Photo Credit: Ophir Bruck, Fossil Free UC
De Anza College Students are Leading the Way
While flipping through pictures from Power Shift this past weekend, thinking about strategy for building the inclusive movement we need to win this struggle in the long run, I was pleasantly surprised with some big news out of a relatively small school named De Anza college. For the first time in this nation, community college students effectively convinced their foundation to take a stand against the fossil fuel industry and divest its holdings from the top 194 fossil fuel companies with the largest carbon reserves.
Small but Significant Step towards Fossil Freedom
According to the Mercury Times article, the endowment at De Anza is only roughly $33 million, making such an act financially insignificant in the grand scheme of divestment. However, I believe this groundbreaking step is just the beginning for one of the largest and economically inclusive public education systems in the US. As a community college transfer myself, I was one of the millions of native and non-native Californians served by one of the more than 100 community colleges across the state open to folks from all walks of life and educational backgrounds. The California Community College system is now one step forward in our road to fossil freedom because of the De Anza Foundation leader’s decision to implement policy that supports aligning its investment practices with its responsibility to invest in a fossil free future for all people. My alma mater, whose appointed and hired leaders have continuously acknowledged the importance of climate change, but argue divestment is not the answer, could take some pointers from the De Anza Foundation members and move the University of California’s investments out of fossil fuels and into those companies that support our state and planet’s future.
For those at the UC who have argued divestment is not the way, I implore you to talk to the De Anza foundation or San Fransisco State University foundation and and ask how they did the math. You might find that investing in the fossil fuel economy is not the most prudent way forward given the vast array of alternatives to fossil fuels that don’t threaten our communities and species as a whole. Trained financial experts from firms like the Aperio Group and Impax have looked into the threats to fossil fuel stocks in the next decade and the variety of investment alternatives that outperform fossil fuels in national and international indexes, and their evidence suggests how marginal the risk to return on investment is without the top 194 companies. Given this evidence, several major pension funds in Europe and city commissions in the states like San Fransisco have called for inquiries into the costs and benefits of fossil free investing given the nature of the climate crisis. It is time for all Californian communities to follow De Anza’s lead and demand our institutions do the math. We must work together to harness the power of our affiliated institutions to collaboratively re-envision and grow our economy organically.
Divestment Moving Forward- from De Anza to the CSU and UC System
I dream of a day when community college students join together with alumni and demand the entire system be revitalized to support the transition to an economy reliant on people power and renewable energy. Rather than investing in fossil fuels and trying to generate returns to combat steady divestment from the state; maybe De Anza will lead the way in creating the broad and community-based green economy we need in California in order to prove resilient to the rapidly changing environmental, economic and political climate. Community colleges in California can provide the inclusive and comparably affordable education and tools necessary to create jobs in sustainable industries that will help propel California into a people-powered economy, versus one reliant on fossil fuel energy and systemic injustice.
De Anza is just the beginning of the Community College movement to go fossil free. After meeting with students at Butte community college last week for a divestment training, and hearing their excitement to build the movement across the California Community College System, I am inspired to see what happens next.