There is a growing movement within college communities that aims to force university endowment programs to divest their interests in oil and gas companies. Student groups at 300 schools across the country are behind an effort to encourage divestment due to the harmful effects of fossil fuels on climate change and the environment.
The movement is being led by Bill McKibben, a veteran activist who has spent his career promoting environmental causes. A recent article in tech publication FastCoExist details the efforts at Harvard University. Harvard's endowment is the largest in the country at $34 billion, but its investments in fossil fuels only total about $34 million, a pittance compared to the profits earned by the world's biggest oil companies.
However, the goal of the students involved in the protests and activism is less to about causing economic pain for energy companies and more about the message it sends.
"We're basically saying that it is no longer socially acceptable to be investing in fossil fuel companies," Alyssa Chan, the lead protestor at Harvard who had previously been skeptical of environmental activism, told the source. "I saw divestment as a tactic that has real potential to change this equation."
University endowments are instrumental in financing college operations, particularly during rough economic times. They're typically managed by professional investors who are tasked with earning as much of a return as possible, which easier to do when buying shares of oil companies. But colleges also serve as a place where forward thinking, progressive individuals can demonstrate technologies and concepts that will make the world a better place. Hopefully these activists at Harvard and elsewhere can successfully convince the rest of the public that the future is in renewable energy, not in fossil fuels.