Campaign to divest from fossil fuels launches at Stanford

Environmentalist Bill McKibben, a founder of the grassroots environmental group 350.org, recently traveled across the country in an effort to fire up the nation about the very real impacts of climate change. In case you haven’t noticed, the planet is in turmoil: melting ice caps, record droughts, wildfires, Hurricane Sandy.

One of the tour’s goals: to get college students and their allies (like influential alumni and tenured faculty) to pressure universities to divest their endowments from fossil fuels.  The campaign has quickly spread to over 100 campuses, including Stanford University.

“As a trailblazing innovator in technology and research, and as an educator of the world’s next generation of leaders, it is critical that Stanford set an example by withdrawing its support for an industry that is crippling our planet,” read a Dec. 4 op-ed in the Stanford Daily.

Undergrads, grad students, faculty, staff & alums attended the first march for a fossil free endowment Tuesday.

It’s not clear how much of Stanford’s $17 billion endowment is tied up in the oil and gas industry. Figuring out how the endowment is invested, and who manages it, will be the first job of student activists.
“We’re not a public institution, and we don’t discuss our investments,” said Stanford University spokesperson Lisa Lapin Tuesday.
McKibben and 350.org hope to borrow a page from the successful divestment campaigns of the 1980s, which helped end the racial injustice of apartheid South Africa.
“The one thing we know the fossil fuel industry cares about is money,” says the 350.org website. “Universities, pension funds, and churches invest a lot of it. If we start with these local institutions and hit the industry where it hurts — their bottom line — we can get their attention and force them to change. This was a key part of how the world ended the apartheid system in South Africa, and we hope it can have the same effect on the climate crisis.”

 

Dana Hull Dana Hull (233 Posts)

Dana Hull covers clean technology and energy policy for the San Jose Mercury News. She often writes about electric vehicles, the smart grid, the solar industry and California energy policy, from RPS goals to Gov. Jerry Brown's big dreams for distributed generation.