Divest SU – a group of concerned students at Syracuse University (SU) joined by activists at the nearby State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) – started the SU Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign to fight for climate justice through demanding the school administration freeze new investments in fossil fuel companies and fully divest from the industry. This campaign was a part of an international student movement to pressure universities and colleges to stop investing in oil, coal and gas companies.
“Pink-washing” refers to a practice used by entities or corporations to market themselves as LGBTQ friendly and supportive, while simultaneously committing other ethical violations. BP was a British oil and gas company that came under fire in recent years for various environmental violations, in particular an oil spill, considered one of the most damaging in history. BP spilled approximately 4.9 million barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. The spill had extreme environmental and health concerns.
The fossil fuel divestment campaign originally started at Swarthmore College in 2010, through a student group called Mountain Justice. This campaign gained national traction and spread to other universities in America as well as around the world. Students from Trinity College, located in Dublin, Ireland, began their divestment campaign in 2015.
In December of 2013 at The University of Oregon, a group of students founded Divest UO, to persuade the University of Oregon Foundation (the Board of Trustees) to divest from the fossil fuel industry. Over the next two and a half years, Divest UO employed multiple tactics including a mock wedding, numerous sit-ins, and several teach-ins to achieve their goal.
In October of 2014, two students at the University of Mary Washington (UMW), Benjamin Hermerding, president of the Young Democrats, and Nate Levin, member of DivestUMW, requested an informal meeting with UMW administration to discuss the school’s investment portfolio. The open question-and-answer session focused primarily on the 5-year plan released by UMW’s Strategic Planning Task Force, which prioritized fiscally competitive investments.
Divest UMass – a group of concerned students – started the UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign to fight for climate justice through demanding divestment by the UMass Foundation from fossil fuel companies and promoting reinvestment of funds into projects that supported “social justice, equality, and sustainability.” This cross-campus campaign was a part of a multi-school, national student movement to pressure administrations at various universities and colleges to stop investing in fossil fuel companies.
Approximately ninety-seven percent of publishing climate scientists agreed that climate change was occurring in 2013, and that the primary cause was human activities. If the planet was to remain within safe levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and maintain temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius of warming, four-fifths of the known fossil fuel reserves needed to stay in the ground and not be burned.
University of Hawaii Students, Faculty and Staff Successfully Campaign for Fossil Fuel Divestment, (2013-2015)
In the fall of 2013, University of Hawaii graduate student and oceanography major Michelle Tigchelaar launched a fossil fuel divestment campaign after witnessing the devastation that climate change was bring to Hawaii’s famed coral reefs. Initially, the campaign was organized by members of the University’s Graduate Student Organization. The campaign launched in September 2013 with a movie screening 350.org’s movie Do the Math. The campaign lost traction in its first year after several members of the Graduate Student Organization graduated in the at the end of the fall semester.
The Fossil Free SOAS’s (the School of Oriental and African Studies at University of London) divestment campaign began in the autumn of the 2013 school year as part of a cluster of divestment campaigns led by People & Planet, a network of student campaign groups in the UK focused on alleviating global poverty, defending human rights, and protecting the environment. On 13 November 2013, SOAS students, staff, and alumni joined together in signing a divestment petition to Professor Paul Webley, the director of SOAS at the time.
In 2013, about ninety-seven percent of the publishing climate scientists agreed that climate change was occurring, and it was due to human activities. If people continued at the same rate of carbon dioxide emission, they risked permanently changing the planet’s climate and triggering irreversible increases in temperature. If the planet was to remain with levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide deemed safe by climate experts, four-fifths of known fossil fuel reserves could not be used and needed to be left in the ground.
Divest UMaine formed in December, 2012 at the University of Maine by co-founders Brooke Lyons-Justus, Connor Scott, and Catherine Fletcher. Sparked by a growing disapproval of fossil fuels in the United States along with increased public awareness of global warming, UMaine students, staff, faculty, and alumni formed Divest UMaine and aimed to convince the University of Maine System to freeze assets invested in top 200 fossil fuel companies and to “reinvest in a sustainable, socially responsible alternatives.”
The Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement began in 2011 at Swarthmore College when Swarthmore Mountain Justice founded the first divestment campaign. The movement slowly grew throughout over the next year until 350.org launched their Do the Math nationwide speaking tour, which sparked rapid growth of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement around the country. Pitzer and Pomona College students who attended a Do the Math event at UCLA in November 2012 founded the Claremont Colleges Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign later that month.
University of North Carolina (UNC) Sierra Student Coalition members and students created the Coal-Free UNC movement in an effort to end the University’s use of coal and close the on-campus coal plant. Its goal is to eliminate coal on campus by 2015. Coal-Free UNC also wanted the University to adhere to its green initiative EXPLAIN. The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal national campaign to end dependence on coal and its use on campus, while encouraging the use of renewable sources of energy inspired UNC’s campaign.