Updates from the Road

Read on below for updates from the Do The Math tour as we travel across the nation to connect the dots between extreme weather, climate change, and the fossil fuel industry and kick off a bold new campaign to divest from fossil fuels. 

November 8, 2012

Unity College Becomes First in the Nation to Divest from Fossil Fuels 

UNITY, ME — This Tuesday, Unity College became the first college in the nation to commit to fully divesting its endowment from fossil fuels. The resolution, passed unanimously by the college’s Board of Trustees, is an early victory for the growing fossil fuel divestment movement that 350.org is helping spark with this month’s Do the Math tour.

“I am proud to be a part of the 350.org program of divestment, and I am especially proud of the Unity College Board of Trustees for their willingness to make this affiliation,” wrote Unity College President Stephen Mulkey in an oped announcing the move. “Like the colleges and universities of the 1980’s that disinvested from apartheid South African interests – and successfully pressured the South African government to dismantle the apartheid system – we must be willing to exclude fossil fuels from our investment portfolios.”

350.org founder Bill McKibben, who just kicked off the Do The Math tour to a sell-out crowd in Seattle, Washington on Wednesday, November 7, reacted to the news from the road.

“Unity’s the first college in America to figure out you can’t square what we know about the climate of science with investing in fossil fuel companies,” said McKibben. “It won’t be the last–there’s going to be unrelenting pressure from students, faculty, and alumni to go beyond greening the campus to greening the portfolio.”

Unity College has long been a leader in environmental sustainability and has dedicated itself to studying and promoting solutions to the climate crisis. The college currently has $13 million in their endowment.

In 2010, Unity students joined 350.org on a road-trip to bring a Carter era solar panel that the school had acquired back to the White House and request that President Obama install a new set on the roof. The White House eventually granted the request a couple of months later, but has yet to install the panels, missing a self-imposed deadline of Spring 2011.

While Unity’s announcement is historic, they are not the only college to green their endowment. Last year, Hampshire College passed a sustainable investment policy that effectively divested their endowment from fossil fuels.

“Among other changes, our policy has led us to invest in developers of renewable energy technologies rather than the producers of fossil fuels,” wrote Hampshire President Jonathan Lash in a blog for Huffington Post. “Our donors gave money to create our endowment as an investment in the future. Our business as an educational institution is to invest in the future. In a rapidly warming world the future of our students will depend on quickly expanding the use of wind, solar power and other carbon-free sources of energy, and deep reductions in the use of fossil fuels.”

Over the coming months, 350.org will work with a coalition of allies including the Responsible Endowments Coalition, the Energy Action Coalition, the Sierra Student Coalition, the Sustainable Endowments Institute, and others to spread the fossil fuel divestment movement to colleges and universities nationwide. Student groups have already sprung up on nearly 50 campuses and the coalition expects to have active campaigns on over 100 campuses by the end of the Do The Math tour this December 3. Together, universities in the United States hold around $400 billion their endowments.

The effort is modeled on the anti-apartheid divestment movement of the 1980s that led to 155 colleges and universities and a number of cities and pension funds to divest from South Africa. The effort played a critical role in helping end apartheid, so much so that Nelson Mandela’s first trip stop on a trip to the United States after his release from prison was a visit to Berkeley to thank students there for their role in pushing the University of California to divest.