By Kyle Rosenthal, Eva Rosenfeld, and Bolaji Olagbegi, Updated February 12, 2020, 4:49 a.m.
Original Article Here
In just one decade, the demand for fossil fuel divestment, once perceived as a lonely clarion call, has become a common sense response to the climate crisis. Today, the movement of institutions divesting their assets from the fossil fuel industry includes over 1,000 organizations, representing nearly $14 trillion. The list includes cities, nations, religious organizations, and media companies, their motives ranging from moral imperative to financial pragmatism.
In January, BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, announced its decision to drop coal investments in a trend that CNBC “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer said marked the “death knell phase” for fossil fuel companies. Rarely does such a broad and diverse range of voices stand aligned on what is the right solution.
Over 40 colleges in the United States have divested, including Middlebury, Doane University, Smith, and the entire University of California system in 2019 alone. Yet most universities, purportedly institutions of progress and leadership, are denying this movement. They continue to support the corporations principally responsible for the destruction of communities and ecosystems across the globe: fossil fuel companies, several of whom engaged in decades-long public misinformation campaigns and in the continual blocking of meaningful climate legislation.
Our universities are failing their roles as leaders in higher education, and their power and influence only make their negligence more stark. For the sake of our world, we cannot accept their actions.
This is why on Thursday, Feb. 13, students across Massachusetts and the country will take action of our own.
More than 50 campuses — including Harvard, Boston College, Boston University, Tufts, MIT, Brandeis, Clark, Worcester Polytechnic, Stanford, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania — will work with Divest Ed to participate in Fossil Fuel Divestment Day, standing in unity to call on our universities to divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in the safety and well-being of our communities.
Our actions will have impacts far beyond campus. Last February, Boston City Councilors Lydia Edwards, Michelle Wu, and Matt O’Malley co-sponsored a hearing to encourage the city to divest its $5 billion retirement fund from fossil fuels, private prisons, predatory loans, and weapons corporations and, instead, reinvest into community assets like local businesses, green energy initiatives, and community land trusts. Their efforts were supported by a broad coalition of community organizers, finance professionals, students, and workers. Our universities have enormous influence on major institutional investors like city and state pension funds.
The consequences of these institutions’ failure to divest are severe and visible in Boston, with the fight to combat sea level rise, flooding, and extreme heat becoming more urgent. We have seen the dangerous consequences of fossil fuel use as gas explosions shook the Merrimack Valley. And now a natural gas compressor station is being constructed in Weymouth — in spite of reports citing a “decline in demand.”
We see in Boston what we have seen all over the world: Black, brown, indigenous, and poor communities face the gravest effects of climate change and our exploitative economy. As environmental justice organizations like Roxbury’s Alternatives for Community and Environment have long shown, historically redlined neighborhoods face significant health and economic consequences from their exposure to higher rates of fossil fuel pollution and extreme weather. Indigenous communities like the Wet’suwet’en in British Columbia, the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota, and the Ojibwe and Anishinaabeg in Minnesota continually face violations of their sovereignty with impositions of gas and oil pipelines by fossil fuel corporations.
If our universities do not divest, history will look back and know whom to blame: the industry executives who knowingly steamrolled the ecosystems that made our planet livable, the policymakers who betrayed their constituents by doing little or nothing to protect them, and the universities who stood by.
Kyle Rosenthal, a junior at Boston College, is a member of Climate Justice at Boston College and Laudato Si Generation and a coordinator of the Catholic Divestment Network. Eva Rosenfeld is a junior at Harvard College and an organizer with Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard. Bolaji Olagbegi is a senior at Boston University and president of DivestBU.
Harvard University’s faculty on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly in favor of a motion advising the school to dump all its fossil fuel holdings, the latest in a string of divestment efforts targeting one of the country’s largest university endowments.
The faculty voted 179 to 20 in support of the motion, which advises university leadership to instruct the Harvard Management Corporation (HMC), the organization managing the school’s $41 billion endowment, to sell all its investments in the discovery and development of fossil fuels. The proposal also asks HMC to fire external asset managers unwilling to follow those instructions.
Endowment divestment campaigns across the country have also surged in recent months, building on that momentum, says Alyssa Lee, director of Divest Ed, a support organization for campus activists. On Feb. 13, at least 50 colleges, including Harvard, will host fossil fuel divestment events.
“There’s absolutely an uptick in activism and campaigns,” says Lee, adding that campaigns are also spreading more toward the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions.
