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Why We Divest


Why We Divest

Alex Lenferna

On May 14th, the University of Washington made fossil fuel divestment movement history by becoming both the richest public university and the school with the biggest student body to divest so far – although thanks to the power of the divestment movement, Oxford University took the former title just days later. More specifically the UW committed to remove thermal coal from its direct investments.

So, why did we divest? And, why divest from thermal coal?


Until the economic model is rewritten to account for externalities such as pollution and poverty, divestment is but a moral stance–albeit the high ground one. Stocks will be dumped to investors without such morals who will be happy to pick up shares at the discount prices that divestment would/will bring. Unfortunately, the reality is that these divestment exercises, while they might help educate the next generation, are but a component of a game of whack-a-mole market dynamics. The economic model MUST be revised.


The efforts reflected in this article help the universe to arc towards justice. I have just one criticism, the following sentence:

“Couple that with China’s projected goal of 15% nuclear by 2050 and China’s power can be 100% fossil free by 2050.”

Nuke power is hardly fossil free since it requires fuel to engage its burn process. A giant coal train circles the nuclear power plant in mid-Florida at Crystal River supplying it with LOTS of coal.

And let us not suppose that nuke power is a god-send since the earth changes already speeding up can compromise the safety of plants added to the FACT that the radioactive detritus, apart from finding itself built into military weapons is yet to find a safe “home.”


We urgently need divestment from the M/I/I Complex.


Agreed, and we are working simultaneously on putting a price on carbon here in Washington state. In fact, most of the people leading that are also divestistas. The two campaigns are complimentary not contradictory.


OK. We know why you divested. HOW did you divest? You sold your shares of stock to another investor. And how does that affect the energy company which originally created the stock shares? IT DIDN’T!!! those shares of stock were probably issued decades ago, and have been bought and sold dozens of times. The only impact to the energy company is the name and address on the dividend check! Secondary sales of shares do not involve the issuing company at all.

Divestment is the wrong approach. If you want to impact the energy industry, you should be buying as many shares as you can, combining them with like-minded investors to gain a voting majority. Then you can force changes at shareholder meetings, control who gets on the board, and really have an impact. Divestment is an empty gesture which does nothing but make the divest or feel smug.


Coal is coal, as far as I’m concerned, and there is no such thing as “clean” coal, or even thermal coal. Moreover, coal mining, especially when it occurs underground, is no more safer, really, than it was back in the late 1950’s (or before that), when a coal mine in Springhill, Nova Scotia collapsed, trapping about 74 men, killing many of them. The more recent coal mine blast in West Virginia, back in 2008, imho, is yet another indication of how unsafe coal mining generally is. The people who mine the coal are still at great risk, regarding their overall health, not to mention their very lives.

I’ll also add that coal not only pollutes the air and water, but it produces more acid rain, which has a devastating affect on the environment. In addition to eroding and corroding buildings, etc., and not being good for plant life or wildlife in general, it also kills off lakes, rivers and streams, rendering them “dead” or sterile, without an ounce of wildlife or plantlife underneath the still waters.