Friday, April 11, 2014

Desmond Tutu calls for non-violent resistance to the fossil fuel industry

(Wikipedia photo of Tutu)

This via a Guardian column published today.

Tutu is of course a much-lauded hero of the apartheid era in South Africa, who played a leading role alongside Nelson Mandela. A key point in that campaign was in 1986, when Tutu was made Archbishop of Cape Town by the Anglican Communion, much against the will of the Afrikaner minority. Now he brings the soft power of the Church to bear on climate change, something I predicted would happen in my PhD dissertation (2002).

Tutu's declaration is not a particularly specific milestone. The Anglican Communion has been working quietly on climate change for some years. But it is a very public commitment, that by implication with Tutu places climate justice on a par with apartheid (where it belongs). In my thesis, I tracked the various historical cases of the religious response to similar concerns, such as Abolition, the entry of the US into WWII, and Civil Rights. Once the mainstream religious groups get involved, there begins to be a kind of moral pressure that is ultimately irresistible. At least, I thought so in 2002 and still think so now.

So if I'm right, now it's only a matter of time, really. Resolution is inevitable. Unless we (scientists) really don't understand the climate system and have made a major mistake, something I do not believe and would not give more than a one percent probability, well within the reasonable bounds of a precautionary principle, the involvement of more and more "respectable" institutions such as the mainstream churches will sway the general public of the civilized world, and appropriate policy will follow.

There's no room for complacency, considering that an awful lot of ordinary people really don't understand yet, especially after this recent difficult North American winter, but I do believe we're on the right track and can probably stay there.

Note that the route Tutu maps out requires divestment as a key act for participants.

Here's an excerpt. 
People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change. We can, for instance, boycott events, sports teams and media programming sponsored by fossil-fuel energy companies. We can demand that the advertisements of energy companies carry health warnings. We can encourage more of our universities and municipalities and cultural institutions to cut their ties to the fossil-fuel industry. We can organise car-free days and build broader societal awareness. We can ask our religious communities to speak out.

We can actively encourage energy companies to spend more of their resources on the development of sustainable energy products, and we can reward those companies that do so by using their products. We can press our governments to invest in renewable energy and stop subsidising [sic] fossil fuels. Where possible, we can install our own solar panels and water heaters.

We cannot necessarily bankrupt the fossil fuel industry. But we can take steps to reduce its political clout, and hold those who rake in the profits accountable for cleaning up the mess.
And the good news is that we don't have to start from scratch. Young people across the world have already begun to do something about it. The fossil fuel divestment campaign is the fastest growing corporate campaign of its kind in history.

Last month, the General Synod of the Church of England voted overwhelmingly to review its investment policy in respect of fossil fuel companies, with one bishop referring to climate change as "the great demon of our day". Already some colleges and pension funds have declared they want their investments to be congruent with their beliefs.

It makes no sense to invest in companies that undermine our future. To serve as custodians of creation is not an empty title; it requires that we act, and with all the urgency this dire situation demands.
Here's the rest:

PS: Here's a similar declaration by a long list of major corporations, including Shell Oil. Led by the Prince of Wales via his Corporate Leader's Group. Puts ExxonMobil to shame for its recent and highly irresponsible response to the IPCC report. Should Exxon be surprised if they now become the primary target of the world's ire?

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