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WHAT: Fossil Fuel Divestment Day (aka “F2D2”), a national day of action with hundreds of students at over 50 colleges and universities participating. Students will hold rallies, sit-ins, and other events to call on their schools to divest their endowments from fossil fuel companies.
WHO: Students as part of the fossil fuel divestment movement
WHERE: At least 50 college campuses in the U.S, Canada, Nigeria, and Kenya
WHEN: Thursday, February 13, 2020 - actions happening throughout the day
WHY: Huge day of action to show the breadth and unity of the student fossil fuel divestment movement; highlight the culpability of fossil fuel companies in climate change and ecological destruction and that it’s immoral for academic institutions to invest in them.
Fossil fuel divestment is the phasing out of investments in fossil fuel companies, namely, coal, oil and gas companies. The fossil fuel divestment movement began in 2010 and has now secured over 1,000 organizations (including cities, nations, religious organizations, foundations, and academic institutions) committed to divestment, representing nearly 14 trillion dollars. Institutions are choosing to divest for both moral and financial reasons.
The student divestment movement in the US gained widespread media attention in 2019. Students mobilized thousands at the Climate Strikes, students disrupted the annual Harvard Yale football game, and Middlebury, Smith, and University of California all committed to fossil fuel divestment. And on February 6th, Georgetown University committed to full divestment from all fossil fuels, the 2nd largest full divestment commitment in the country. University of Pennsylvania also announced on January 29th that they would not directly invest in coal and tar sands.
Fossil fuel divestment brings both colleges and college students into the national conversation on climate change, and represents an important next step of activism for the youth Climate Strikes.
Divest Ed is the national training and strategy hub for student fossil fuel divestment campaigns. Divest Ed launched in 2018 and provides coaching, training, and national coordination to over 70 campaigns across the country. Divest Ed is a part of Better Future Project, a 501(c)3 nonprofit based in Cambridge, MA. Learn more at divested.org
Students at the University of the South sought more transparency and sustainability. Were they too polite?
SEWANEE, Tenn. — In 2013, the Board of Regents at the University of the South endorsed a sustainability plan. The school pledged, among many other things, to disclose its endowment holdings and initiate a communitywide discussion about whether those investments matched its values and commitment to the environment.
That debate mostly didn’t happen, at least not to the students’ satisfaction.
So last year, a group of undergraduates began to press for change. They produced a detailed 20-page report and initiated student and faculty resolutions requesting that the school, which is commonly known as Sewanee, do what it had already said it wanted to do with its more than $400 million endowment.
What they told me about their experience should be a warning to any students or alumni who think that a wholesale shift in endowment investing strategy will be an easy thing to accomplish. Get ready for a slog — one that might include portfolio modeling assignments, distracted university leadership and maybe even some name-calling.
But activism around socially responsible investing (and divesting) is not just a blue-state phenomenon. An organization called Divest Ed, which maps the movement, shows a double-digit number of colleges and universities where students have raised these issues in states that often (or almost always) vote Republican.
NEW HAVEN — Nora Heaphy has been speaking out about Yale University’s investments in fossil fuel companies since she arrived on campus.
In October 2017, her first semester, Heaphy co-wrote a column for the Yale Daily News titled “Yale’s Climate Hypocrisy,” contrasting the university’s invitation to environmentalist Bill McKibben to speak on campus and its divestment of $10 million in fossil fuel companies with its major investment in Exxon Mobil.
A New Haven native, she had joined the Sunrise Movement, a coalition of young people working to make climate change a national priority, the summer after she graduated from Engineering and Science University Magnet High School.
Heaphy, now a junior, has become a leading voice for the Yale Endowment Justice Coalition and Fossil Free Yale, helping to organize the sit-in at the Nov. 23 Yale-Harvard football game that held up the game for 40 minutes and resulted in 50 students, alumni and supporters being cited for disorderly conduct.
According to the website Divest Ed, “the national training and strategy hub for student fossil fuel divestment campaigns,” students at 45 colleges and universities have committed to take action on Feb. 13, Fossil Fuel Divestment Day.
Divest BU held a town hall in the College of Arts and Sciences Saturday to discuss the importance of divestment from fossil fuels and examine the ways BU students can change the university’s policies on fossil fuel investments.
Attendees of “Combatting the Climate Crisis: A Town Hall” heard from local organization leaders, students and BU professors on divestment at BU and climate advocacy in the greater-Boston area.
