A movement is building on some New England college campuses that takes a page from the South African divestment movement more than two decades ago: Fossil Fuel divestment.
Earlier this month, the Board of Trustees at Unity College in Maine voted to divest their endowment from fossil fuel industries. And last week, the Harvard College Undergraduate Council announced 72 percent of voting students wants Harvard University to divest its $30.7 billion endowment from fossil fuels.
"In 1990, 52 percent of voting students supported complete divestment from apartheid South Africa. Today 72 percent of voting students are raising their voices for fossil divestment, telling Harvard to stop investing in companies that are threatening our future,'' said Chloe Maxmin, a co-coordinator for Divest Harvard.
The Divest Harvard campaign is part of a college-divestment movement now at 50 universities and colleges. The Better Future Project and 350.org, both climate advocacy organizations, are behind the growing movement.
It's a big challenge: Fossil fuel companies are highly profitable and virtually all large funds SICH AS endowments invest in oil giants including ExxonMobil, Chevron and Shell, which raked in $100 billion in profits in 2011 alone. Persuading Harvard money managers to miss out on those kinds of returns will be much harder than it was to get universities to drop their much smaller investments in South Africa.
* Clarification: An earlier post said that 72 percent of the student body voted to divest. It is 72 percent of those that voted. Post has also been rewritten slightly.
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