openDemocracyUK

Fossil-free can save us

Why divestment is the only environmental cause that can make a difference.

Lee Stone
5 October 2015
Divest environment blog_0.jpg

Flickr/Kamyar Adl.Some rights reserved.I am not an activist. I’ve never campaigned for a cause. But I’ve been interested in environmental concerns all my adult life. Still, it's one thing to care about a cause, and another to do something about it.

For me, just thinking about environmental action has always been overwhelming. Where do you start? There is so much wanton destruction on all fronts. In the past this has left me feeling disillusioned and powerless. What difference can I possibly make?

But in climate change we are faced with the final threat. Lose this battle and we lose the war. Yet we are already perilously close to losing. Our fate is very nearly sealed, along with that of nearly all life on earth. The facts speak for themselves.

If we have any chance at all, I believe it lies in divesting from the companies that are the root cause of this environmental destruction. The people that run these companies don't care about the future. They prefer instead to live an obscenely privileged life at the expense of everyone and everything else.

The only chance we have is to take away their power, which means taking away their money. And that's why I decided to actively join the global call for divestment from fossil fuels.

I first learnt the facts around catastrophic climate change when I enrolled on a post-graduate engineering course at university. Through the course, I became aware of numerous environmental groups that were taking many varying courses of action on climate change, but none of them seemed to be getting very far.

Then I came across divestment. It struck me as a different proposition altogether, one that was very specific and hard to ignore. I was quickly introduced to 350.org and Fossil Free, and to people like James Hansen, Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein. I started attending free events to find out more and began meeting others interested in or involved with divestment.

I attended the Divest London gathering outside City Hall in March this year and a few weeks later went to the Low Carbon Communities Network conference at London University. There, I met Pamela Harling from Sustainable Haringey, who put me in touch with Transition Crouch End, who in turn told me that Friends of the Earth Muswell Hill had approached local councilors about pension fund investments.

Three months later, we formed Divest Haringey and submitted our divestment petition to Haringey Council, to which people that live, work, or study in the borough can sign online. We need 2,200 signatures by 15th December 2015 for the Council to formally consider our proposal to divest its pension fund. We negotiated six months instead of the usual three to meet the target, and so far we are half way there.

We’ve collected signatures in the street, at local events, and have asked local shops and institutions to display our petition. We've asked affiliated groups to help us spread the word and have plans for a film screening at our local independent cinema.

Also, through 350.org, we've met other local divestment petitioners who have given us many inventive ideas to raise awareness about our campaign.

I expect December’s Climate Change Conference of Parties in Paris to fail. If the United Nations can't agree on firm action after meeting 20 times in 30 years, why should we expect anything to change with this next meeting? It won't. We can't rely on politicians. They've already failed us. We have to take action ourselves. Directly. And divestment, I believe, is our best and only chance.

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