[Gracie] Brett, who is also a member of Divest Ed, an organization that supports student-led divestment advocacy groups, said divestment is a critical step to building a future of ecological justice.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 13, 2020
CONTACT: Dillon Bernard | email@example.com
— Across the U.S, the Events Will Take Place From the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, April 22, until April 24–
In 100 days, young people and adults across the United States will come together for three days of youth-led climate action. The 50th anniversary of Earth Day, April 22, will kick off three days of nationwide events, including strikes, marches, rallies, and teach-ins.
The US Youth Climate Strike Coalition, comprised of nine youth-led climate organizations, announced the plans for the three days of climate action through an op-ed signed by over 80 adult allies, including Jane Fonda, Secretary John Kerry, and Bill McKibben. The op-ed also highlights the importance of centering indigenous youth and youth of color, the need for multigenerational support in the climate movement, and the significance of uniting across movement during this critical election year.
The announcement comes as wildfires scorch Australia, killing 28 people and over a billion animals, and while floods blanket Indonesia, killing 66 people and displaced 400,000 more. Both ongoing events represent the role climate change has in intensifying disasters.
The three days of climate action, from April 22 to April 24, build on the momentum of the largest youth-led climate mobilization on September 20, 2019, when 650,000 people across the United States led strikes to call on elected officials to rise up and address the climate crisis. Across 1,300 events, September 20 was a call for elected officials and world leaders to address the climate crisis with swift and effective policies.
“Last year, we mobilized hundreds of thousands of people around climate action, making it clear that if our demands were not met, we would take our movement to the next level. We meant it. 2020 is the year we must usher in the decade of climate action to save the future of our generation, and every generation to come,” said Feliquan Charlemagne, Executive Director of US Youth Climate Strike.
On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22, youth and adults will participate in a powerful day of civic action, providing an opportunity to listen to the wisdom of Indigenous people, and reflect on personal connections to the earth. Earth Day serves as an open invitation for everyone to commit to making climate action a top priority in 2020 and beyond.
Thursday, April 23 is a day of community action, with voter registration drives and events occurring across the country. With support from the recently launched Stop the Money Pipeline Coalition, young people on college campuses will also be demanding their schools divest from fossil fuels, while adults will target financial institutions to do the same.
Friday, April 24 will be another massive strike day dedicated to collective power and unity. Millions of youth and adults will strike from school and work and take to the streets to participate in hundreds of events across the world.
“Across these three days of climate action, we are sending a clear message to the powerful about the need to prioritize our future over greed. To send the loudest message, we are asking everyone who can to join us for these intergenerational actions. Climate action must be a priority as we head into the 2020 election, and we are determined to carry the momentum of these multiple days of action into the voting booth,” said Marlow Baines, Youth Director of Earth Guardians.
Coordinated by Future Coalition, the Youth Climate Strike Coalition includes organizations such as DivestEd, Earth Guardians, Earth Uprising, Extinction Rebellion-Youth, Fridays for Future USA, International Indigenous Youth Council, Sunrise Movement, US Youth Climate Strike, and Zero Hour.
The Climate Strike is a multigenerational and intersectional movement, with youth coalition leading national organizing efforts with support from an adult coalition, including organizations such as 350.org, Alliance for Climate Education, Center for Biological Diversity, Climate Hawks Vote, Earth Day Network, GreenFaith, Greenpeace, Hip Hop Caucus, Interfaith Power & Light, Labor Network for Sustainability, March On, Mothers Out Front, MoveOn, National Wildlife Federation, NextGen America, NRDC, Planet911, Our Children’s Peace, Oxfam, Sierra Club, SEIU, The Center for Popular Democracy, and The League of Conservation Voters. The Strike With Us campaign is supported by a network of more than 300 movement partners who mobilize their networks and amplify the Climate Strike actions.
The Youth Climate Strike Coalition is composed of the following organizations:
Divest Ed is a training and strategy hub working to resource, vitalize, and broaden the fossil fuel divestment movement one campus campaign at a time.
Earth Guardians is an organization that empowers young environmental and social leaders through education, tools and resources, in order to become effective leaders in their communities.
<pEarth Uprising is a global, youth-led organization focusing on climate education, climate advocacy and mobilizing young people to take direct action for their future.
Extinction Rebellion Youth is led by a community of young people within Extinction Rebellion, a network focused on coordinating national civil disobedience actions to draw attention to and persuade governments to act on the climate and ecological emergency.
Fridays for Future USA is a people-led movement around the climate crisis. Founded in August 2018, Fridays for Future was inspired by teen activist Greta Thunberg, who sat in front of the Swedish parliament every school day for three weeks to protest against the lack of action on the climate crisis.
