Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Students Escalate Divestment Campaign After Universities Refuse to Sell Fossil Fuel Stocks

Climate
Students Escalate Divestment Campaign After Universities Refuse to Sell Fossil Fuel Stocks

Students across the country are escalating their campaigns for fossil fuel divestment after a number of high profile colleges and universities have rejected measures demanding they sell their stocks.

Schools that have rejected requests for divestment include Harvard University, Cornell University, Middlebury College, Boston College, Vassar College, the City University of New York, Brown University and Swarthmore College.

Divestment activists at each of these schools and others have come together and written a joint letter “rejecting the divestment rejections” and pledging to take future action. Over the last two weeks students around the country took various actions and delivered the letter to their president’s home or administrative offices.

“We can’t continue to pretend that we’re working towards a sustainable campus if we’re still investing in fossil fuels. It’s time for the Vassar community to stand up to what is wrong, and stop turning a blind eye to the injustices we’re funding,” said Graham Stewart, sophomore at Vassar College, where students will host a teach-in on fossil fuel divestment on Friday, followed by a letter delivery to President Catherine Bond Hill.

In the college-rich Boston area, more than 150 students from 10 area schools gathered on a footbridge crossing the Charles River Sunday for a joint divestment demonstration. Schools represented included Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, Tufts, Brandeis, MIT, Northeastern, Wellesley, Olin College of Engineering and Lesley University. Speakers at the Boston event included climate activist, and Harvard Divinity School student, Tim DeChristopher, who spent over a year in prison for disrupting an oil auction in Utah.

In Boston, more than 150 students from 10 area universities gathered on a footbridge crossing the Charles River for a divestment demonstration.

After the rally, students from Tufts and Boston College marched directly to President Leahy and Father Monaco’s houses to deliver their demands for divestment, while Harvard students marched to President Faust’s office.

Meanwhile, students at other campuses turned up the heat as well. On Friday, divestment activists at Middlebury and Swarthmore delivered the “rejection” letter to their college President and Board of Trustees. Students from the City University of New York delivered a holiday care package to Matthew Sapienza, the CUNY administrator who said "no" to divestment, requesting a joint meeting with Cambridge Associates, the university’s money manager.

“After getting a ‘no’ from the College administration, we have shifted our focus on consolidating our own power through a number of ways, including participating in a national divestment network, getting faculty and alumni support, and organizing more educational events for our peers on campus,” said Adrian Leong, a student at Middlebury College. “Our newest venture is collaborating with other student groups on campus to broaden our support base. We will organize until we win, so there’s no getting rid of us from the College administrators’ perspective, ever.”

Tomorrow students at Cornell will speak at a faculty meeting where a vote on whether or not to support divestment will take place. Cornell’s President David Skorton said last spring that the university wouldn’t be divesting “in the immediate foreseeable future,” but students hope that a “yes” vote from faculty will increase pressure on the administration.

“Of course we're not giving up,” said Jimmy O’Dea, a postdoctoral scholar researching clean energy technology and active with Cornell’s divestment campaign. “The 'no's' campuses have gotten are just responses, not answers or end-alls. This isn't an ‘ok, if you say so’ kind of movement. This is a ‘spread the word and stand up for what's right’ kind of movement.’”

Graphic courtesy of
Vassar Greens

Groups like the Responsible Endowments Coalition, the Sierra Student Coalition, the Energy Action Coalition, As You Sow and 350.org are working closely with students to help provide them training and support for escalating their efforts on campus. From media coaching to workshops on how to organize a successful sit-in, the campaign is training hundreds of new activists in the skills it takes to win campaigns.

“Working with students across the country, I have seen the fossil fuel divestment movement galvanize millennials to confront the increasing role of corporate interests in university decision-making.” said Lauren Ressler, national organizer with the Responsible Endowments Coalition. “By refusing to take no for an answer, these students are challenging their universities to stand with students and impacted communities instead of the fossil fuel industry.”

Over the last year, the fossil fuel divestment campaign has spread to more than 300 colleges and universities and more than 100 cities, states and religious institutions across the U.S. The movement is also active in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Europe, where the climate campaign 350.org recently concluded a multi-city tour promoting the effort.

"Communities all over the world are currently feeling the effects of extreme climate change and environmental injustice," said Sara Blazevic, a student from Swarthmore College. "This global crisis will only continue growing unless society's power-holders throw their weight behind solutions to climate change, instead of remaining complicit with environmental destruction."

Visit EcoWatch’s ENERGY and CLIMATE CHANGE pages for more related news on this topic.

Plastic bails, left, and aluminum bails, right, are photographed at the Green Waste material recovery facility on Thursday, March 28, 2019, in San Jose, California. Aric Crabb / Digital First Media / Bay Area News via Getty Images

By Courtney Lindwall

Coined in the 1970s, the classic Earth Day mantra "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" has encouraged consumers to take stock of the materials they buy, use, and often quickly pitch — all in the name of curbing pollution and saving the earth's resources. Most of us listened, or lord knows we tried. We've carried totes and refused straws and dutifully rinsed yogurt cartons before placing them in the appropriately marked bins. And yet, nearly half a century later, the United States still produces more than 35 million tons of plastic annually, and sends more and more of it into our oceans, lakes, soils, and bodies.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Rise and Resist activist group marched together to demand climate and racial justice. Steve Sanchez / Pacific Press / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Alexandria Villaseñor

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.

My journey to becoming an activist began in late 2018. During a trip to California to visit family, the Camp Fire broke out. At the time, it was the most devastating and destructive wildfire in California history. Thousands of acres and structures burned, and many lives were lost. Since then, California's wildfires have accelerated: This past year, we saw the first-ever "gigafire," and by the end of 2020, more than four million acres had burned.

Read More Show Less
Trending
U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced a pair of climate-related secretarial orders on Friday, April 16. U.S. Department of the Interior

By Jessica Corbett

As the Biden administration reviews the U.S. government's federal fossil fuels program and faces pressure to block any new dirty energy development, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland won praise from environmentalists on Friday for issuing a pair of climate-related secretarial orders.

Read More Show Less
David Attenborough narrates "The Year Earth Changed," premiering globally April 16 on Apple TV+. Apple

Next week marks the second Earth Day of the coronavirus pandemic. While a year of lockdowns and travel restrictions has limited our ability to explore the natural world and gather with others for its defense, it is still possible to experience the wonder and inspiration from the safety of your home.

Read More Show Less

By Michael Svoboda

For April's bookshelf we take a cue from Earth Day and step back to look at the bigger picture. It wasn't climate change that motivated people to attend the teach-ins and protests that marked that first observance in 1970; it was pollution, the destruction of wild lands and habitats, and the consequent deaths of species.

Read More Show Less