This is an op ed written by Ilana Cohen, a first-year at Harvard University, where she is a leader of the Divest Harvard campaign, and a 2019 Divest Ed Fellow.
On January 28, Middlebury College moved to divest its nearly $1.1 billion endowment from the fossil fuel industry. In the time since, a polar vortex has swept across the United States, claiming at least 21 lives in the Midwest. With global warming causing record-breaking heat levels, the freezing cold presents only one end of the extreme weather characterizing 21st century life as climate change becomes an imminent reality not only for those in front line communities but for a growing majority of Americans. If the dire forecasts of the latest IPCC report and National Climate Assessment are not enough of a wake-up call for our universities, perhaps these weather extremes can show the urgent need for climate action. Institutions of higher education must follow Middlebury’s lead in divesting their endowments from the fossil fuel companies at the epicenter of the climate crisis.
Divestment is not unprecedented. Only a few decades ago, college students successfully protested universities’ investment in firms conducting business with South Africa’s apartheid government. Since then, many universities have also divested from the big tobacco industry. Today, universities must again act to realize the moral principles they espouse. Investing in the fossil fuel industry and by extension, in its immense environmental and human costs, is not a passive action: complicity in an unjust and an unsustainable system is culpability.
Today’s students will disproportionately bear the burden of climate change as its effects become increasingly severe. That universities continue to leverage our futures for short-term economic gains is an abdication of their primary duty. As a student at Harvard, I am dumbfounded by the glaring hypocrisy of my university’s mission to “educate the citizens and citizen-leaders for our society” while refusing to display leadership of its own. With a nearly $40 billion endowment, Harvard is more than capable of pursuing sustainable and ethical reinvestment, yet it has remained intransigent about doing so.
Endowment managers often misrepresent divestment as undermining their fiduciary duty. In a report published last summer, GMO chief investment strategist Jeremy Grantham found that investors should not expect financial losses to result from fossil fuel divestment. Divestment may actually provide positive returns. An analysis by Corporate Knights shows that New York State’s pension fund would have earned $22.2 billion more had it moved to divest a decade earlier.
Meanwhile, Harvard has continued to recite tired arguments against divestment that make less and less sense in a world of increasing climate instability. Often, administrators object to using the endowment as a tool for furthering social change, fearing its “politicization.” Yet investment itself is inherently political. The choice to invest in fossil fuels over the future of today’s youth is political one; it is an equally political but overwhelmingly more ethical choice to prioritize young people’s futures instead. Divestment can help depress shareholder prices in the fossil fuel industry but more importantly, it can diminish the industry’s reputation, as with the apartheid South African regime. Peer institutions like Middlebury who divest can inspire one another to follow suit, growing a greater movement for climate justice and institutional accountability.
While crucial for furthering environmental sustainability on campus, resource efficiency initiatives are no substitutes for divestment. Where a university puts its money is a critical litmus test of its commitment to climate action. Furthermore, as Middlebury has demonstrated, campus sustainability and divestment are not mutually exclusive. Beyond divesting, Middlebury’s board voted to mandate that the campus runs entirely on renewable energy and works to reduce its overall energy consumption by 25% by 2028. Such ambitious commitments must become a baseline. Currently, Harvard’s campus aims to be fossil fuel-neutral by 2026 and fossil fuel-free by 2050. This admirable plan must be coupled with divestment to truly further a societal shift away from dirty energy dependence.
Already, over 40 American colleges have divested from fossil fuel companies, contributing to a net $8 trillion in global divestment commitments from the industry and reflecting a greater youth-led movement for climate justice. Around the world, tens of thousands of teenagers are leading school strikes for climate action. A few weeks ago, students at Harvard, Boston College, Northeastern, and Boston University came together in joint protest of fossil fuel investments. And this spring, Divest Harvard activists are planning vast cross-campus mobilization efforts as part of Harvard Heat Week (April 22nd-26th), a week-long series of actions to turn up the heat on Harvard to commit to total and immediate divestment by Earth Day of 2020.
As Middlebury President Laurie Patton remarked, “time is of the essence” when it comes to taking climate action. Students must turn the inertia of institutions like Harvard into a rallying force. We must take our futures — and the future of our shared planet — into our own hands. We must not only call out hollow arguments against divestment but also show reinvestment’s transformative power and affirm our right to shape our educational institutions.
Our universities’ failure to act cannot become our own. It’s time to divest higher education now.
