President Obama: Our Newest Divestment Organizer
“Convince those in power to reduce our carbon pollution. Push your own communities to adopt smarter practices. Invest. Divest. Remind folks there’s no contradiction between a sound environment and strong economic growth... Make yourself heard on this issue.”
-Barack Obama, 6/25/2013
Folks, Obama just said “divest.” Go ahead and pinch yourself. That probably hurt, because you’re not dreaming! The President of the United States knows we exist, and he likes what we’re doing.
The student divestment movement, which is now active at over 300 colleges and universities around the world, demands that college and university administrations freeze all new investments in fossil fuels, divest existing investments from the fossil fuel industry, and reinvest in environmentally and socially responsible alternatives. The idea is that if divestment is successful, we can strip the fossil fuel industry of its political power, and politicians will start acting in favor of prosperity instead of big coal and oil. Our movement, created and run largely by students, is gaining steam everywhere, and has spread to businesses, places of worship, and cities like San Francisco and Seattle, which have already divested. We’re big and loud, but we’re about to get even bigger and louder.
I was rallying outside of the president’s speech yesterday with at least 100 other students- students that were there to support the president’s response to grassroots environmental activism. The rally was overwhelmingly attended by young people, who came up with chants like “Yes we can! Comprehensive climate plan!” and “Fired up, ready to go! Fossil fuels have got to go!” It was proof that young people have passion, and young people come through. Obama would not have made his speech yesterday if students hadn’t pushed him there.
If we can learn anything from the President’s- dare I say it- endorsement of our campaign, it’s that students have power. A campaign that started with a small group of students at a small college a few years ago has grown big enough that the President of the United States has announced it in a national address. That’s huge, to say the least. Even though most of our schools have yet to divest, we have enjoyed a giant success. President Obama agrees that it’s time for fossil fuel lobbyists to stand down and for members of congress to think about our future when they cast their votes. There is no doubt that this is because of us and our fight. POTUS is on our side because we know what’s right, and we know how to throw down.
The President sees that we know what we’re doing, but he hasn’t seen anything yet. Obama’s shout out shows that he agrees divestment is a legitimate and effective strategy that will lead us toward a world free from the tyranny of fossil fuels, and this gives us all the more reason to keep on fighting. When school starts in the fall, we’re going to be stronger, smarter, and tougher, because it’s up to us, the students, to keep on leading the fight for schools, cities, businesses, places of worship, and anything and everything that has investments in the fossil fuel industry. We have to let Obama know that we heard him, and we don’t plan on stopping. His shout out is a call to action, and we’ll work harder than ever to achieve climate justice. We’ll continue to push him and our college and university presidents to say no to nasty fossil fuels. They have no idea what’s coming to them.