by Hilary Haskell, CSSC Council Member for the Claremont College Consortium
Across the United States, students from various colleges and universities are saying “Yes!” to ask their presidents, deans, and boards of trustees to divest. Recently, this movement spread to the Claremont Consortium of five undergraduate colleges (Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, Pitzer, Pomona, and Scripps) and two graduate universities (Keck Graduate Institute and Claremont Graduate University), collectively known as the “7C’s.” Here, the student movement to make the “7C’s Fossil Free!” by removing their investments in the unsustainable fossil fuels industry began to gain traction earlier this fall.
Bill McKibben, noted climate change expert and author of titles such as Eaarth and Fight Global Warming Now, started 350.org, now one of the main organizations behind the divestment movement. 350 may seem like a strange name for an organization, but remains fundamentally relevant to climate change science: this number signifies the maximum amount of carbon dioxide in parts per million that the atmosphere can reasonably sustain, without drastically altering the future of global climate and the life it supports. Carbon dioxide and stock holdings probably do not seem all that related to one another and rightly so. Divestment is a new tactic to ending dependence on fossil fuels. However, it was utilized in the 1980s to build an effective that ended racial segregation in the form of Apartheid in South Africa. Higher education pledged to end its financial support in companies supporting Apartheid, thus putting economic pressure on South Africa to take legislative measures against the injustice. 350.org and other organizations including the CSSC are now mobilizing this tactic as a means of ending America’s dependence on fossil fuels, by engaging passionate and enthusiastic students.
The California Student Sustainability Coalition runs an “End Coal” campaign that mobilizes students at University of California campuses to push for system-wide divestment from the fossil fuel industry. This campaign started in the summer of 2011 and will likely gain momentum as the divestment movement continues to get nation-wide attention through 350.org’s campaign. If you’d like to learn more about the CSSC’s End Coal campaign or get involved, check out this page on our website.
Already, numerous colleges and universities are joining the divestment efforts. The campaign is gaining national attention, with articles in The Rolling Stone, Huffington Post, and New York Times. These articles recently noted the Claremont colleges and universities for their effective and innovative efforts. Without a doubt, the Claremont Consortium will be able to continue to take the lead in encouraging and taking part in these efforts. Three students from the Claremont Colleges, Jess Grady-Benson (Pitzer, ‘14), Kai Orans (Pomona, ‘14), and Meagan Tokunaga (Pomona, ‘15) have initiated the movement on the Claremont campuses. After leading a rally and attending a presentation by Bill McKibben on November 11th at UCLA as part of 350.org’s “Do the Math Tour”, the Claremont students were motivated to “do the math” themselves based on McKibben’s climate change statistics and work to bring a halt to unsustainable investments and their role in planet-threatening climate change.
The divestment movement is young – at the Claremont Consortium and at other colleges and universities. After only a few months of action, the students of the Consortium have already made themselves known. To gain initial attention, students tabled at dining halls and in high-traffic areas on campus to raise awareness as well as gain momentum. Then, students gathered together with their newly garnered support to process through the campuses, guided by candle light, chanting “What do we want? Divestment! When do we want it? Now!” and “Divest the West.” During this cross-campus journey, the students also presented letters to the college presidents asking that they put divestment on the agenda for consideration by financial stakeholders. The students plan to meet with Pitzer’s president in January, and the investment committee will review the topic in February. At Pomona, the students have been invited to meet with the Social Responsibility Committee in regards to Divestment. By painting murals that read sayings such as “Fossil Free” and “Divest” on Walker Wall, a highly frequented area of the campuses, there is already a lasting impression. Facebook pages, outreach to clubs related to sustainability, and articles in campus newspapers and magazines have made students realize the importance of divestment. Furthermore, with a new semester approaching and countless students with a variety of different skills and perspectives on board from the Claremont Consortium, the divestment movement promises to bring even more success in the fight against climate change.
If you are interested in more information, please check out the Claremont Colleges Divestment Campaign on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DivestTheClaremontColleges?fref=ts
Or contact Jess Grady-Besnon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, please support the efforts by signing the petition here: http://act.gofossilfree.org/sign/Fossil_Free_Claremont/