Around the nation, fossil fuel infrastructure is being built. This is being done to ease the transport of fossil fuels. These projects perpetuate a fossil fuel economy. They cut through natural land and land owned by people. A grand example of this was the controversy created by the Dakota Access Pipeline. Protests erupted because of that project, as many were distressed by the line’s effect on Native American tribe land. At the end, despite over 700 people being
arrested during the protests, the pipeline was built anyway. Around the country, similar projects are unfolding. Many of us have observed this happening, simply watching.
In Lancaster, PA, a group of students are standing strongly against the construction of pipelines around the nation. Protect and Divest is a group that opposes the construction of pipelines through encouraging banks to divest from pipeline related projects.
Their efforts began as an opposition to the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline. They worked with Lancaster Against Pipelines, a local organization, to forward their goal. The group, Protect and Divest, now has a broadened goal of getting five regional banks to divest from pipeline related projects. This expanded goal was formed after they realized that the same major banks fund the same projects. Their grassroots movement expanded beyond the boundaries of Lancaster and are now on a regional scale. So far, they have brought about $1,900 dollars of divestment. They reached this milestone by using a variety of communication mediums to convey their message to the public. Facebook and twitter alike, they spread their campaign around the internet. Their social media campaigns have been viewed over 4,500 times. They have also created a website that provides information about their campaign and their partners. They also communicate
directly with many groups and have now collaborated with over 20 partner organizations. Protect and Divest have made themselves a presence on a national level.
As put by Austin Sachs, a student leader of this campaign, “Our goal was simple: to send a message to these banks and our nation, that we will no longer stand by idly while more and more destructive fossil fuel infrastructure is being built.” They have come a long way in accomplishing this goal, and have faced several obstacles in accomplishing it. The group typically communicated in person during the school year. As summer approached, they would no longer be able to meet in person. Their switch to online communication was an adjustment. Person to person meetings were switched over to virtual conversations. However, Protect and Divest worked hard and turned this challenge into an opportunity to spread the campaign’s influence. They succeeded in this by broadening their marketing methods and contacting different organizations. Reaching out to new organizations was novel and challenging, but Protect and Divest acted boldly and got the attention of many groups around the nation. Austin adds , “getting partner organizations has been difficult at times. But once we tell them our message, we have been able to get a lot of groups on board.”
The quantity of money divested because of their efforts is very important to the group. Austin adds that “We would love also to achieve significant divestment numbers with the end goal of a major bank ending all current and possible future contracts. But at the end of the day, our number one goal is to bring light to these issues to allow others to make an educated decision.” A successful outcome is one that involves changing the mindset of others to realize that as stakeholders in the system, they, we are powerful and can influence the flow of money towards different projects. As citizens, we have the power to do this and so much more. Without money, these pipeline projects won’t be able to happen. And ultimately, most of that money is coming from us.
Protect and Divest as an open effort that can contribute to and join if you wish to. As put by their website, “We aim to work with those of all backgrounds: Conservative, Liberal, White, Black, Immigrant, Native Born, Christian, Muslim, etc.. We believe the climate movement can not afford to not be inclusive, so we must work to be that way!” They can be reached at email@example.com.