Student groups at more than 60 college and universities hosted events to raise awareness and push for fossil fuel divestment as part of 350.org’s #FossilFreedom Day of Action.
The Day of Action, held May 2, was meant to highlight the work students—some partnered with alumni, faculty, and administrators—have done over the past six months in an effort to sway their institutional leaders to divest from fossil fuel, says Jamie Henn, co-founder of 350.org, an organization dedicated to building grassroots movements to solve the climate crisis. The hashtag #FossilFreedom has been used throughout the campaign to spark online conversation.
“It will be interesting in the next 10 days or so whether more schools commit to divestment, and to see how much more work will need to be done in the fall,” he says.
Last November, 350.org kicked off a fossil fuel divestment campaign, urging colleges and universities to divest their endowments from 200 fossil fuel companies it identified as posing the greatest threat to climate change. There are now campaigns on more than 300 campuses.
“We have no illusion that colleges are going to rush into this decision, but students are making the case that they have enough information to make a firm commitment and move forward with full divestment,” says Henn.
The movement, which started on college campuses, has moved to local governments, with 100 local campaigns in cities and towns across the country. On April 23, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution pushing the city’s pension fund to divest $583 million from the fossil fuel industry, and nine other city mayors have committed to pursue divestment.
The largest Day of Action event took place at San Francisco City Hall, where students from across the city rallied with 350.org founder Bill McKibben and city supervisors asking for universities to do the same.
Students at Wellesley College (Mass.) met with President H. Kim Bottomly to make their case for divestment, and the Western Washington University campaign covered a square in Bellingham, Wash., where the school is located, with orange squares—the universal symbol selected for the campaign. On May 3, hundreds of students, faculty, and alumni at Brown (R.I.) are expected to participate in an event where they will symbolically cast their ballots for divestment.
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