Community Voices

Rebecca Solnit

Rebecca Solnit, based in San Francisco, has authored seventeen books on topics ranging from the environment, geography, art, and feminism. She has championed environmental and human rights issues since the 1980s, providing a voice and standing as an activist ally in these instances. Solnit has won many awards including the Lannan Literary Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Below Solnit has provided a statement outlining the imminent dangers of climate change and her support for divestment at Georgetown University.


What would you do if your house caught fire? What would you do if the world was under attack by aliens? In the movies we all grew up on, people recognize the catastrophe, the alien invasion, the enemy attack, the epidemic or other great danger. Climate change is an alien invasion, a plague, a famine, a war, and an unending series of weather disasters from droughts and fires to floods and polar vortex winters, even the potential failure of the Gulf Stream, as well as dramatically acidifying oceans and concomitant die-off. Climate change savages our agriculture and food and creates mass hunger and even famine, our health as tropical diseases spread, our economy as systems of survival are undermined and millions become climate refugees, even the life in our oceans and the pattern of our seasons. In the movie version, the authorities recognize great dangers and act appropriately, with leadership, which is why disaster movies are ultimately reassuring. In the reality of life on earth during climate change, the very term leader is questionable; for the  most part those in power have had to be pushed, pressed, cajoled, and talked into responding–I wouldn’t say acting appropriately, because other than a few elected leaders in small, impacted countries no one has responded on a scale commensurate to the danger and destruction.

Climate change is here. It changes everything. In response nearly everything needs to change, starting with our economic and political arrangements that privilege the most destructive industries and corporations on earth, the fossil-fuel empires. I have never heard a really terrific argument in favor of not divesting. Early on, institutional financial managers could argue that it meant risk or loss of profit, but those questions have been answered by the best financial experts outlining the possibilities of stranded assets and carbon bubbles. That was before the crash in coal and petroleum prices. The San Francisco Retirement Board lost $50 million by not divesting in a timely manner after the Board of Supervisors unanimously asked them to do so. The arguments for not divesting come down to not liking to be told by students and activists what to do and taking the short-term view of everything from market prices to life on earth. But climate calls on all of us to take the longterm view. Think of how your actions will look in a hundred years–in a world that’s parched, scorched, soaked, in which all the maps of the world need to be redrawn because of sea level rise, in which posterity curses most of us who lived in this pivotal moment for our inaction to prevent or even collaboration with the destruction of the elegantly interconnected systems of survival climate change is tearing apart. Look at the world as it will be in 2115 and act in a way that will make yourself respected or even loved by those human beings for whom we have so much responsibility now.
Rebecca Solnit, April 2015

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