It may only be a month into the year, but I’m already waiting for the divestment movement to pick up where it left off last semester.
For those of you who don’t know what the divestment movement is, allow me to summarize: The movement wants Loyola to dis-invest (“divest”) its holdings from fossil fuel companies. Why? Proponents contend that it’s wrong to profit from “wrecking” the planet and that fossil fuels cause health problems that no one deserves. Its goal is to freeze investments then divest from holdings in the fossil fuel industry. In effect, it wants the fossil fuel energy sector to be dismantled and become nonexistent. This movement is immoral. Yes, immoral, as in it cannot be squared with any conception of justice (even “social justice”) or notion of Truth, Good or Right. It is flat out immoral. Allow me to explain.
Fossil fuels quite literally fuel our world. Over the past decade fossil fuels, such as petroleum, natural gas and coal, have contributed 87 percent of the United States’ energy, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. By contrast, wind and solar energy contributed less than 2 percent of our energy in 2011 (and even less so over the last decade). The other 10 percent of our energy came from sources such as nuclear, hydroelectric, other renewable sources and even wood.
With context provided, the immorality of the movement can now be seen. When one sector, in this case the fossil fuel sector, fuels just about everything we rely on it is wrong — completely wrong — to try to prematurely dismantle it. To be frank, our way of life right now depends on fossil fuels to function. Try to imagine everything that works or is built because of fossil fuels: cellphones, computers, televisions, refrigerators, cars, elevators, electricity, plastic products and even indoor plumbing (the pipes have to be made somewhere and the water has to be treated somehow). Air travel, train travel, sea travel, our armed forces — they all depend on fossil fuels and the fossil fuel industry to do what they do. Hospitals that offer life-saving treatment need to get their electricity and power from somewhere. In most cases that “somewhere” is a fossil fuel.
Our economy, too, depends on the energy (fossil fuel) sector to remain strong. Exxon Mobil is one of the largest companies in the world for a reason. To dismantle it, and the other energy companies that aren’t “green” enough, would be to wreck the economy. In the age of the American world order, in which the United States is the only superpower, a damaged domestic economy would mean a damaged global economy. Surely no one wants that.
Perhaps it would be good for divestment proponents to try to live a week without using anything that is produced by fossil fuels. That would mean no cars or public transportation (obviously) but also no bikes — after all, their metal has to be extracted, shaped and put together with something. It would mean no food that isn’t grown in a garden that you can walk to because cafeteria, restaurant and supermarket food is transported using fossil fuels (this would go for your clothes too — they’re made and transported by using fossil fuels). It would mean no cellphones, computers or other electronics. Cooking would pretty much be thrown out the window, unless you can set up a fire somewhere, because natural gas is a fossil fuel too. Even using paper — which itself is made from a renewable resource — is produced using machines that run on fossil fuels. Money, whether paper bills or coins, would be forbidden because those are produced using fossil fuels. So what could one do for a week without fossil fuels? Beats me. But if someone wants to try it I wish them the best of luck.
What this comes down to is that divestment is poor policy, both morally and practically. The university and the student government (especially the student government) would be wise to steer clear of it.
Dominic Lynch is a contributing columnist. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org