President Obama just gave a climate change speech that Al Gore called “terrific … historic … the best address on climate by any president ever.” Gore seems to be excited about the policy particulars, but there’s one line that got activists excited. Actually, it’s not so much a line as two words: “Invest. Divest.”
“Convince those in power to reduce our carbon pollution. (Applause.) Push your own communities to adopt smarter practices. (Applause.) Invest. Divest. Remind folks there’s no contradiction between a sound environment and strong economic growth.”
If you’re confused, the message probably wasn’t for you. It’s being read as a kind of dog-whistle audible only to the corps of activists who are pushing institutions–chiefly colleges–to “divest” from fossil fuels, just as activists pushed them to (eventually) divest from apartheid-era South Africa. Increasingly, the counterpart of that cry is to reinvest those funds in more environmentally friendly companies. “Divest, invest” is actually the logo of choice for the activists at the University of Michigan (though with a leaf instead of a comma separating the two words).
“Invest, divest” is the most crypto-radical line the President has ever uttered.
— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) June 25, 2013
These activist groups are reading Obama’s message as an endorsement of their tactics. “President Obama’s shout-out to the fossil fuel divestment movement is a huge endorsement for the students on over 300 campuses across the country who are running this campaign,” said Jamie Henn, Communications Director for 350.org, one of the organizations leading the divestment campaign. “If the U.S. President supports divestment, surely university presidents should do the same. My Twitter feed absolutely lit up with students tweeting the news, people are pumped.”
Barack Obama just called on the nation to DIVEST! How many Harvard alums does it take before President Faust will listen?
— Divest Harvard (@DivestHarvard) June 25, 2013
It’s a boost for what has been so far a very small David facing a very large Goliath.
“It was terrific to hear him say that. It’s tremendously powerful that the president has the back of the elected leaders of the 16 cities and 2 counties that have committed to divest, and a sure sign that the movement has struck a real chord,” said James Irwin of the Mayors Innovation Project, which is working to get local governments to divest. “We hope this will lead to many more mayors committing to divest.”
Um, haven’t seen the transcript but Obama sure seemed to give a shout out to divestment. Yikes
— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) June 25, 2013