By Rachel Roberts
It all began at Swarthmore College, a small liberal arts university in Pennsylvania. By advocating that their school divest its billion-dollar endowment from companies that profit from drilling and distributing fossil fuels, the students hoped to make it apparent that investment is a choice. And in fact, it very much is; choosing to invest or divest is a political choice with far reaching implications both economically and politically. When organizations or schools choose to invest in an industry financially, it shows they also support the industries practices.
This movement of Swarthmore became an inspiration for many other students at a variety of schools including UC Berkeley, Harvard, Brown, and the University of Washington. Now, over 400 college campuses have active divestment campaigns. Most notably, Stanford University officials agreed to divest its 18.7 billion dollar endowment away from coal companies; a considerable victory for the divestment campaign. Despite the growth that the divestment campaign has experienced over recent years, it is college students who are, and will continue to play a central role in the movement.
Divestment campaigns by students are no new feat, however. In the 1980s and 90s, students were part of campaigns to divest in big tobacco companies, as well as companies who conducted business with South Africa’s Apartheid regime. This time around, it is large oil and coal companies as the target of universities’ divestment campaigns across the United States, and with good reason too. Numerous studies have shown that our climate is changing at an unprecedented rate, which could have a number of negative impacts on both humans and ecosystems if something is not done.
Like President Obama said in his June 2014 speech, “We need to invest in what helps, and divest from what harms… There’s no contradiction between a sound environment and strong economic growth.” By divesting from coal and oil companies, which will only become increasingly unsustainable and uneconomic, we can begin to invest in more sustainable resources and actually strengthen our economy and our planet. After all, why would we want to invest our money in something that will only eventually harm us? So join the growing movement, and let’s divest to invest in the future!
“Endorsements.” Fossil Free: Divest from Fossil Fuels. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. <http://gofossilfree.org/endorsements/>.
Luckerson, Victor. “How College Kids Helped Divest $50 Billion From Fossil Fuels.” Time. Time, 22 Sept. 2014. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. <http://time.com/3419456/fossil-fuel-divestment-climate-change/>.
“What Is Fossil Fuel Divestment?” Fossil Free: Divest from Fossil Fuels. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. <http://gofossilfree.org/what-is-fossil-fuel-divestment/>.