Future Coalition is a national network and community for youth-led organizations and youth leaders. Future Coalition works collaboratively to provide young people with the resources, tools, and support they need to create the change they want to see in their communities and in this country.
The International Indigenous Youth Council is an organization that seeks to organize youth through education, spiritual practices and civic engagement to create positive change in our communities.
Sunrise Movement is a youth-led movement of young people committed to stopping the climate crisis. Sunrise Movement is currently leading actions around a Green New Deal, including by planning hundreds of launch parties across the country in January 2020.
US Youth Climate Strike is a youth-led movement that helped organize over 424 student strikes occurring in at least 45 states on March 15, 2019. US Youth Climate Strike recently announced plans for youth-led “primary strikes” around the primary and caucus process in each stake.
Zero Hour is an intersectional movement around climate change. In 2018, Zero Hour organized the first official Youth Climate March in 25 cities around the world and laid the groundwork for the climate strike movement.
On January 13th, 2020 the Youth Climate Strike Coalition released their op ed in MTV News announcing 3 days of consecutive strikes starting on April 22nd, 2020 the 50th Earth Day. Divest Ed was one of the signers.
In 100 days exactly, we will strike again. On April 22, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, young people and adults across the United States will once again take to the streets to demand climate action. Earth Day will launch three consecutive days of massive strikes, fulfilling our promise to take the climate strike movement beyond what we achieved on September 20.
Inaction is not an option. This has been the hottest decade on record and last year was the second hottest ever. Since the bushfire season began in November, fires in Australia have killed 25 people, wiped out over a billion animals, and blanketed cities across the country with historic levels of air pollution. Since 2020 began, thirteen days ago, floods in Indonesia have killed more than 66 people and displaced 400,000 more. These are the signals of climate change — the crisis is here.
Thursday, April 23, will be a day focused on community action. College students at dozens of campuses across the country will be calling on their colleges to stop profiting off of the destruction of our land and climate and to divest from fossil fuels. Adults will be targeting their place of work as well as demanding that our everyday institutions — like Wells Fargo, Chase Bank, Liberty Mutual, and other banks and businesses — take money out of fossil fuels. This is the day that we must reach out to everyone we know and ask them to step up with us.
Families across America are gathering to celebrate the winter holidays, share meals and stories, and connect across the miles. College students home on break will bring with them not only new learning and new friends but, in many cases, new or deepened identities as activists. Add to the mix a volatile political climate, and the potential for cross-generational flashpoints is high. It doesn’t have to be.
The last few years have seen a dramatic rise in student activism. Growing income inequality has led this generation to understand that they might not achieve the same standard of living as their parents. The world is being destroyed by carbon emissions. Students have witnessed police violence — even murder — in person and on their cell phones. Yet critics, largely older and outside of academia, are calling students snowflakes.
Student activism isn’t new. American students have long protested wrongs they have identified, such as the war in Vietnam during the 1960s, apartheid in South Africa during the 1980s, and lack of research and resources for people with AIDS in the 1990s. During late adolescence and early adulthood, the college years, the psyche is particularly engaged with matters of justice, equality and fairness, as adolescents’ cognitive abilities enable them to examine moral problems for the first time. Yes, their voices might be loud — perhaps because they hold far less political power than their elders.
Individuals like 16-year-old global warming protester Greta Thunberg, and student organizations like 350.org and Divest Ed that advocate for fossil fuel divestment, are challenging governments, colleges and universities not merely to reduce their carbon impact but to become forces for climate justice and economic equity.
Over 100 protesters stood outside O’Neill Library on Thursday night to protest the Charles Koch Foundation’s potential involvement with the Boston College political science department. Students, faculty, and alumni gathered in opposition to Charles Koch’s support of climate change denial and in support of University divestment from the fossil fuel industry.
The political science department has twice voted to approve the potential collaboration with Koch—the billionaire owner and CEO of Koch Industries, which manufactures and refines petroleum. The first vote, which took place last spring, followed a discussion on whether to accept or deny the money on principle. Koch, along with his late brother David, is famous for donating to conservative and libertarian think tanks and scholars who promote deregulation and climate change denial.
Rachel Schlueter, a campus organizer for the divestment activist group Divest Ed, described how Fossil Free MIT, a student organization at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is working toward eliminating the Koch Foundation’s influence from their school. The Charles Koch Foundation recently donated $3.7 million to MIT’s security studies program.
Schlueter called gifts to institutions of higher education one of the “pillars” of Koch’s influence, along with campaign contributions and think tank funding.