This is an op ed written by Jessie Kinsley, an organizer with Brandeis Climate Justice and a 2019 Divest Ed Fellow. It was originally published in The Brandeis Hoot.
Last semester, the Brandeis Board of Trustees voted to enact a 3-year suspension of all fossil fuel investments and promised to revisit the idea of full divestment after reviewing the results of the suspension. This decision represented a crucial win for the student body and Brandeis Climate Justice’s 7-year long fossil fuel divestment campaign, but the aftermath of the vote left many to wonder about the future of the campaign. Amongst the excitement of the first major response from the Board of Trustees lies a very concerning question for the student body: do we need to push for full divestment during this 3-year suspension period? The answer is plain and simple— absolutely.
Although many students might be tempted to encourage patience during this intermediate period, it’s important to note that patience is no longer an option when considering our planet’s current state. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released in October 2018 validates this sentiment, warning that we have 12 years to avoid catastrophic climate conditions by introducing unprecedented changes to our society. When considering a 12-year time frame, introducing a 3-year suspension period is not only conservative, it is downright dangerous.
It’s also important to note that many other universities’ divestment campaigns have capitalized off of partial divestment wins. Take UMASS Amherst, which received partial divestment in December 2015 when the university divested $400,000 from the coal industry, only to win full divestment in May 2016. When Brandeis’ divestment campaign first started, student activists were ridiculed by the student body and the Board of Trustees as being too extreme, and now we have a board of trustees with divestment on their minds and 39 student organizations that have backed the campaign. More fuel to the fire, please.
And just so we’re clear here, divestment works. In fact, Brandeis has done it before. In May 1986, Brandeis divested $1.6 million from companies operating in South Africa as a part of the global Anti-Apartheid movement. This movement was critical in the success of 1994 when South Africa achieved majority rule through free and fair elections, where non-white citizens were given the right to vote. But this only happened because activists demanded their institutions take a stand against South Africa’s unjust regime. In holding their school accountable, past Brandeis students were able to force their institution to reflect student values. Current students now have the same opportunity in fighting climate change with divestment.
Look, we won a 3-year suspension from fossil fuels because we demanded it. If we let our administration off the hook during this time we will not win divestment: the administration will revert back to what is standard— monopolizing off of climate change and the consequences of it. It is our job as students to realize our power and take down an industry that has historically taken advantage of marginalized communities and continues to prioritize profit over human lives. We do not have any time to waste in solving this climate crisis and frankly, I’m tired of waiting.
Note: for any students interested in supporting Brandeis’ divestment campaign, Brandeis Climate Justice meets every Thursday at 8 pm in Pearlman 113.
Fellows, trainers, and volunteers at the first Divest Ed 2019 Organizing Fellowship retreat on January 18th-21st. Some fellows could not attend and are not pictured.
Over the MLK holiday weekend, a dedicated cohort of student organizers convened in Sherborn, Massachusetts to build relationships, sharpen organizing skills, and strategize for their campaigns. The retreat was a formative, exciting, and productive weekend for trainers and fellows alike. We learned from each other, stepped out of our comfort zones, and grew.
Training sessions included the topics of anti-oppression, the story of divestment, the Just Transition framework campaign strategy, financial literacy, self-care and sustainability, and much more. With a firm grounding in climate justice, fellows developed and refined the skills necessary to maintain a powerful fossil fuel divestment campaign.
In addition, students had the unique opportunity to connect with other campaigns and to share tactics and organizing knowledge. Fellows compared experiences, supported each other’s campaigns, and collectively envisioned an ecologically and socially just future.
This convening strengthened our movement, not just because participants walked away with new knowledge, but because lasting relationships were formed. Fellows connected, bonded, and found community in one another, which is integral to creating inclusive and formidable divestment campaigns.
Such trainings and relationship building will continue this year with monthly webinars and coaching calls, a summer community organizing program at our Cambridge office, and ongoing communication and strategizing among fellows.
Throughout this year's program, fellows will build student power in their pursuit of divestment and climate justice. We are more inspired than ever; we look forward to organizing for the replacement of the fossil fuel regime with a sustainable, equitable future.
We look forward to next time we reconvene at our upcoming retreat on June 10th-14th.
Our Climate Justice & Just Transition training.
Written by Gracie Brett, Divest Ed Campus Organizer
Editors note: The blog post has been edited to reflect the updated June Training Retreat dates of June 10-14th. The original post had listed the dates of June 9th-13th, but the retreat dates have since been changed.
