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Multi-school fossil fuel divestment fund releases $57,000 to Salem State University



Salem State University, the only institution from the 30 participating schools in the Multi-School Fossil Free Divestment Fund to divest fully from fossil fuels, will receive all of the funds holdings on April 11.

As no other participating school in the multi-school fund divested by the end of the December 2018 deadline, Salem State University will be awarded with 30 schools’ escrowed donations. 

The fund was established in 2014 to put collective pressure on universities to divest from fossil fuels. The fund allowed parents, alumni, faculty, staff, students, and others to leverage their donations to help participating universities do the right thing. On May 24t 2018, Salem State University announced that it had sold the university’s prior holdings in Carbon 200 (fossil fuel companies). This decision followed a five-year campaign by students, faculty and alumni.

Participating schools included MIT, Stanford University, Northeastern University, Tufts University, Boston College, Brandeis University, Allegheny College, Amherst College, Dartmouth College, Fort Lewis College, Georgetown University, James Madison University, Reed College, St Paul’s School, Stony Brook University, Syracuse University, Salem State University, Trinity College, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of Mary Washington, University of Notre Dame, University of Oregon, University of Pennsylvania, University of Rhode Island, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wellesley College, Western Washington University, Williams College, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Worcester State University.

University of Rhode Island participation in the multi-school divestment fund started after Fossil Free Rhode Island had been waging a divestment campaign for over two years, calling on the university to live up to their motto: “Think big; we do.” Ron Creamer, a University of Rhode Island alumnus, lawyer and until his death an active member of Fossil Free Rhode Island, reviewed the fund. Creamer’s conclusion at the time was that it was “well-organized and set up for the sole purpose of providing an alternative for alumni to invest their funds in a way that may force schools to review their policies on investing in fossil fuel companies.”

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The multi-school fund will present a $57,000 check to Salem State University officials on April 11t 2019. Salem State University will use the funds to establish two endowed student scholarships – a climate justice, and social justice undergraduate award.

Participating students, faculty, alumni and parents who joined together to create a multi-school donor-advised divestment fund would like to thank Salem State University for standing on the right side of history.

“Now more than ever it’s critical that universities take a moral stand against the obstructionism of the fossil fuel industry,” said Professor Noel Healy of Salem State University. Divestment, he added, is “a tactic that can be employed by individuals, organizations, and institutions to hold fossil fuel companies responsible for nearly 40 years of climate deception and harm.”

Citing a March 2019 InfluenceMap study, Dr Healy stated: “The world’s five largest publicly owned fossil fuel companies –Exxon, BP, Shell, Chevron, and Total – spend approximately $200 million a year on lobbying to delay or block binding climate policy. The success of fossil fuels companies’ business models requires pushing the world beyond the Paris Climate warming limit.”

Dr Healy went on to say that, “Publicly, Big Oil supports the Paris Agreement goals – behind closed doors they lobby to delay climate action. It therefore isn’t surprising that the average congressional opponent of the Green New Deal has received 24 times more campaign donations from fossil fuel companies than sponsors the climate change resolution.”

Harvard University Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Geoffrey Supran, who studies the history of climate denial with Professor Naomi Oreskes and recently testified to the EU Parliament about their research showing ExxonMobil misled the public on climate change, added: “Big Oil is the new Big Tobacco. This is a rogue industry whose decades of denial and delay have imperiled humanity, and whose doubt-mongering undermine the integrity of science and universities’ very raison d’être: truth and knowledge.”   

Dr Becky Romatoski Professor of Engineering and Physics at St Ambrose University stated: “The global monthly temperature has been above average since February 1985. For college students and young people everywhere, they’ve only ever known a warmer planet. I am worried about the Earth my two year old son is inheriting due to severely delayed action and because of the gap between what is being done and what is needed to stop global warming.”

The global climate justice movement is growing fast. Alyssa Lee of the Better Future Project, stated: “There are currently approximately 80 active campus fossil fuel divestment campaigns in the United States. And in 2019, we are seeing a very prominent resurgence of the campus fossil fuel divestment movement.” Nearly half of all UK universities have committed to divesting from fossil fuels.

Since 2012, the number of institutions committing to fossil fuel divestment has increased rapidly and spread globally. Now, over 1000 institutions with managed investments worth almost USD $8 trillion have committed to divesting from fossil fuels.

Dr Noel Healy concluded by saying: “The 2018 IPCC Special Report shows that warming beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius endangers the most vulnerable and undercuts efforts to eradicate global poverty and hunger – the business model of fossil fuel companies is ultimately incompatible with a just and stable future.”

[Mostly from a press release]

About the Author

Peter Nightingale is a theoretical physicist and teaches at the University of Rhode Island. He strives to leave behind a more just, peaceful, and sustainable post-capitalist world for future generations, and for his children and grandchildren in particular.