A fast-spreading movement to persuade universities to rid their endowments of fossil fuel assets is now taking root in America's churches and faith communities. "With the civil rights movement, the youth led and the churches followed," said Fred Small, minister of the Unitarian Universalist First Parish Church in Cambridge, Mass. The church is one of dozens of congregations across the country exploring how to divest their portfolios of coal, oil and gas companies. "If young people see divestment as a key issue in the climate fight, then it is important for us to get involved," Small said.
The furthest along is the 1.2 million-member United Church of Christ, which will hold a national vote in June to adopt a fossil fuel divestment measure. Since November, divestment campaigns have spread to 210 universities in the United States and Canada, and to the city of Seattle, the first municipality seeking to divest its $1.9 billion pension fund.
The campaign is organized by 350.org, a grassroots climate organization founded by author turned activist Bill McKibben. It is part of a larger effort to boost the moral case for action by drawing attention to what McKibben calls global warming's "terrifying new math." Based on peer-reviewed science, the numbers say energy firms must keep 80 percent of their carbon reserves in the ground to limit the global temperature rise to the crucial 2-degrees Celsius mark.
In an interview, McKibben said involvement of faith communities is crucial for climate action to become a great American movement. [Inside Climate News]