Hundreds of student organizations at colleges and universities around the world are working to take our future back from the fossil fuel industry. More than 500 fossil fuel divestment campaigns, which also include countries, cities, churches, and nonprofits, have removed $3.4 trillion from the fossil fuel industry.
The first fossil fuel divestment campaigns were organized in 2010, and have always been explicitly linked to frontline communities that are experiencing the worst impacts of fossil fuel extraction and climate change. Students at Swarthmore College created the first campaign after visiting communities in West Virginia that have been ravaged by mountaintop removal mining.
The movement quickly gained momentum in 2011 when 350.org organized the “Do the Math” Tour and Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature (one of the first books about climate change), wrote a now-famous piece for Rolling Stone about the potential of fossil fuel divestment.
In 2013, a University of Oxford report declared that fossil fuel divestment is the fastest-growing divestment campaign in history. In recent history, tobacco, munitions, and South African companies that supported apartheid have been the focus of divestment campaigns. From the 1980’s to the mid-1990’s, divestment was used as a tool to fight apartheid in South Africa. Religious institutions, universities, cities and private establishments divested a total of approximately $20 billion from corporations with holdings in South Africa. Along with pressure from political leaders and governments, the divestment movement gave support to political and social change movements within South Africa, helping to share its post-apartheid future.
Divestment from fossil fuels urgently needed, in this moment in history when we face the existential threat of climate change.