Divest Ed is launching its inaugural national Organizing Fellowship at its 2019 retreat. From January 18th-21st, a dedicated cohort of student organizers will convene in Sherborn, MA to build relationships, sharpen organizing skills, and strategize for their campaigns.
Including 37 students from 22 different campuses, the 2019 Fellowship marks the largest cohort yet.
Divest Ed and its fellows seek to de-corporatize universities; demanding that colleges behave more like civic leaders than corporations. By the conclusion of the fellowship, fellows will be equip with the skills to run an effective campus campaign of community-led solutions. We are excited to facilitate the growth of these student organizers and foster meaningful intra-student relationships that will strengthen the movement for years to come.
Meet our 2019 Organizing Fellows!
Kila Panchot is a sophomore at Boston College majoring in Biochemistry and minoring in Environmental Studies. Her interest peaked after taking a first year class called Plant in Peril, which started her interest in the divestment campaigns at Boston College and throughout the broader nation. She is a member of Boston College's EcoPledge which works to promote sustainability on campus. She first became interested in climate justice and sustainability after writing a high school research paper on the interdisciplinary water crisis. She hopes to work closely with Climate Justice at Boston College to create a strong coalition to push BC to divest. She hopes to strengthen her organizing and collaboration skills to make a change on her campus and in the world.
Maya Kattler-Gold is a 20 year old sophomore at Brandeis University majoring in Environmental Studies. She loves spending her time working with Brandeis Climate Justice in order to spread awareness about why climate change is a pressing social justice issue and push for Brandeis to divest. Maya feels she has grown a lot as a person in her time working with Brandeis Climate Justice, becoming more confident talking about divestment and climate justice issues and acting as a leader in the group. She joined this fellowship to continue this growth and learn how to continue to strengthen Brandeis’ campaign. When she’s not studying and doing climate work, Maya enjoys music, playing cello and guitar, singing, and planning events for student musicians with Brandeis’ Student Music Committee.
Jessie Kinsley is studying Biology and Computer Science at Brandeis University. She is a part of Brandeis Climate Justice's core leadership team and has been helping organize our divestment campaign for almost 2 years now. She is passionate about climate justice because she believes the only way we can fight this climate crisis is through collective liberation. Jessie is passionate about the divestment movement because she believes divestment is one of our strongest tools in transforming our economy in an equitable and sustainable manner. She has learned so much through working with the student activists involved in Brandeis Climate Justice and is very excited to continue working with strong student activists in Divest Ed.
Amelia Balik is a first year student at Clark University and is interested in pursuing a double major in Geography and Studio Art. During her first semester, she joined Clark Climate Justice, an on-campus activist group committed to challenging corrupt institutions that contribute to massive inequality along lines of race, class, and gender, such as the fossil fuel industry. She sees this fellowship as an opportunity to connect with other students interested in divestment and for her to learn more about on-campus organizing.
Maya Egan is a first-year at Clark University in Worcester, MA. She is studying Political Science with a minor in Ethics and Public Policy. She has long been interested in climate activism and social justice and has gotten to grow those interests in her first semester in college. She is an active member of Clark Climate Justice, which is working on a divestment campaign with social justice at its core. She became interested in this work because of the injustices visible to her every day and the climate crisis we are currently in.
Edel Galgon is 19 years old and a current first-year student at Dartmouth College majoring in Environmental Studies and Economics. She is interested in ways in which our economic and governmental systems can be more inclusive of human and environmental value.
Dev Punaini is a Dartmouth undergraduate from India, hoping to study climate, policy, and theatre. He is working with sustainability initiatives on campus for food waste reduction and management and sustainability awareness, and he has been wanting to do more institutional work for a while now. With the divestment campaign on campus, he helped organize a climate justice event-- and his major interests are around the intersection of climate change and international social justice. Apart from that, he rock-climbs and boulders and learns languages for fun.
Connie Lu is a current freshman at Dartmouth College, potentially pursuing a major in Quantitative Social Sciences. As a member of Divest Dartmouth, she is eager to learn more about how college fossil fuel divestment campaigns can be successful. She is particularly grateful that this fellowship focuses on climate activism as part of a broader pursuit for social and environmental justice. Given that the circumstances of the climate crisis are often disheartening, Connie is excited to meet other young people to share ideas and hope for the future. She also enjoys learning about Asian American movement building, reading fiction, and eating tofu.
