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Rallying Cry: Unity and Hampshire College Divest Endowments from Fossil Fuels
Schools join 350.org's campaign against climate change
Unity College of Maine answers 350.org's rallying call against fossil fuel investment by announcing on Monday that it would divest its endowment from oil, gas and coal companies.
At the heart of 350.org's national "Do the Math" tour is a campaign to push colleges and universities to divest their endowments from the fossil fuel industry. The group has modeled their campaign after the 1980s anti-apartheid movement that used divestment as a key tactic to pressure the South African government.
They've specifically targeted higher education, whose endowments represent $400 billion across the US. In a statement announcing their decision to join the campaign, Unity College President Stephen Mulkey writes:
Those within higher education must now do something they have largely avoided at all costs: confront the policy makers who refuse to accept scientific reality. We must be willing to lead by example. Like the colleges and universities of the 1980s that disinvested from apartheid South African interests – and successfully pressured the South African government to dismantle the apartheid system – we must be willing to exclude fossil fuels from our investment portfolios.
Like the funding of public campaigns to deny climate change, such investments are fundamentally unethical.
Organization founder, Bill McKibben, has fingered the fossil fuel industry as the key culprit behind the global warming crisis. “The fossil fuel industry has bought one party in Washington, DC and scared the other into silence,” he said. “Unless we can weaken the power of this industry, we’ll never see the sort of climate progress we need.”
In response to the school's announcement, McKibben tweeted in delight:
Unity College news kind of unbelievable, $13m endowment out of fossil fuels. Suddenly they're the greenest college in the US— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) November 8, 2012
Not every college will divest as quickly and proudly as Unity--but man oh man, what a start! math.350.org— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) November 8, 2012
Unity College joins Hampshire College in Massachusetts who, last month, passed a sustainable investment policy that effectively divested the college endowment from fossil fuels.
In a call to action for other schools to join their ranks, Students for a Just and Sustainable Future writes:
Divestment has the potential to unite us across our campuses and create a national student movement. We are all tired of trying to work within the political system where far too many politicians are the lapdogs of Big Coal and Big Oil rather than the guardians of the public interest.
By uniting students across the country in this fight, we will create a national student movement so powerful that politicians will not be able to ignore us when it comes time to take on Washington.
This will be the chapter in the climate movement’s history when we finally start to win.