I have written a lot about why divestment has changed the climate movement. I wrote an article for The Nation on this exact topic.
But today I realized another crucial reason.
The past (pre-divestment) formulation of the climate movement implicitly blamed you, me, and everyone for global warming. The enemy was climate change. And we have all caused climate change. Therefore fighting climate change was like fighting yourself. This formulation is depressing, discouraging, and uninspiring.
The divestment movement says that the individual cannot be blamed for current behaviors. Why? Because the fossil fuel industry controls our government and coerces society into using their products. We have no other choice but to use fossil fuels. Divestment names the target and advocates for our freedom to use energy sources that don’t threaten our freedom, and it places the blame on the fossil fuel industry.
The success of divestment has shown–and unsurprisingly so–that a movement cannot arise if you feel like you’re to blame for a global issue that you probably weren’t even aware of. A movement arises when people have a distinct target and when they’re advocating for a new freedom.
TL;DR. Pre-divestment, the movement implicitly blamed individuals. Post-divestment blames the fossil fuel industry.