Melody Wu is an Environmental Engineering major concentrating in water resources and minoring in Philosophy at Drexel University. Going to school in the heart of Philadelphia has greatly expanded her worldview, not only by exposing to her the environmental injustices faced by our local communities, but also by connecting students to global environmental movements. Last year, at the suggestion of a mentor at a Clean Water Action, she interned at the environmental department of the East Coast’s largest oil refinery to learn about what goes on inside (aka spying). She explains, “Those miserable 6 months of cognitive dissonance grating against my skull filled me with anger that could only be quelled when channeled to work in the more... moral fields.” Thus, starting during her internship, she has worked with Defend Our Future and Fossil Free Drexel to actively combat the fossil fuel industry--she kept it a secret from aforementioned fossil fuel industry, of course.
Ilana Cohen is a political and environmental activist from NYC. In addition to working on political campaigns and interning for the New York State Attorney General's Office, Ilana has organized a citywide climate march, lobbied to lower the state voting age, and directed youth outreach for the Participatory Budgeting process. Now, as a freshman at Harvard, she serves as Vice President of Harvard Undergraduates for Environmental Justice—working to spearhead the relaunch of the Divest Harvard campaign—an Associate U.S. Editor for the Harvard Political Review, and an organizer for the Harvard College Democrats. She also worked at the Institute of Politics last fall as a community engagement liaison for Fellow and Former Congressman Joe Heck.
Arielle Blacklow is a sophomore at Harvard pursuing a joint degree in Environmental Engineering and Environmental Science and Public Policy. She is the co-founder of Harvard Undergraduates for Environmental Justice, a student organization on campus that both mobilizes and educates Harvard and the surrounding community to protect the environment. HUEJ has revived the divest campaign on campus and created a platform to address the intersection between environmental and social justice issues. This is what she is most passionate about, and she looks forward to developing organizational skills through the Divest Ed fellowship that she can use to better lead her campus and world in tackling climate justice challenges.
Elly Ren is 18 years old and a first-year student at Johns Hopkins University majoring in Environmental Science and International Studies. She is part of her campus divestment club, Refuel our Future, and vegan/vegetarian club, Compassion and Responsible Eating for Animals. She is passionate about combating climate change because of its implications in so many different areas: environmental justice, national security, health, and economics. Elly is a firm believer that we not only have to change the larger system but also our individual behaviors, and she is currently living a vegan and zero-waste lifestyle. As a Divest Ed fellow, she is excited to connect with other passionate individuals who want to solve this climate crisis through grassroots action.
Shriya Patel is a first-year Environmental Science and Political Science major at Loyola University Chicago. She has always been passionate about environmental advocacy, and more so after taking environmental science classes. She is also on the executive board for the Loyola student environmental alliance and work on the REpower Loyola committee, which is working on transitioning Loyola to a 100 percent renewable energy. She is excited to get more involved with different environmental issues, because she think that everyone can and should get behind the idea of creating a more sustainable society for the sake of our future and that of the generations that will come after us. She looks forward to meeting other people who are also passionate about divestment and to improving her organizing skills.
Jane Donohue is a freshman at Macalester College, where she plans on majoring in English and Environmental Studies with an emphasis on Communication Studies. She has been involved with Fossil Free Mac, Macalester's divestment campaign, throughout her first semester and has found the experience to be enriching and educational. She is excited about the Divest Ed Climate Organizing Fellowship because she says it will give her an opportunity to learn how to better communicate the realities of climate change and advocate for viable solutions.
Elise Leise is a 20-year-old freshman focusing on International Environmental Policy at Middlebury College. She recently spent a year teaching English in Senegal, and after realizing that our environmental crisis is an intersectional issue of justice, she is deeply passionate about redefining the values and systems by which our world operates. At Middlebury, she is a first-year coordinator in the Sunday Night Environmental Group and is working with Divest Midd to cut fossil fuels out of the College’s portfolio! She also recently got involved with the Sunrise Movement during the recent D.C. protests and is now incredibly hopeful about the ability of our generation to create political and social change. Fun fact: she was named Aspen for a month once while working as a zipline instructor.
