by Alex Leff
“Together we’ll mount an unprecedented campaign to cut off the industry’s financial and political support by divesting our schools, churches and government from fossil fuels.” – 350.org Do The Math tour
As the seas rise, so do Fossil Fuel industry profits. It’s no coincidence that in a year when the Arctic Ice Cap melted to half it’s 1970 level, ExxonMobil made more money than any other corporation in history. The Fossil Fuel Industry spent $167 million lobbying the federal government to weaken industry regulations and block any climate legislation that would threaten their bottom line. Since May, the Fossil Fuel Industry has received almost $5 billion from the United States government in from tax breaks and subsidies. In order to solve the climate crisis, we need to break the stranglehold fossil fuel corporations have over our democracy and our economy. Here’s where we come in:
American colleges and universities all together have over $400 billion in endowment assets. Schools invest their endowments on all sorts of things, usually without any consideration of what this money funds. If we are to have any hope of seriously confronting the Climate Crisis, we must urge our schools to divest from the fossil fuel industry.
The Hampshire College community, and the rest of the nation, perhaps, has a reason to celebrate. Hampshire College is the first school in the nation to pass a responsible investment policy that includes full divestment from fossil fuels. President Jonathan Lash explains that now beyond divestment, “The college actively seeks to invest in companies whose policies and products align with our social and environmental values.” The fossil fuel companies wrecking our climate clearly don’t make the cut. More information on Hampshire’s Investment policy is available on Hampshire.edu.
Divestment was a key component to victory over South African Apartheid. Hampshire led the way then too, and in 1977 was the first to divest from all corporations supporting Apartheid. Over a hundred more schools, including major institutions like Columbia, Stanford, and the University of California followed suit, along with cities and state pension funds. Nelson Mandela applauded these divestments as significant contributions to the fight. Now, a new divestment movement is starting across the country. This November, environmental activist and author Bill McKibben will lead the “Do The Math” tour across America, spreading the fossil fuel divestment movement.
The Hampshire community has a significant role to play, now beyond its own personal divestment. We must continue our commitment to cutting down on fossil fuels with every aspect of our lives: as a school and as individuals. We have a duty to help student divestment coalitions at other schools whose administrations are less willing to make the responsible decision. Our friends at the Amherst, UMass, Holyoke, and Smith are now working towards divestment and cannot do it alone. However, the fight is not about battling school governments. The real is fight is working as students, as communities, and as a nation, to withdraw our money from the fossil fuel industry.