For the first couple of years of my college experience, trying to get the school to divest from fossil fuel companies was at the top of the agenda for the environmental groups on campus. (What is divestment???) Tactics ranged from marches to disrupting trustee meetings to a symbolic staged wedding to one alum handing back his degree, but the answer from the higher-ups never wavered: Divestment is not a viable option. They said it would be too complicated and costly to withdraw from funds that included fossil fuel companies, especially for a move they saw as primarily symbolic (symbolic because removing the college’s money from fossil fuel companies would be like taking a drop out of the ocean). It was a frustrating experience for me and my peers as students, and I continue to be disappointed as an alum as our college’s large endowment is still very much mixed up with fossil fuel companies.
This week, however, brought a spark of hope back into the divestment world as Harvard University announced it was divesting from fossil fuels.
BREAKING: After a decade of constant pressure by students, faculty, and alums, @HARVARD IS FINALLY DIVESTING FROM FOSSIL FUELS.— Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard 🔶 (@DivestHarvard) September 9, 2021
It’s a massive victory for our community, the climate movement, and the world — and a strike against the power of the fossil fuel industry. (THREAD) pic.twitter.com/56yESznMMY
Divestment is by no means the silver bullet for confronting climate change, no one thing is, but as noted in articles and tweets, this is a monumnetal success for the climate movement and a significant step forward in changing public and institutional entrenchment in the fossil fuel industry. I know from personal experience that my college is often just a few months behind whatever Harvard does, so I have some reinvigorated hope that my alma mater might just do the right thing this time.
Divesting one institution may just be a drop in the bucket, but divestment is becoming an unstoppable movement that will bleed the whole fossil fuel industry dry. Harvard’s endowment is worth billions, and the college’s prestige will likely help the movement spread even further. If the hard work of divestment activists can bring even Harvard to heel, then there is no telling what it can do next.
What’s more is that we can all have a role to play in the divest movement:
- 350.org’s Fossil Free campaign is a great place to start to find a local campaign or petition asking local universities, colleges, towns, cities, or other institutions to divest from fossil fuels.
- As On the Level is based out of Bozeman, MT, I want to specifically highlight this petition for MSU students asking the Alumni Foundation to divest.
- Though we generally focus movement-scale actions over individual ones, what you do with your own money can be important too. I’d highly recommend giving a recent How to Save a Planet episode called “Are My Retirement Savings Invested in Fossil Fuels?? Help!” a listen.
- Plus, check out the Fossil Free Action Toolkit and learn how you can build a coalition and ask for change within your company if you’re in a situation to do so.
And we are getting so excited here at On the Level for the upcoming launch of our Climate Action Explorer! Sign up for our Virtual Launch Event happening Friday Sept 24th here, and check out our continuing launch campaign here!