Ella Carlson is 19 years old and currently a sophomore at Smith College. She is majoring in Environmental Science and Policy, with an intended minor in Dance. She believes strongly in the importance of fighting climate change to promote equity and protect our communities. She is a student organizer with Divest Smith College, a student campaign pressuring the college to divest its endowment from fossil fuels, and is excited to be a fellow with Divest Ed to meet other people who are passionate about climate justice and learn more about how to help her campaign and other climate campaigns.
Julia Mettler-Grove is 19 years old and a sophomore at Smith College studying Government, Environment Science and Policy and Economics. At Smith, she is actively involved in Divest Smith College, a student-led on-campus organization dedicated to guiding our institution to divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in renewable energy. She joined last year to work with her fellow Smithies to hold the institution responsible for the environment cost of fossil fuel investments, with an emphasis on environmental justice and the human impacts of climate change. The Divest Ed 2019 Organizing Fellowship supports Julia's interest in community engagement around environmental justice and fiscal responsibility and accountability of institutions.
Dagmawe Haileslassie is a student at St. Olaf College in Northfield MN. He is a Computer Science major with a concentration in Neuroscience in his freshman year. He is from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and noticing the severe climate change in his home town always created a sense of dedication and urgency to change the situation. Outside of his dedication on climate justice: he loves being involved in robotics, and is interested in creating an energy utilization app that can figure out the amount energy being consumed in a certain area of a campus-- but he has not figured out the details. Dagmawe is extremely excited to start a campaign at St. Olaf.
Dillon Day is an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Kentucky where he is majoring in Architecture. He was originally introduced to Divest while working on a living wage campaign with the United Students Against Sweatshops at UKY. He has been with Divest Ed a semester now, but is looking forward to becoming further involved with the organization. He decided to apply for the Divest Ed Fellowship to expand his knowledge of community organizing tactics and bring about real change at his university. He is excited to learn and work with people from other campuses with a similar passion for environmental justice over the course of this year.
Christian Jones is a Senior at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He is majoring in Mathematics and minoring in Statistics. He enjoys hanging out with friends, listening and discovering music, and of course memes! He became dedicated to fighting climate change because of the stakes that we are currently facing. He wants to do more as an activist to help preserve the planet, not just for my generation, but for many more to come!
Caleb Chen is a sophomore from the University of Pennsylvania planning to major in Cognitive Science. He recently become involved in different movements for climate justice after realizing that climate change will be the worst ecological and social disaster affecting us. Climate justice is an integral part of the social justice movement, and he believes achieving it requires direct political action and ambitious policy. Specific groups he has participated in include Fossil Free Penn, his campus' fossil fuel divestment campaign, and the Sunrise Movement with their recent protest at DC. The Organizing Fellowship will allow him to learn the skills necessary to mobilize climate justice movements within his own community while also interacting with others working towards the same goal.
Katie Collier is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics with a concentration in Environmental Policy. She became dedicated to combat climate change because she believes that we do not have the right to exploit the Earth so carelessly through fossil fuel usage, animal agriculture and other environmentally-damaging activities. She is excited to work with other passionate students towards achieving divestment at their universities! In her free time she enjoys hiking and running.
Maeve Masterson is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania as a prospective Environmental Studies major with a concentration in Environmental Management and Sustainability. Realizing that climate change consequences are unevenly burdened among socioeconomic and racial groups, she views the issue of climate change within a much broader social justice movement. She seeks momentum for a cultural transformation, finding hope in scaling up competitive renewable technologies, and raising the voices of frontline communities and generation Z to eradicate the influence of fossil fuel companies in politics and economies, ensure that higher education is investing according to their mission and values, and rightfully hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for the social ills they produce.
Hannah Bailey is a 20-year-old sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh majoring in Urban Studies and Global Studies. She is newer to organizing and got involved with the divestment campaign on her campus because she thinks meaningful change must begin at the local level. What particularly interests her about the movement is how environmental issues intersect with broader social-justice issues like racism and poverty. Besides divestment she is also involved with Pitt’s local chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops. After undergrad, she wants to go to graduate school to become a public librarian, as she believes education, inclusion, and civic engagement are essential for building a better society. She is excited to begin the fellowship so she can develop skills that will allow her to be a more effective organizer on campus.
