Widgets Magazine


Earth Day and Fossil Fuel Divestment

Earth Day is a time to celebrate our planet and reflect on how our personal choices have an impact on the world around us. However, it is also a time to recognize that we need not only personal responsibility, but also social and institutional changes to address the colossal challenges facing our planet.

We know you’ve heard it before: Climate change poses an enormous threat not only to our natural ecosystems but also to the quality of life of humans around the world. Though scientists continue to tweak their sensitivity parameters and to better understand the precise impacts of a warmer world, the essence of our challenge is clear: Our society must rapidly curb our greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid disaster.

Earth Day has a rich history of environmental activism. The first Earth Day in 1970 marked the beginning of the modern environmental movement; twenty million people in schools and communities across the country took to the streets to demand greater environmental protection. The momentum of this new movement prompted the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the expansion of the Clean Air Act and the passage of the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act.

Today’s environmental challenges are more complex and more terrifying than those of the 1970s. The scale of the threat posed by climate change would have been unimaginable to those early environmentalists 43 years ago. But thankfully, the environmental movement is again gaining steam. And again, across the country and the planet, university students are leading the way. We are taking action to protect our future.

We are making personal changes to reduce our carbon footprints so as to live our lives in accordance with our own values, but we recognize that this alone will not be enough. We are demonstrating support for political action on climate change. And now, specifically, we are looking at the moral implications of Stanford’s investments in the fossil fuel industry.

We can afford to burn only one fifth of fossil fuel companies’ existing reserves if we wish to avoid internationally agreed upon two-degree warming benchmark of catastrophic climate change. However, the value of these companies is dependent upon their entire reserves. Their net worth is based on a massive “carbon bubble,” which will pop as humanity recognizes that most of these reserves are unburnable.

But aside from being poor investment strategy, investing in fossil fuels is simply wrong. Given all we know about climate change, and given our school’s founding commitment to “promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization,” we must divest from companies whose business model is based on extreme climate change and whose massive lobbying budget has strangled all attempts at real government action.

Students at Stanford and more than 300 other colleges and universities are calling on our schools to divest our endowments from fossil fuel companies. The climate crisis cannot be solved by divestment alone, nor can it be solved if we continue to support business-as-usual environmental destruction. Divestiture will help to remove the social license of companies to exploit our planet and will open the door for meaningful dialogue and policy progress.

We are living at a pivotal time in Earth’s history, one that our kids will look back on in their history books. Climate change will be a defining issue of our generation. As the window for meaningful action gets smaller and smaller, we must decide to be on the right side of history. It’s time for Stanford to divest from fossil fuels. It’s time for us, as students, to keep our school’s actions in line with its mission. It’s time to fight for a stable climate – for our own future, for our children, and for the lives of millions of people around the world.

Sign our petition at act.gofossilfree.org/act/Stanford-University. For this Earth Day, join the movement.

Sophie Harrison and Graham Provost, Fossil Free Stanford

  • Kim

    Blah, blah, blah sign my pettition, blah, blah,blah.

    Why aren’t you writing about what has been descovered in West and South Texas. “Eagle Ford shale remains one of the hottest prospects in North America. A virtually recession-proof combination of highly productive wells and low drilling costs they say can yield profits even as natural gas prices hover near seven-year lows.

    Also attractive: the flat South Texas ranch land, where obstacles are few and Gulf Coast oil and gas infrastructure is nearby.

    But if the Eagle Ford seems big, get ready for what’s happening in West Texas. It’s like the Eagle Ford on steroids. It’s going to take “decades and decades” for companies to work through the shale reserves in West Texas.

    This is going to dwarf North Dakota.

    Companies are investing $25 billion in the Eagle Ford just this year.

    Wood Mackenzie, a global energy research firm expects capital spending of about $116 billion in the region. Eagle Ford is part of a larger global energy picture, with U.S. shale plays upending the energy market.

    We are covered in shale plays, and what we know about shale is the tip of the iceberg.

    If liquefaction plants are built, the U.S. can export natural gas to Europe and Japan, where prices for natural gas are much higher. Large companies are looking at converting fleets to run on natural gas instead of diesel.

    You’ve got cheap fuel, so cheap it’s ridiculous!

    OPEC is “jittery” about U.S. shale plays, and thinks that at some point it will drop the price of oil on the world market to try to force natural gas out of the market in favor of cheaper imported oil.”

    What does this equal jobs, jobs, jobs!

  • Lobo

    Can you be more infantile than responding with “blah, blah”? If you’re a Stanford student, I hope you learn to engage in meaningful dialogue by directly addressing the argument. Shale gas is only profitable because we have no climate mitigation policy that puts a price on emissions. Once that happens, it won’t be so profitable. And the jobs argument has been debunked over and over again — renewable energy creates far more, non-outsourceable jobs than dirty energy, and without the climate-altering pollution.

  • Lobo

    A shale gas party-pooper for you — it’s a boom-and-bust industry, unlike wind and sun, which keep blowing and shining, and without wrecking the environment:


  • Kim

    SOOOOOLYNDRA!!!! #fail

    Really, you are sooooo predicable thus the blah blah blah for you. Go foam at the mouth and chew on a piece of coal to calm yourself!


    Really could you get informed? For being a student at Stanford your one biased reference source is pathetic!

    COOMBAYA!!! Here’s to 2014!

  • Lobo

    I’m a faculty member actually — if you were a student of mine or any of my colleagues, you probably wouldn’t get a passing grade. The Solyndra case has been debunked over and over again — it’s not representative of the booming solar industry, which has been increasing by 20-30% per year, far more than fossil fuels, and without the huge federal subsidies the latter receives (not to mention the fact that many oil, gas and coal companies went bust in the early stages of the industry — read up on your business history please). As to whatsupwiththat, it’s run by a notorious climate denier with no scientific credentials, unlike Thinkprogress, which is run by a bona fide scientist who posts peer-reviewed studies. Whatsupwiththat is equivalent to someone without an MD trying to disprove 98% of doctors who believe the overwhelming evidence shows that HIV causes AIDS. The consensus on human-caused climate change is overwhelming and irrefutable, and we ignore it at our peril, for it does not discriminate between left and right politically; even climate change denialists with their heads in the sand like you are not immune from human-caused climate change.

  • Kim

    Oh no surrender Dorothy not a faculty member! God forbid an opposing view at Stanford! Blasphemy off with their head!

    NASA – New study shows that CO2 COOLS atmosphere


    Ladies and gentlemen, Hanssen has left the building!

  • Lobo

    It’s clear you have no concern for bona fide climate science — the study you list is utter nonsense — cherry-picked and distorted — and would never pass peer-review. NOAA, the agency that actually measures climate and weather over time, has shown that global temperatures have been increasing dramatically for 40 years, and that record highs are twice as likely as record lows in the last few years, when they used to be about equal. Get your head out of the sand, or if you’re doing the bidding of the fossil-fuel companies and/or the Tea Party types by roaming the internet to spread your pathetic denialism, do yourself a favor and work for the survival of our species instead.