May 21, 2014
People of faith representing eight different denominations met today at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church in Augusta. Sponsored by 350 Maine and Maine Interfaith Power & Light, the meeting attracted two dozen faith activists from congregations throughout Maine.
Participants shared personal stories about fossil fuel divestment and why it is important. As one person noted, “divestment is a good way to turn talk into action.”
Holly Zadra of the First Unitarian Church of Pittsfield and a member of 350 Maine’s Divestment Team shared what led her to successfully advocate for divestment in her congregation. She emphasized that compared to all other challenges we face due to climate change, divestment is easy. Her pastor, Rev. Margaret Beckman, reminded us that our own fear and greed are the biggest obstacles to action. However, we can take hope from the growing awareness that humanity is becoming more compassionate. Many people also look to the late Father Thomas Berry, who was an advocate of deep ecology as a context for spirituality, for personal inspiration in their activism.
Nicole Dolan of Veris Wealth Partners, a financial management firm specializing in sustainable investing, reviewed the benefits and risks of fossil fuel divestment. According to Dolan, stranded assets will certainly mean the loss of 40-60% of the value of fossil fuel company stock when their reserves cannot be used due to rising CO2 levels. She stressed how important this is to remember when concerns are raised that divestment may mean a loss of under 1% of the value of an endowment. “How can you be concerned with losing 1%," she asked, "when faced with the near certainty of a much larger loss?” A well managed fund shouldn't stand to lose even 1% if it divests and reinvests in a carefully considered way. Unity College is an example of an institution that successfully divested from fossil fuel stocks; its endowment has continued to perform as well as or better than it did prior to divesting.
Read Brugger of the 350 Maine Divestment Team spoke briefly about 350 Maine’s efforts to divest fossil fuel from the Maine Public Employees Retirement System. He also spoke about how faith groups can become involved in local efforts to draft resolutions and write letters calling on MainePERS to divest.
Everyone agreed we want to keep our faith-based divestment group going. There was great interest in the idea of circulating an open letter on the spiritual imperative to divest from fossil fuels. We all want to meet again soon!
350 Maine's Divestment Team