Anaïs Peterson is a junior at University of Pittsburgh majoring in Urban Studies with minors in GSWS and Poetry. She moved from the Chicago area to Pittsburgh 5 years ago and got involved with anti-fracking work. Since then she has been involved with groups such as 350Pgh and NoPetroPA working on petrochemical resistance and youth climate organizing such as the Zero Hour Pgh March. On campus she has been involved with Fossil Free Pitt Coalition since winter of 2016: you can usually find her painting or dropping banners around campus! She loves working on divestment because it's an important issue but more so because she believe student power is absolutely incredible. She is really excited to meet everyone else and connect with other rad student movements across the US!
Grace Anderson is a first-year student at Tufts University majoring in Environmental Engineering and minoring in French. She wants to be involved in the fight against climate change because she loves hiking, swimming, and being outside enjoying nature. She is very excited to meet other people who are passionate about the environment and learn from the experiences they have had.
Rachel Wagner is a freshman at Tufts University. She graduated from Joel Barlow High School in Connecticut where she began her campaigns for environmental awareness via student and faculty composting. She is determined to promote change, be it through education or law. She is majoring in Environmental Studies and Spanish, with the goal of working as an environmental lawyer in a Spanish-speaking area, perhaps fighting for environmental justice. After joining Tufts Climate Action (TCA) this year and attending Bill McKibben's talk at Tufts, she is more determined than ever to protect Earth through personal and University divestment from fossil fuels. In addition to my work with TCA and academics, she rows for Tufts University's women's crew team and volunteers both as a dog walker and at the woodshop on campus. In her spare time (if it exists), Rachel reads Harry Potter in Spanish and makes jewelry via metalsmithing and soldering.
Shelby Dennis is a 20 year old junior at University of Missouri - Kansas City. She is an Environmental Studies and Psychology double major with a minor in Environmental Sustainability. She joined the Student Environmental Coalition after transferring to UMKC this year, which focuses on making both local and global environmental impacts. She is also a Delta Sigma Pi alumni. She joined the Fellowship because she wants to make a better world for future generations. She is excited to meet and work with others that share the same interests and passions!
Geneva Tilbury is an Environmental Studies major at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where they are the founder and organizer of Fossil Free UMKC. They have always been interested in the environment but they first became really dedicated to climate justice upon learning more about it during their first year of college because it combines their passions for environmental health and social equity. Now, Geneva plans to pursue a career in environmental or food justice. For fun, they love to play bass, ukulele, and create visual art. They are so excited to be participating in the Divest Ed fellowship and can’t wait to learn and grow alongside other passionate students!
Phoebe Smith is a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Puget Sound. She intends to double-major in Environmental Policy and Decision Making and Science, Technology, and Society (and minor in Philosophy and German). She thinks that climate change does not receive nearly enough attention in our daily lives; even those who acknowledge its urgency often fail to change their lifestyle (whether through investments or food packaging, etc.). She wants to minimize her contribution to climate change, which requires that both she, and the organizations which she is a part of (for instance, her school), reflect the necessity to change. Divest Ed is the best way for her to get the tools to minimize this contribution.
Altynai Watson is 19 years old and a sophomore at the University of Puget Sound. She is currently undecided for a major, however she is interested in Neuropsychology and Environmental Policy and Decision Making. She joined Eco Club this semester and is an active participant in the Divest UPS campaign as well as other eco-friendly initiatives. She wanted to join the Divest Ed Climate Organizing Fellowship because she hopes to learn about being more active in the movement, interact with others who want to change the world, and educate others about how they can make a difference for a healthier planet.
Jared Moxley is an 18-year-old freshman at Washington University in St. Louis with an undecided major, likely with a Pre-med track. He is an organizer for Green Action, an environmental justice advocacy group, and Fossil Free WashU, a division of Green Action that focuses on divesting WashU's endowment from fossil fuels. During sophomore year of high school, he wrote a research paper on climate change; learning about all of its negative impacts has motivated him to work to halt and reverse the degradation of the planet. He is excited about this fellowship to learn how to more effectively advance the aims of divestment. He believes that a motivated group of young college students will be able to bring about meaningful change for our world. Outside of activism, he loves camping, hiking, acting, video games, and Dungeons & Dragons.
Khalid Mahmood is from Winchester, MA and a junior studying Chemistry at Washington University in St. Louis. He always had a passion for environmental issues, but realized what was missing was the emphasis on a justice and equity-driven movement. He joined Fossil Free WashU because he views fossil fuel divestment fitting into the bigger picture as a necessary way to fight for climate justice, because there is no time to wait to act on climate change.
