Naturally as any campaign for change begins to create a storm and gather pace, commentary turns to its underlying ideology and logic – Bill McKibben’s ‘Do the math’ tour is no exception. Two articles in particular dominate the discussion.
Starting with the critique, Christian Parenti, contributing editor of The Nation, has written about the problems with the tour formed around three criticisms and a suggestion going forward. Firstly, Parenti feels the belief the campaign can hit the fossil fuel giants’ ‘bottom line’ by targeting their stock prices is deeply flawed because stocks are not primarily used to generate wealth. For example, Exxon Mobil makes its money by selling oil and related products, not stock. In fact many key players of the oil industry do not even sell stock, e.g. many are in fact state-owned. In the context of this assertion, these companies are sustained by us not as investors, but as consumers.
Secondly, Parenti believes the campaign misrecognises the nature and function of the stock market. Contrary to conventional wisdom, he argues that the stock market is a net drain (not a source) of capital – ‘the function of the stock market in modern capitalism is to get money out of corporations, not put money into them’. The markets are in place to distribute wealth but they are not where the ‘bottom line’ ‘Do the math’ have targeted, is produced.
Thirdly, the campaign ignores the potentially very important role of government in addressing the climate crisis. Therefore, Parenti suggests that by realigning government’s vast spending power, alongside their possible consumption capacity, and utilising government’s legislative potential against those carbon-intensive activities could all contribute towards creating large, successful markets for clean energy and infrastructures.
To read the full article by Christian Parenti for the Huffington Post click here
In great contrast to this perspective, at the end of December, Michael Kramer wrote a piece for Greenbiz.com expressing ‘why 350.org’s divestment campaign is on the money’. This view is formed simply around the idea that a huge sell off of stocks in the fossil fuel industry would lower their value and make them less attractive as a long-term investment option. In turn, this will form changes within these companies. Furthermore, it is argued that as civilisation gradually shifts away from fossil fuel energy and towards renewable resources, the divestment campaign brings attention to the imprudence – perhaps even a breach of fiduciary duty – to bet on the long-term financial viability of the fossil-fuel industry.
Whilst Kramer acknowledges that we are locked-in to fossil fuels to the extent that we all need to use transportation, for example, he also sees value in divesting our financial surplus from the stock of such companies as an expression of lack of faith in the sector – ‘it is foolishly naive and short-sighted to believe otherwise’.
Read the full article on Greenbiz.com here