Disinvest/Reinvest: From Fossil Fuels to Hope

By Liz Schmitt 11-10-2014 | Series:

Editor’s Note : This is the first post in a new series about fossil fuel divestment and clean energy reinvestment. We’ll look at how and why people of faith might choose to divest from fossil fuels as a response to climate change.

When you really care about something, it’s important not to give up hope.

If one of the things you care about is climate change and the harm we are doing to God’s beautiful world, it’s pretty hard to keep the hope alive.

After all, the world’s leading peer-reviewed scientific authority on climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, just released its most damning report ever, declaring that climate disruption is at this point “irreversible.”

And then let’s look at Congress. The United States has emitted more greenhouse gases than any other country in the world, and yet it’s been five years since Congress came anywhere near passing a major climate law. (And they failed to pass that Cap & Trade law). After the most recent election last week, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) — who once called global warming “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people” — is set to become the gatekeeper for all climate legislation.

This should come as no surprise. Fossil fuels – the main driver of our nation’s climate culpability – are a big business. We blow up mountains to get more coal, set up dangerous oilrigs in the Gulf of Mexico, pipe tar through the breadbasket of America, and use California’s limited water supply to hydrofrack for gas. When I say “we,” I mean the fossil fuel industry. The industry spends tons of money each year propping up climate deniers, spreading misinformation, and sowing seeds of doubt about what we are doing to God’s earth. They also fund political candidates on both sides of the aisle, buying silence from elected officials whose constituents are suffering from air and water pollution, historic drought, or stronger hurricanes.

In the face of all this, I have hope — for two reasons.

First, I hope because I believe in God. I have hope because Jesus came to reconcile all things, including creation. And as Paul says in Romans, “we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out [God’s] love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom [God] has given us.”

I am not making up this problem or its solutions. Only God knows what the finish line of a restored creation really looks like. We are invited to participate in God’s mission to repair God’s world. This is the goal I carry with me – not the doom and gloom of the world ending unless we act.

The second reason I have hope is this: we can sidestep the politicians and take action without them. We can make choices that line up with our values, and one of those is to stop sending our money to the fossil fuel companies.

Do I have the ability to stop using oil and gas today? Not really. But I can move my financial investments away from those irresponsible companies.

Fossil fuel disinvestment and clean energy reinvestment is a growing movement to vote for a sustainable energy future with our investment dollars. The impact you have depends on the size of your portfolio, of course. When big family foundations like the Rockefellers and celebs like Mark Ruffalo divest, it has a bigger impact than when many of us regular folks do. But that doesn’t lessen the power of the message we are sending: We’re refusing to participate in a system that is continuing to ruin our planet. Each dollar we disinvest from oil, natural gas, and coal companies is a dollar they can’t spend drilling in the Arctic, or fracking in Texas. And it’s also a dollar they can’t spend buying a politician’s loyalty.

Disinvestment and reinvestment alone may not stop the path of climate change, but while we do the slow, frustrating work of policy change, it’s a step we can take on our own. And if more of us choose to move our money, those choices will add up. We not only can move our own money; we can ask our churches, our denominations, our seminaries, and our financial institutions to join us in the fight against the fossil fuel industry’s destructive activities.

The leader of the movement, Bill McKibben, is a Christian, but we usually hear about disinvestment from college students and green groups. Plenty of Christians have offered up not only examples of action, but how their belief in God or words of Scripture helped them make that decision.

Many Christian institutions — like the World Council of Churches, Union Theological Seminary — have already made moves to disinvest and reinvest. We have covered these announcements over the past few years. Here are a few highlights:

Faith Communities are Dumping their Fossil Fuel Investments by Lauren Markoe

Why We Divested by Rev. Jim Antal

World Council of Churches Disinvests in Fossil Fuels by Wes Granberg-Michaelson

University of Dayton, a Catholic University, Moves to Divest from Fossil Fuels by Liz Schmitt

Union Seminary Pulls Investments from the 'Sin' of Fossil Fuels by Sarah Pulliam Bailey

Why Union’s Decision to Divest from Fossil Fuels Matters by Liz Schmitt

The Thing from the Oil Company Board Room by Rose Marie Berger

Time for Confession – And Action by Bill McKibben

Liz Schmitt is Creation Care Campaign Associate for Sojourners.

Image:  / Shutterstock.com

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