For Immediate Release
350.org Launches Divestment Actions Across The Country at College Campuses
Citing troubling conflicts of interest, students escalate divestment campaigns
In the first of a series of nonviolent direct escalation, Swarthmore students call on controversial board members to recuse themselves from fossil fuel divestment conversation
BROOKLYN - Today, students with Swarthmore Mountain Justice, the first on-campus fossil fuel divestment campaign in the US, took action outside Board Member Rhonda Cohen’s off-campus office calling on her to recuse herself from future conversations on fossil fuel divestment due to her significant personal financial ties to the fossil fuel industry.
This marks the first in a wave of nonviolent direct action over the next two months of students at colleges and universities escalating their fossil fuel divestment campaigns, reminding administrators, decision-makers, and leaders that Youth > fossil fuels.
"We refuse to stand idly by as Swarthmore continues to align itself with an industry that is incompatible with our future," said Sophia Zaia, a sophomore and divestment organizer with Swarthmore Mountain Justice. "Board members can’t make objective decisions on divestment when they have a personal financial stake in the future success of the fossil fuel industry. We have no choice but to escalate to ensure that the conversation on divestment, an issue that leaves us without a moment to lose, is transparent and free from compromising conflicts of interest."
After ignoring students’ calls for recusal, Swarthmore students had no choice but to escalate. Rhonda Cohen also serves on the Board of Directors at the Glenmede Trust, whose third-largest holding is ExxonMobil. Students have also called on Board Member Emeritus Samuel Hayes III and Investment Committee Member Harold Kalkstein to recuse themselves from divestment conversations due to their significant personal financial ties to the fossil fuel industry.
Students are taking bold action on- and off-campus in calling out conflicts of interest linked to the fossil fuel industry on their boards and to demand action on divestment. Just as the fossil fuel industry has held back meaningful climate action at all levels of government, personal ties to the industry hold back colleges and universities from taking the powerful action necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
“We know that change will only come when we take the lead and push our institutions to stand on the right side of history,” said Julia Berkman-Hill, a divestment campaigner and leader with Bowdoin Climate Action. “As long as Bowdoin refuses to move forward on divestment, we will continue to use our voices to show that we do not consent to the College's relationship to this industry's inherently destructive business model. Our schools betray us when they invest in the exploitation and deception that the likes of Exxon and Big Oil perpetuate."
Reports from InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times revealed that Exxon knew about climate change since the 1970s. Instead of telling the truth and guiding the world toward a just and equitable renewable energy future, Exxon poured extensive resources into discrediting their own research and sowing doubt and confusion among the public and world governments.
Exxon is currently being probed by the criminal branch of the FBI, four Attorneys General have already launched official investigations into the corporation’s climate crimes, and 20 Attorneys General have launched an unprecedented coalition to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for their decades of deep deception.
“Around the world, those who have done the least to contribute bear the brunt of the worst effects of climate change. From Pakistan and the Philippines, to New Orleans and New York, climate change threatens the lives of frontline communities every day by actively making our planet uninhabitable,” said Sarah Jacqz, an organizer with Divest UMass. “Any action on climate is undermined if our institutions continue to invest in this violent industry.It is high time that our institutions do everything in their power to tackle the climate crisis -- that starts with divesting from fossil fuels.”
To date, over 500 institutions representing more than $3.4 trillion in assets under management have committed to some level of fossil fuel divestment. While pivotal, the Paris agreement demonstrated the major gap between the words of politicians and their plans for action, as well as the power that the fossil fuel industry exerts in holding back meaningful climate action. Now, there is a global fossil fuel resistance fighting to Break Free from fossil fuels and push the world toward a just and swift transition toward a 100% renewable energy economy that works for all.
For students, personal ties to the fossil fuel industry among their school’s decision-makers pose disturbing conflicts of interest that hold back colleges and universities from taking powerful action to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
“We have made our choice clear, and we choose to stand on the side of a just and stable future,” said Zaia. “Now, we’re demanding that our institutions of higher learning stand with us and make a choice: the future of a destructive, outdated and rogue industry or the future of your students?”
350 is the red line for human beings, the most important number on the planet. The most recent science tells us that unless we can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, we will cause huge and irreversible damage to the earth. But solutions exist. All around the world, a movement is building to take on the climate crisis, to get humanity out of the danger zone and below 350. This movement is massive, it is diverse, and it is visionary. We are activists, scholars, and scientists. We are leaders in our businesses, our churches, our governments, and our schools. We are clean energy advocates, forward-thinking politicians, and fearless revolutionaries. And we are united around the world, driven to make our planet livable for all who come after us.