Media is often touted as the harbinger of thinly veiled propaganda on behalf of whoever is paying the bills. And it doesn’t take long to find enough reason to suggest that this statement isn’t very far from the truth. Just take the Murdoch empire and News Corporation’s flagship Fox News for example and the optimism that media can be anything more than a corrupt mob of swindlers and phone tappers seems wishful thinking.
But we at CeMuse Reviews look out for that which inspires those around it to a more sustainable, exciting and equitable existence. That is why here we have chosen not to review a film, book, musician or event but a campaign launched from one of the largest media outlets in the UK; the Guardian’s “Keep it in the ground campaign”
So what is it?
Broadly speaking it is a call to action on climate change on a front that has seen some success of recent and targets the most influential of factors: money. The campaign is aimed specifically at urging the (Bill and Melinda) Gates Foundation and Wellcome Trust – two major charitable trust bodies -to cease all investments in companies that are inextricably linked to driving global climate change. This act of pushing for ‘divestment’ (simply meaning the opposite of ‘investment’) from fossil fuel financing is seen as a citizen led act of political action which can challenge the stagnation seen from 20+ years of fruitless global political gatherings.
The Guardian have collaborated with the ubiquitous environmental campaigning organisation, 350.org, in this to push a petition urging the specific divestment on the part of these two major trust funds but moreover are hoping it may act as a catalyst to a desired avalanche of big finance moving away from fossil fuel profits.
This campaign was, in part, born from an individual’s vision as Alan Rusbridger, the editor-in-chief of the Guardian for the last 20 years, felt compelled that before stepping down from his post he would rally the power and efforts at his disposal and launch a heady challenge at the stagnant mammoth that climate change had become. But importantly this is no heros tale or personal vendetta. There is a tendency in us all to believe in the valiant and revolutionary individual but this is a great deal more than vain idolism from a retiring writer, it is a collective movement and a spark to accompany a number of other sparks who have already thrust themselves into this road of divestment, of revolution and of progression.
The theory behind the campaign is precise and simple. It is a part of a growing realisation that with 97% of the scientific community and a fifth IPCC report pointing to human causation associated with rising global temperatures there is no longer any value in convincing the squabbling deniers. Instead there is a need for movement towards direct action and establishing how we can best avoid transgressing a 2 degrees celsius rise in global temperatures and thus avoid stepping over a threshold that may bring unprecedented and irreconcilable adverse impacts on our environment.
Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, makes the point with the use of two simple pieces of evidence which make up the grounding rationale for the ‘Keep it in the ground’ campaign.
Firstly in order to stay within this aforementioned 2 degrees celsius rise it is estimated that we have a carbon budget, this being an allowance of carbon dioxide that we could safely release without transgressing the 2 degrees. Going beyond this would however begin to put us in real threat of unknown and potentially unstoppable adverse impacts. The budget value is estimated at 565 Gigatons of carbon dioxide.
At this point there is no need to start trying to visualise this, don’t worry about wondering how many pools or football pitches this value represents, for it is instantly put in context when we consider how much would be released if we continued to plough our way through the known reserves of fossil fuels in existence today. Doing so would produce a much larger debt of some 2795 Gigatons of carbon dioxide. Evidently we can’t just slow the spending spree down a little, we have to stop burning our budget like there are no constraints, we have to keep those reserves -that coal, oil and gas- in the ground.
What is inspiring is that this is a defiant and outspoken campaign. Explicitly it is no longer about convincing anyone climate change is a threat we have fuelled, nor is it about relying on logical argument to prevail. It is about tackling power.
What is being suggested is that the richest tycoons and political elite should leave 80% of the worlds most valuable black rock completely untouched. The power rooted in the fossil fuel industries is not being underestimated here but it has come to a point where it simply cannot be argued away with on an even platform. Instead this addiction must be challenged by society and, as Bill McKibben and the Guardian have set out to do, it must be starved of its lifeblood of financial backing. It would be oh so easy to scoff with incredulity at the magnitude, perhaps even the utopia, of what is being attempted here but why not believe that this might just be the start of something momentous?
The largest climate change march in history, an unprecedented $860 million worth divested from fossil fuels by the Rockerfeller “oil family” foundation and a pledge from 180 institutions worldwide to divest a further $50 billion from fossil fuels all seems like a ball that has already begun rolling. The Guardian have offered another hand in the chain of action which might just be headed on the right tracks to dismantle an epidemic rooted deep in modern society; surely that is something worth investing in.
What can I do?
This is about you, it is about everyone who gets involved, whether it is in events like Global Divestment Day earlier this year, reading and sharing articles like this one or signing the Guardian’s petition, you really can and do make a difference. It is easy to hear that and dismiss it – we all do all the time- but it is getting harder to argue that there isn’t something truly exciting going on in the world of global peoples movements for climate justice. This Guardian campaign is just one of many tools at our disposal and continued support can push the limits of what might be possible as we look ahead. CeMuse is onboard, are you?
By: Sam Airey
Please check out ceMuse; a student-run online magazine in which students of CEMUS and Uppsala University provide commentary and in-depth pieces on the issue of Sustainable Development that are interesting and important to the writer and the wider audience.