Maeve Hindenburg is a freshman at Washington University in St. Louis. She is planning to major in Psychology and minor in Spanish and possibly English. She joined her school’s divestment organization Fossil Free because she think it is the most powerful way to help the world. Her high school did not have anything for fighting climate change so she is glad she can participate now. She also enjoys photography, writing, and making new friends-- which is why she is excited to do the fellowship. She believes that connecting young people who are all passionate about change is one of the best things to do.
Jamie Chan is a first-year at Yale and will most likely major in Environmental Studies. She became involved with the divestment movement in August 2018 when she joined Fossil Free Yale, which has introduced her to a whole new realm of activism. In December 2018, she helped organize FFY's sit-in at the investments office, demanding that they disclose and divest from all holdings in fossil fuel industries, and disclose and cancel their holdings in Puerto Rican debt. She realized the potency of community-led direct action, and is eager to engage more with grassroots advocacy. Jamie believes that wide-scale divestment from fossil fuels will be the catalyst we need for a drastic reform of our economy and society for a livable, breathable future. She is so excited to join Divest Ed to learn, to grow, and to make a difference.
Rhea Grant is 18 and a first-year at Yale College. Her passion for environmental advocacy began in high school through her work in an organization called Groundwork USA, and she is pursuing this passion by focusing on Environmental Studies at Yale. She was welcomed into Fossil Free Yale and felt inspired by the energy and organization around the campaign to hold Yale accountable for its investments in climate chaos and injustice. She is excited to join the Fellowship to grow with other individuals and learn leadership skills and strategies that can be brought back to further support the campaign.
This past spring, Better Future Project made a big announcement that we would be expanding our campus fossil fuel divestment support nationally. Today, we’re officially launching Divest Ed, a new training and strategy hub for the national coordination of campus divestment campaigns.
Since 2011, the fossil fuel divestment movement has been training young people to hold institutions accountable while stacking concrete wins for people and the planet. Better Future Project has been coaching and training Massachusetts-based campus campaigns with an eye toward leadership development, but we felt it was time to expand the scope of our work nationally with a new name and new programmatic goals. With Divest Ed, we aim to continue this legacy by providing leadership development and concrete resources to divestment campaigns across the country, and by asking schools to finally decide whether they are civic leaders or corporations. We have just over a decade to solve the climate crisis. As every level of our government guts environmental legislation, people are looking increasingly to our local institutions for moral guidance.
In order to avoid catastrophic climate change, at least 80% of all known fossil fuels have to stay in the ground. This fact means that corporations are doing everything in their power to extract and burn as much coal oil and gas as they can before our laws catch up to their reckless practices. So long as they have power, they will use it to stop our government from passing the common-sense climate legislation that we desperately need. The people who are being hit first and worst by climate impacts and environmental destruction are poor people, people of color, and people in developing nations. The generations of greedy CEOs and industry lobbyists responsible for unfettered pollution and the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions will suffer the least from the impacts of climate change. Climate change is a symptom of the greed and unchecked corporate power of the fossil fuel industrial complex.
If we are to communicate to the fossil fuel industry, to CEOs, and to the politicians they own, that we won’t stand for their destructive business model, we have to impact their bottom line; we have to speak with our money and our influence. It is not acceptable that 1% of the population owns the vast majority of wealth in this country. It is not acceptable that wealth allows some people to own politicians and virtually run our government. It is not acceptable that the richest and most powerful people in the United States work together in coalitions to maintain the status quo, to ensure that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. It is not acceptable that our colleges and universities are profiting from this business model.
Will our colleges and universities comply with corporate marching orders, or will they act more boldly, by divesting from what harms us? Will our universities act as civic leaders and take a stand for people and communities, or will they choose to stand for nothing while they empower corporations?
At Divest Ed, we’re measuring success not just in divestment wins, but in relationships that organizers build on, between, and beyond campuses. We’re measuring success in the coalitions created, in resources reinvested, and in lasting commitments to the social justice movement. To hold corporate interests accountable for their reckless behavior, we need to be more connected and coordinated than ever before. Our goal is to coordinate and amplify a sustainable student movement led by young people, where they can challenge their institutions, build critical awareness among each other, share resources, and continue to organize for social justice long after they have left school.
Please sign up to receive updates about our work. We’re excited to share our resources, events, and leadership development opportunities with you. Look out for more in the coming weeks, and stay up-to-date by following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or connect with us in our digital community on Slack. We can’t wait to hear what your campus campaigns are cooking up this year!Read more