This year’s Valentines’ day rocked the world with a wave of… Divestment actions! Thousands of events were organized around the globe demanding organizations to divest from fossil fuels. Indeed, the Divestment movement is fast growing, yet the term remains an enigma for many environmentalists, not mention average Joes.
So what does ‘Divestment’ mean for us, ecopeople, and people around the world? Webster’s dictionary defines ‘divestment’ as… (snoring sound) Neh-h-h, I will tell you what it means to me, to us and why we have to start being involved.
Several years ago I was confused by one very simple question from an acquaintance: “So how can I help to protect the environment? What do you do?” For quite a while I was dumb, surprised that the only thing that came to my mind was – “well, I am studying ecology”… “You may start recycling”- I added few moments later, with a very uncertain face, remembering that I had no separate recycling bins at home myself. I considered myself an expert in the environmental field, I even had an academic degree. So how come the only thing I could say was “I’ve learned something about it” and “recycle”?! I felt embarrassed, yet that moment became a turning point for me.
How come I hadn’t really changed anything about myself and my habits, why was I doing nothing to “be the change [I] wish to see in the world”? The little devil on my shoulder gave a very reasonable justification – “because my efforts are too little and mean nothing, I’m not a transnational corporation or a government, so why even try?” I bet you have had those nasty ideas yourself, many of us do! At the same time, we do understand that every drop matters, don’t we?
Every day we financially engage with institutions, simply by paying for a ticket in bus #53. Every single day we are voting with every single cent we spend for services, goods we buy and the way they were produced. In the end it’s exactly us who are expressing demand for organic carrots, fair-trade chocolate, cycling infrastructure and clean air in the city. By doing so, choosing organic and ethical products over the cheapest available (and understanding that those are cheapest for a reason), we are actually practicing divestment on an individual level!
Divestment – di[sin]investment! We are not investing in (paying) dirty business. This means we are making a statement to those who produce that we care about how their business is done and that they must consider our choice. For better or worse, money often seems to be a universal language that everybody understands, however ugly it may sound. Without the taxes we pay, our investments in business, our credits and deposits in banks, payments for services and commodities, those institutions simply would not exist!
We are living at an age in which we have available technological and financial means to turn to the sustainable path and wrap up our dependency on fossil fuels. On many occasions, the only thing that keeps us away from this necessary step is a political will of those with power (read: money). Moreover, we are living at a time when we must switch to clean energy, yet the illusive psychology of “too big to fail” still restrains us from doing so. Economies that are run with dirty energy push our planet to the point of no return. For decades of climate change discussions, we have been blinded with a grid, neglecting clear signs that the climate is already changing and that we are the ones who are causing it. Now we have very little time left to avert an all-embracing environmental crisis.
No time for fears and uncertainties, we need to act; too much is at stake! It may sound loud for you, but in reality everyone can be an agent of positive change, by simply questioning yourself where your money goes:
- Do you have stocks in an energy sector that uses fossil fuels? Then please, just take your money out of there, be pragmatic – think long-term and invest in renewables.
- Do you know whether your company and bank profess social-corporate responsibility? Nowadays many institutions try to introduce such regulations for their business, so don’t hesitate to ask your manager next time what regulations they implement, and where investments go to.
- Unite with other stakeholders and demand transparency of money flows in your municipality, company, bank, university, church. When you give money to someone, you have the right to ask how they use it.
- Live your ethics – it’s contagious!
Many people that I know (myself included) often ask: “So, what next?” We are already changing our habits, and trying to maintain a green and healthy lifestyle. Those around us are also slowly shifting to our side. Yet often we feel alone in this extremely busy and complex world. It makes us feel that all our efforts are still not enough.
One of the possible solutions is to expand our beliefs beyond individual “green bubbles”. The Divestment movement is exactly about that! It is the ultimate goal for those of us who care. This February, the Global Divestment Days became an important landmark for social movement. Now you know where to start, so organize and join this global community with your own activities, dare “to be the change in this world” :)
This article is organized within the project “Hello from Earth! 2″, which is financially supported by the European Union.