Your Revolution at Home: Radical Fossil Fuel Divestment


Photo by Fotolia/PixieMe

Over the past few weeks, tens of thousands of people across the country have left their banks in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline. American citizens have suddenly become aware that, in the absence of a government that will protect us, we must shift market forces ourselves. The climate justice movement, clean energy, and protests on the streets are critical and must continue, but there’s a missing element. It has been neglected, or at best mentioned but minimized, because it is uncomfortable.

Here’s the unfortunate truth: the climate problem is us. Americans are the biggest driver of climate change, not only in terms of our individual practices but also in the globalized, comfort-centric market we support. DAPL is being drilled for us so we can take road trips and keep our houses at 75 degrees in January.

It is much easier to blame the rapacious practices of fossil fuel companies and to say that individual change does not amount to much. But we are the demand driving the market. We cannot expect the fossil fuel industry to paternalistically deny us oil for our own good and for the good of the planet. They will continue to drill for as long as we pay them to do so. While we must continue to divest from fossil fuel companies, we cannot absolve ourselves from our own participation in the fossil fuel demand chain. If we truly want them to keep it in the ground, we must drastically change our culture of consumption.

The average carbon footprint for Americans is 20 cubic tons per year (calculate yours here at The average for Europeans is 10. The worldwide average is 4. In order to decrease climate change, everyone’s individual carbon footprint must be 2. This demands not just rallies and protests in the public sphere, but radical fossil fuel divestment in the private sphere as well.

It was easy to be complacent under the Obama administration, to feel like “advocacy” and “awareness” were working and the government was making incremental but important progress. President Obama set carbon pollution standards for power plants, so it’s OK for me to fly four times a year or eat fruit from another hemisphere.

6/27/2020 9:38:08 AM

Stop eating feedlot beef, not grass fed beef! It is not the cows that are the problem, it is how we raise them today, separating them from their natural habitat. Studies have shown that grasslands are great carbon sinks, removing carbon from the atmosphere and incorporating it into the soil. Grasslands and grazers evolved together and both must be present for a properly functioning biological system. Although the great herds of freely moving grazers are gone, we can now mimic the natural system using Management Intensive Grazing. I don't mean this as an insult, but simply as a factual observation: those who blindly say "stop eating beef" are simply uneducated in the ecology and biology of grass and grazers.

12/8/2016 3:38:08 PM

NEVER eat farmed salmon!!! They are not sustainable, the open net pens most are raised in are killing wild salmon by spreading diseases, they are fed other fish and antibiotics to combat the diseases. No, No No!!! I am a resident and witness to this horror in British Columbia, Canada, where mainly Norwegian corporation are allowed to perpetrate horrors they can't do in their home country.

12/6/2016 9:08:26 PM

I agree with much of what you list and am doing many of them. However: Solar and wind energy collecting devices and their auxiliary equipment have an industrial history. They are an extension of the fossil fuel supply system and the global industrial infrastructure. It is important to understand the industrial infrastructure and the environmental results for the components of the solar energy collecting devices so we don’t designate them with false labels such as green, renewable or sustainable. This is a challenge to ‘business as usual’. If we teach people that these solar devices are the future of energy without teaching the whole system, we mislead, misinform and create false hopes and beliefs. They are not made with magic wands. How will we use this electric energy? This must be one of the mantras for survival now and tomorrow. Imagine beginning at an earth resource –the mine, the well - and the subsequent flow of these materials. This creates a tremendous picture in motion of "energy" and resources flowing around the world. There are multiple questions that a realistic assessment of the future of these devices requires. Each of these questions, asks about the future of “renewable” devices. First and foremost: What do we need the energy for? Not, why or what do we want this electricity for. This must be one of the mantras for survival now and tomorrow. When it comes time to replace these devices: Where will the energy and resources come from? To replace components of these systems: Where will the energy and resources come from? As we need to manufacture the tools and toys we want the electricity for: Where will the energy and resources come from? Will we sequester/store the energy to provide for these future needs? How will we do that? OR Will dedicated devices be built simply to facilitate replacement? Who will manage these dedicated devices? What will stop society from using this sequestered energy? Will the need to protect this sequestered energy create an even more constrained and draconian social environment? How will this electricity be equally shared globally compared to the present unequal energy availability? How will we mine and transport all these raw resources: the basic material for fabrication, the actual devices, the various auxiliary equipment, the tools and the toys? More at:

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