A Brief Note on Divestment Tactics

In a previous post I expressed a few of my qualms with the divestment movement. Although I would consider myself a pragmatic environmentalist, I disagree with campaigns to move away from fossil fuels. Yet, I can’t help but think of how they could achieve the goal of a “greener” planet more effectively.

  1. Don’t target the Industry as a whole, this is unlikely to yield any beneficial long term momentum.  There is no complete replacement for fossil fuels yet.
  2. Since there is no alternative energy panacea for fossil fuels, it makes little sense to demonize an entire industry that is, at worst, a necessary evil.
  3. Some firms in this industry are more environmentally friendly than others (maybe their regulatory compliance is better).
  4. Some firms are more environmentally destructive.
  5. Targeting specific firms for greater accountability would be more effective than targeting an entire industry that civilization depends on.

Protests against non-union grape farmers or the Birmingham bus boycott were specifically targeted and had clear substitutes. With grapes it was easy to just not buy grapes or buy grapes from farms that didn’t need to be unionized. With the bus boycott people could walk or carpool, it wasn’t a protest that involved not using any transportation at all, ever (its also worth noting that the bus company wanted to desegregate soon after the protests started, it was only the law that held them back). With energy, there is no clear substitute for fossil fuels, with the exception of nuclear in non-transportation energy production. Total industry divestment means pushing towards an energy system that can’t feasibly be meet our needs. All things considered, why not push for a cleaner environment instead of taking a total stand against the fossil fuel industry that reliably powers our hospitals, refrigerates our food and vaccines, and enable humans to travel the world.