Executive director of The Sierra Club, Michael Brune, speaks at the 350.org "Do the Math" tour stop in Durham, N.C.
On Monday, author and environmentalist Bill McKibben and 350.org’s climate change roadshow, the “Do the Math” tour, packed the Page Auditorium at Duke University. The energy in the room was high, the crowd was diverse and full of familiar faces, and maybe I’m just biased, but my younger brother and I couldn’t help but recognize the strength of North Carolina’s environmental community. As we settled into our seats, the house lights dimmed and, anticipating McKibben’s speech, the fellow sitting behind us whispered, “If he gets too gloom and doom, I’m leaving.”
McKibben has become well-known for presenting the stark reality of climate change and the challenges we face in the simplest terms possible. By his own admission as he took the stage, his basic role in life “is to bum people out.” Fortunately, for the group behind me and any other eco-anxious attendees, the “Do the Math” tour isn’t about gloom and doom, it’s about getting down to brass tacks. It’s about going on the offensive, and after fossil fuel companies. Or as McKibben said, the “fossil fuel industry is wrecking the future, so we’re going to take away their money.”
That’s exactly the message of the “Do the Math” tour: If it is not OK to wreck the planet, it is not OK to profit from it. So we, especially universities and large institutions, should divest from them. McKibben put it more eloquently in his most recent column for Orion magazine when he wrote that “It’s completely nonsensical for [universities] to pay for educations with investments that will guarantee there’s no planet on which to make that learning count. Pension funds can’t sensibly safeguard people’s retirements by investing in companies that wreck the future.”