DIVESTMENT: A MOVEMENT
(In late January, one of our steering committee members, Peter Anderson, gave the following short talk to the Redwood Presbytery, which includes all Presbyterian churches from Marin to the Oregon border.
As a result of his presentation, the attendees voted in favor of an "overture" for divestment from fossil fuel stocks. This will be presented for a vote in June to the General Assembly, the national governing body of the church. If approved, such divestiture will represent millions of dollars.)
I have a grandson: Viggo. He is six-months-old and I love him with all my heart. He is a part of why I am here.
I was thinking about springtime when I was a young boy in a small town in Marin. It was very rural then, and spring was announced by the arrival of the swallows. Thousands would appear to build nests under the eaves of our grammar school and other buildings.
The days seemed alive with vibrating life: the hum of bees, the songs of birds. Sounds of night were magical. There was a chorus of frogs and crickets, the hoot of a horned owl.
These sounds are a memory. It is silent. No more swallows. I did hear a frog last spring – just one. The creek where we explored and fished is lined with concrete and a cyclone fence. The steelhead have disappeared. These losses are warning signs.
What will I say to my grandson when he asks me: "Grandpa, what did you do when you had a chance to turn things around?"
And this is what I want to tell him:
"Viggo, I joined with courageous people from all over the country. Once we understood the threat to life on earth, we united to stop the burning of fossil fuels.
"In California when we saw our streams dry up, our beloved redwood and pine forests turn brown, and our Sierra Nevada – the 'range of light' – without snow, we rolled up our sleeves, joined forces and got to work.
"Our church supported a movement started by college kids and communities of faith to divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in sunlight and wind.
"We started with five Presbyteries: Florida, Minnesota, Boston, San Jose and San Francisco. Then the Redwood Presbytery came onboard. We were joined by 17 foundations worth two billion dollars.
"Twenty-two cities, two counties, 20 religious organizations, nine colleges and universities, and many more institutions signed up to rid themselves of investments in fossil fuel companies, defined as the top 200 coal- , oil- and gas-producing companies in the world.
"The campaign expanded to include huge pension funds in California and New York. We listened to Bill McKibben of 350.org and climatologist, Dr. James Hansen, who told us that fossil fuel companies as currently incarnated are essentially rogue companies that have in their reserves far more carbon than any scientist thinks it is safe to burn."
I want to tell Viggo that a few, brave people jump-started this campaign, and it was a miracle how quickly it caught on. And that this is why, everywhere you look now, you see windmills, solar panels, forests being re-planted, lots of solar-charged, electric cars, and bike riders everywhere.
Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, says it is time to divest from fossil fuels. Archbishop Desmond Tutu says it is time to divest from fossil fuels. The Dalai Lama believes that climate change is caused by us and, therefore, we can solve it by stopping global warming.
Nelson Mandela understood the threat of climate change, and the power of divestment, because our unique American contribution to his "March to Freedom" was divestment – and it helped to end apartheid.
We know what we need to do for our grandchildren and the frogs, the barn swallows and the redwood trees. Let us support the overture for divestment from fossil fuels. The Earth demands it.