In the climate movement, failure is not an option. Failure means the worst scenario, it means hurting our children, it means giving up on that irresistible future that we all dream of. For some of us, it is incomprehensible. Why isn’t everyone jumping up to take action? Why don’t they understand the urgency? Why is everyone holding on to business as usual as if it is so great?

Unfortunately, on Friday, members of the Vermont Senate Government Operations Committee voted for business as usual and failed to pass S. 131 out of committee. The bill would have divested the Vermont State Pension fund from the top 200 fossil fuel companies, which make up one percent of the fund. After two years of rallies, passionate testimony from concerned citizens of all ages, and multiple studies, one testimony from the State Treasurer at the 11th hour scared the senators into voting down the bill. The treasurer’s testimony focused on a study from the Vermont Pension Investment Committee that looked at the cost of divestment from the entire energy sector, not just the worst 200 fossil fuel companies. It didn’t take the carbon bubble into account, and it didn’t reflect the language of the bill.

The bill would have required divestment within the next 5 years; a time period we felt was prudent for a shift of investments to avoid a 40-60% loss in value in our fossil fuel investments and to get on the path towards that better future. For the record, the 40-60% loss in value is a figure agreed upon by the state treasurer, a Dartmouth study, and an HSBC bank study. Even Shell Oil has stated that they “expect that a growing share of our CO2 emissions will be subject to regulation and result in increasing our costs.” Once again, we are hit with a very confusing notion that we should risk pushing ourselves over 2 degrees of global temperature rise to get a slightly higher return on investments estimated from old models. Should we really be invested in companies that give free pizzas as a response to poisoning the air? Should we trust companies that think providing you with a tank of bottled water is compensation for contaminating your tap water and all the water within miles of your home? Unfortunately, business as usual right now means that our concept of the economy is held in higher esteem than the very conditions that we need for life itself.

On a positive note, our efforts did push the Treasurer to help in the creation of a fossil fuel free mutual fund. The mutual fund is an option for state employees to invest additional retirement funds in. It is a positive step, and we are glad to see the emergence of these type of funds in some capacity.

However, we are disappointed in the Vermont senators, and we refuse to accept no as an answer to the call for divestment. With new studies released every day, the impending crisis looms nearer and as one NASA study put it, “the window to take action is closing.”  We remind ourselves that we are bigger than politics, bigger than business as usual, and bigger than fossil fuels. We have everything to fight for, and fight we will.

Maine and Massachusetts are making headway on their divestment campaigns and we are looking forward to entering the fight invigorated and with strong support around the northeast. With every action to divest from fossil fuel industries, the threat of the carbon bubble increases. With every state that is making noise, we gain more leverage than ever to achieve positive change. We will not stop until we see that our future is livable.  So, I urge those who believe in a livable future to continue being loud, attending rallies, calling your legislators, and spreading the word in your own creative way.