November 2014 - All Souls Unitarian Universalist Society - Divesting from Fossil Fuels
Spring of 2014 the congregation at All Souls Unitarian-Universalist of Greenfield voted to hold Environmental Justice as its major social justice priority for 2014/2015. Following that decision, on September 7, 2014, the Endowment Committee was pleased to announce that All Souls stock holdings were now completely divested of all holdings in fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal) companies.
This is just one of the faith-based groups and educational institutions in our region that is grappling with divesture from the human-induced causes of climate change: the burning of fossil fuels that is causing the increase of greenhouse gasses (carbon and methane) in the atmosphere.
All Souls' action was reinforced by the report issued on 30 March 2014 by the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change). which stated that the effects of climate change are already occurring on all continents and across the oceans and that the world is ill prepared for risks from the changing climate. The report, titled Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, from Working Group II of the IPCC enlisted the help of 436 contributing authors, and a total of 1,729 expert and government reviewers. It details the impacts of climate change to date, the future risks, and the opportunities for effective action to reduce risks. (A summary of the report and the accepted final draft is available at http://ipcc-wg2.gov/AR5/report/final-drafts/) The IPCC report clearly itemizes the effects of unsustainable use of resources and toxic wastes affecting freshwater and oceanic water systems, food security, human health and security in both urban and rural areas, globally.
Following the lead of hundreds of universities, in June of 2014, the entire Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) voted to achieve full divestiture of directly held securities of fossil fuel companies within five years. Then, July 2014, Audubon Society Magazine noted that the World Council of Churches representing more than a half-billion people announced that its members were also in the process of divesting from fossil fuels. And, following the Climate March on Monday, September 22, 2014, the Rockefeller Foundations (which, ironically, made their initial wealth from Oil Companies) along with 50 other Foundations and 600 major investors, announced that they were divesting $50 billion from fossil fuel corporations.
Divestment from fossil fuel companies is a powerful social instrument for change. It is called "voting with our wallets" and is a tool that both individuals and organizations can use to support a swift transition to a cleaner energy economy and positively affect climate change. In recent history, after years of heroic struggle to get beyond the policies of Apartheid in South Africa, divestiture provided that critical final impetus to gain the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, initiating a new South African government more reflective of their complexion under Mandela's leadership, which then started the remarkable process of Truth and Reconciliation.
Soon our own children may be asking us: "Did you do everything you could to reduce the effects of fossil fuels on climate change?" Divestment from fossil fuel stock holdings by individuals and our institutions is a clear and useful strategy to help us answer: "Yes!"
This month our Green Heroes are our faith, academic and philanthropic communities that are taking the lead on divestiture.