Divest not for them, but for you

The latest debate about divestment in the New York Times brings up some very familiar points. However, there is another reason divestment is powerful and useful, and it relies on our weakness as humans.

We should divest not to force a corporation into action, but instead to clear our own minds on the issue. Humans are notoriously afraid of loss. When those invested in the university (via having attended and donated, or by receiving monthly paychecks) have an opportunity to confront climate change, it is impossible to ignore that the health of one’s investment depends, even only very slightly, on the decision being made via that opportunity.

This effect might be enough to sway a vote, or to make it less likely someone would share a 350.org post on Facebook; small stuff, but it can add up. While the loss might seem too small to affect someone’s behavior, I suspect a stronger influence given what we know about human irrationality around aversion to loss. I would like scientific validation of this idea – perhaps a psychology department at one of the universities opposed to divestment might take up the investigation…

We must enable our own leadership on the issue of Climate Change. Our voices should be certain, and our judgement unclouded by financial doubts. Divestment is an investment in our integrity and our independence, and I encourage Swarthmore College and all other institutions to take this necessary step.

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