As Unitarian-Universalists, we treasure our UU Seventh Principle, “respect for the inter-dependent web of existence of which we are a part.” We invoke it while working to protect and honor our planet Earth/Gaia. We know from climate scientists that using fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) is a big part of harming the planet and all life forms on it. We know that we must leave 80% of fossil fuel reserves in the ground in order to retain conditions that have fostered human civilization. We know that the fossil fuel industry continues its drive for “business as usual”, and has an enormous hold on our economy and governments. How can we hope to change this situation?
One tactic employed for social change is divestment –the opposite of investment, that is, getting rid of stocks, bonds, or investment funds that are unethical or morally ambiguous. It has been used effectively against violence in Darfur, tobacco advertising, and most successfully in South Africa against apartheid.
Divestment from the fossil fuel industry became a movement in 2012 on college campuses, started by the group 350.org with Bill McKibben. But many other kinds of organizations that serve the public good have made divestment commitments: city governments (including Boulder), a few counties, foundations (including Rockefeller) and other non-profits, and religious institutions.
What a natural pairing for UUs! And that is why our UU Association requested all of its member congregations in 2013 to examine their own investments, institutional and individual, through this fossil fuel divestment lens. And that is why in 2014 our UUA passed a resolution to divest all monies of the Common Endowment Fund, in which many smaller congregations choose to invest. The agreement was forged retaining minimal shares to keep shareholder activism possible.
Be on the look-out for more updates as our church discusses this issue and decides what we want to do about it.
2013 Action of Immediate Witness: http://www.uua.org/statements/statements/288863.shtml 2013
2014 Business Resolution: http://www.uua.org/statements/statements/296727.shtml
Frequently Asked Questions about Divestment for 2014 General Assembly: http://divestfossilfuels.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/summary-faq-for-uua-ga-ff-divestment-4-24-2014.pdf:
Divestment campaign powered by 350.org : www.gofossilfree.org