Continual Divestment- A populous taking responsibility for the change we want to see and be
Yurts at Poncha Pass - Colorado Yurt Rentals and Sustainable Building Workshops - Photo of Chris in ground of Earthship

Written by Chris

December 28, 2014

I recently have stumbled upon a few news stories regarding railroads and safety. Due to the recent surge in oil and natural gas production, it turns out railroads are transporting ever-increasing amounts of these combustible fuels and now becoming referred to as “pipelines on wheels”. As trains carry every increasing amounts of petroleum, they continue to use older tankers and old methodologies, i.e. not setting lower speed limits for urban and environmentally sensitive areas. A short 10 minute documentary called “Boom“, gives a very concise overview of this emerging problem.

So why am I talking about trains or this emerging problem? Well, I grew up fascinated with trains. I used to bike to the platform in my neighborhood as a 7-year-old kid in Holland and watch them speed by. Fast commuters, slow rumbling freight trains, or a single engine would come into the platforms on different rails, with different purposes, all seemingly in tune with each other as if in a delicate ballet. I was captivated by it all. Since then, I have grown to appreciate the efficiency in which rail moves cargo. CSX estimates that cargo can be moved four times more efficiently by rail than by road and as engines are being switched over to run on natural gas instead of diesel and trains are run by increasingly precise computer modeling techniques, additional gains in efficiencies are constantly being realized. Considering these aspects of rail with the continual growth of the US population and the given fact that in general, more cargo will be moved over time, it made for a small but logical investment opportunity in which railroad’s main platform revolves around efficiency in the movement of things.

For me, this defines the divestment movement where we as citizens choose to support companies that hold intrinsic value of a better future within the environment we live. But clearly with the above development, this divestment opportunity has grown into a new potential ecological disaster in the making. It has highlighted one of my 3 fundamental truths to life, that the only thing constant in life, is change itself. Thus, it has become clear that if we want to participate and encourage the divestment movement, we must maintain an active role in our investments, our communications with those companies as stakeholders and shareholders, and be vigilant of our common and changing environment. Below, you’ll find a letter I sent to Union Pacific Railroad.

“Greetings and happy holidays!
As a shareholder, I have been very pleased with the past few years and excited to be part of a company that by inherent nature, is delivering cargo across our great United States in arguably the most efficient way possible.
It has however come to my recent attention that due to recent growth in gas and oil extraction technologies, UNP as well as other rail companies are carrying increasing amounts of combustible products. See (http://stories.weather.com/boom).
As a shareholder, I would encourage UNP to expedite the transition to new more secure tankers as well as implementing safe methodologies for carrying those tankers across sensitive ecological areas as well as urban neighborhoods. I understand as a shareholder that this may results in short-term reduced profitability. However, I believe in the long-term, doing the right thing will also generate savings from avoiding costly and catastrophic lawsuits resulting from unfortunate and potential deadly accidents.
Please share this within your corporate structure so that it may find the relevant parties and I look forward to hearing back from you regarding these positive changes. If UNP remains stagnant on these issues, I as well as fellow stakeholders will be forced to divest from UNP, which we hope to avoid.
Thank you for your genuine time and effort in considering this letter and I hope this finds the entire UNP family well.
Best regards,

Chris White”

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