Tutu proposes boycotts and divestment from the fossil fuel giants.
I'm of many minds about boycotts. In the 1970s I worked as an organizer on the United Farm Workers Union boycotts of table grapes and some wines. These efforts were considered effective; they also took years of extremely dedicated work by ever growing armies of volunteers and consumers. And it is not even clear that the economic effect on the growers was what gave the workers a chance at a union. We succeeded in "giving a bad name" to a whole class of fruit; perhaps the growers, rightly, feared the long term effect of people learning to pass up grapes; certainly millions of folks stopped buying grapes for many years.
Tutu credits boycotts of South Africa with helping to bring down apartheid. Contemporary pro-Palestinian activists urge us to boycott, divest and sanction Israel over its dispossession of the native people of that land. In both those instances, the effect is probably not so much economic as on reputation. A growing boycott lets an offending state know it has crossed boundaries of what the world community thinks of as decent behavior. Such boycotts routinely evoke defiant objections from their targets, but they also seem to sting in some way that goes beyond their material effects.
Boycott and divestment from climate polluters is a tough project, one that starts with defining the appropriate targets. After all, we mostly all like living in a civilization that runs on abundant electricity and easy transport. But which companies are profiting without trying to adapt so as not to sink their own boat? The Institute for Southern Studies produced some lists. I'll just reproduce some of the publicly owned offenders in the United States:
- Chevron, San Ramon, Calif. (investor-owned)
- ExxonMobil, Irving, Texas.
- ConocoPhillips, Houston, Texas.
- American Electric Power, Columbus, Ohio
- Duke Energy, Charlotte, N.C.
- Berkshire Hathaway, Omaha, Neb.
- Ameren Corp., St. Louis, MO
- there's the real monster among dirty energy energy purveyors: the U.S. Government.
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