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Letter: Why Divestment Makes Sense

To the Editor:

The Valley News Feb. 24 editorial, “Divestment Anew,” gets it wrong. The editorial agrees that global warming is real and an imperative (good), but argues that 350.org’s divestment campaign will be ineffective. Based on the successful anti-apartheid divestment campaign, colleges are being asked to divest holdings from companies that extract or sell fossil fuels. The editorial pointedly does not offer a better alternative, but instead falls into a common trap. Since we all use fossil fuels, the argument goes, we’re all complicit in the same immoral actions as the oil, gas and coal companies. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The fossil fuel companies are the drug dealers; we are the users. Yes, we can “go clean,” but given the fossil fuel companies’ huge lobbying power, which has slowed the growth of alternatives and stymied government action, the fossil fuel companies are truly to blame for our situation; they have blocked our routes to being “clean.” We would drive electric cars and heat with more efficient biomass and heat pumps, but the fossil companies block incentives and federal research-and-development funding required to speed deployment. And the list goes on.

Divestment will help to devalue their stocks and will also importantly work to take away their social license. Investing in fossil fuels will become like investing in slavery or in illegal drugs. Taking away their social license will dilute their lobbying efforts and help to move other climate action forward.

Yes, the final goal is to have them stop pumping oil, fracking gas and digging coal. This will take time, which we have less of now then when we should have started. But we cannot get to that point unless we underscore the fact that the fossil fuel companies’ business is killing our planet. Highlighting the destructive nature of the fossil fuel business will help drive alternatives forward and give our leaders the courage to act. We urge the Valley News to take a larger view and strongly support the divestment action at Dartmouth and colleges across the region. Sterling College, Unity College and Hampshire College are to be commended for already taking action.

Jeff Wolfe

Strafford

Related

Editorial: Divestment Anew; 350.org’s Campaign Seems Unpromising

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The emergence of a new divestment movement targeting the fossil-fuel industry has invited comparisons to a previous one that took aim at companies that did business in South Africa, which then practiced apartheid. It’s an instructive but discouraging exercise: As much as we would welcome a tactic that forced meaningful action on global warming, comparing the two divestment campaigns raises …