Just wrote this piece for Next Gen Journal about the fossil fuel divestment movement and the 2012 election!
Young Voters: When It Comes To Climate, Divest For Our Future
by Chloe Maxmin | Harvard University
Climate change is the most urgent and serious issue confronting humanity today, and it is the defining issue of our generation. Yet for the first time since 1988, neither party mentioned climate change in the Presidential debates, and both candidates are pushing for oil and gas expansion. This is nothing short of devastating. Our political leaders are refusing to engage with the most pressing problem of our time, and who will pay the price? You, me, our children, and every single person on this planet.
That is why, as an environmental activist, I have devoted myself to a new campaign. It is called Divest For Our Future. Students around the country are pressuring their universities to divest from fossil fuel companies and reinvest in socially responsible funds. We are tired of lobbying for green legislation when the fossil fuel industry holds sway over our political system. To save our world, we are fighting fossil fuel corporations directly. We demand that our money be invested in ways that do not threaten our future. I am a co-coordinator for Divest Harvard, and it has been incredibly inspiring to see how quickly this movement has taken off.
I have already submitted my ballot in favor of Barack Obama. Although he has promoted false technologies like “clean coal,” his policies will be better for the climate than those of Mitt Romney. Romney supports the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which would encourage the extraction of tar sands oil — one of the most dangerous and potent fossil fuels. Although he has mentioned more drilling, Obama recognizes the dangers of climate change and has made efforts to reduce America’s dependence on fossil fuels.
That being said, I am quickly losing faith in our political system. I am tired of waiting for our politicians to act on climate change. I will not stand by as global warming intensifies and our political system is controlled by the very corporations that are causing it.
I believe that every American citizen has the responsibility to vote, and I have already submitted by absentee ballot for November 6. I have done some volunteering for the Democrats, but I have been mostly been advocating for Barack Obama through environmental communities. I am part of environmental groups on campus that have endorsed Obama, and I educate my peers about the candidates’ stances on climate policy and women’s rights. I have been devoting most of my time to divestment work because I believe that progressive and meaningful climate legislation will only come when the fossil fuel industry is weakened.
Two issues matter to me. First, I care about women’s rights. Romney and Ryan’s stance on abortion and birth control are outrageous and horrifying. Paul Ryan co-sponsored a bill that could allow prosecution of women who have abortions. He also voted for a bill that would “ban federal health coverage that includes abortion.” Under Paul Ryan, a woman would not only no longer have the right to choose — she would also lose the sexual reproductive rights that women have fought to ensure for decades. Ryan also voted against the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a bill that enables women and other workers to fight for equal pay.
But again, global warming is the most serious issue in our lives today. 100 million people will die by 2030 if the world fails to reduce significantly our greenhouse gas emissions. Globally, we can emitonly 565 Gigatons more carbon into the atmosphere without breaking that two degree limit. Yet fossil fuel companies hold 2795 Gigatons of carbon in their proven reserves. Thus, to avoid irreversible climate catastrophe, we need to keep 80% of those reserves locked underground. We need to fundamentally rethink our energy system. The first step in that transition is refusing to support fossil fuels and reinvesting our money in responsible funds.
There are many people who are scared of what Romney and Ryan will do to our country. People feel a deep urgency and fear. The Harvard Democrats have been active with canvassing, phone banks, and other events. But the majority of people I speak to are completely disillusioned with our political process. Some of my friends won’t vote because they don’t think that the popular vote means anything anymore.
This is one of the reasons why the Divest For Our Future movement has become so popular. Fifty universities have already started campaigns to divest from fossil fuel companies. We are fed up with inefficacy of our political system, and we do not want to see our world fall apart. We are fighting the fossil fuel industry ourselves and building support for a robust national climate movement so that green legislation can become meaningful and possible.