On Christmas Eve 2014, journalists working at the Guardian received the following email from their editor, Alan Rusbridger.
This time next year I won’t be the editor of the Guardian: indeed, well before that I’ll have stepped down.
I’m not at all depressed. This is the right time to be moving on. But I do have an urge to do something powerful, focused and important with the Guardian while I’m still here. And it will be about climate change.
Sometimes there’s a story so enormous that conventional journalism struggles to cope with it, never mind do justice. The imminent threat to the species is the most existentially important story any of us could imagine telling – for our sakes, for our children and for their children. But, as journalists, we also know that we sometimes tire of telling, and that people tire of reading.”
Rusbridger’s email sparked a series of discussions among his team, eventually leading them to take on, “The Biggest Story in the World: The Race to Save the Earth.” The journalists began focusing on stories that would motivate readers and listeners to understand the desperate need for urgent action. In March 2015, they initiated a full-fledged campaign, entitled Keep it in the Ground. Based on the work of Bill McKibbon, who founded the 350.org climate campaign that launched the divestment movement, the Guardian is calling on the world’s biggest medical charities – the Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation and the Wellcome Trust – to divest from fossil fuels; and to encourage others to follow suit … before it is too late.
It now appears that the work of Bill McGibbon, 350.org, the Guardian, and many other activist organizations and individuals is growing exponentially. On September 22nd, the Guardian ran an article, “Institutions worth $2.6 trillion have now pulled investments out of fossil fuels,” in which they announced that a coalition of 2,000 individuals and 400 institutions have pledged to shift their assets from coal, oil and gas companies to tackle climate change.
“Scientists agree that most existing coal, oil and gas reserves must remain in the ground if global warming is to be kept below the internationally-agreed danger limit of 2C. This means that, if action on climate change is successful, the vast majority of fossil fuels will be unburnable and the companies owning those reserves could crash in value. Many coal companies have already seen their share prices crash as limits on carbon emissions get stricter…”
“…The fossil fuel divestment movement, aimed primarily at stripping legitimacy from fossil fuel companies, has grown faster than even the divestment movement that targeted apartheid South Africa and it is backed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.”
The list of institutions and individuals who have pledged to Divest-Invest continues to grow and the heat is on, so to speak, to gather as many pledges as possible before the COP21 Climate Talks in Paris this December. In the words of Leonardo DiCaprio, who just took the Pledge for himself and his foundation, “Climate change is severely impacting the health of our planet and all of its inhabitants, and we must transition to a clean energy economy that does not rely on fossil fuels. Now is the time to divest and invest to let our world leaders know that we, as individuals and institutions, are taking action to address climate change, and we expect them to do their part in Paris.”
Here closer to home in the U.S., we at Equal Exchange have seen first-hand, not just the brutal storms that have devastated parts of the Northeast, the droughts and wildfires that have ravished the West, and all the other evidence of climate change in our own communities, but sadly the impact that unpredictable weather patterns and unusual climatic occurrences are wreaking on our farmer partners across the Global South. So many of the advances that our farmer partners have been able to achieve through our work and the Fair Trade model, are tragically disappearing. In fact, the livelihoods – and in some cases, the very existence – of many small farmer co-ops is now threatened.
But, there’s even more exciting news since this Guardian article was published! Equal Exchange has joined a coalition of 18 environmental and social justice organizations working with Divest-Invest to encourage individuals to join this growing movement. While the work will continue on, we have all agreed to step up our efforts, through October 18th to collect as many pledges as possible. As of this morning, the number has grown to 24,868!
And so, for the sake of our farmer partners, ourselves, and families, and the health of our planet, we invite you to join us to take the Divest-Invest Pledge. Whether you are a thousandaire, a millionaire, or have no money at all, taking the Pledge NOW sends a strong message!