, who have since founded DIVEST HACKNEY, one of the many nation- wide groups in the UK campaigning for their council to divest from fossil fuels.
DIVESTMENT MOVEMENTS NEAR YOU!
So now you know exactly what Divestment is, and how it could be the winning draw in disempowering the Fossil Fuel Industry once and for all, you may indeed want to join your local divest group, and lend your voice to the thousand other activities demanding for a fossil- fuel- free future.
Here you can find the Divestment Movements near you, where you can contribute to history in the making, and join the movement to, let’s face it, SAVING THE (ONLY) EARTH we have from irreparable damage.