If, after going through both our proposal and the resources provided here, you find you still have questions about how divestment works, what it is, or how it should happen, please get in touch with us!
See Letters and Articles Hide Letters and Articles
- Here are a collection of short, summarizing letters written by various members of the fossil fuel divestment movement. We find these to be a set of quick reads that are particularly helpful as an introduction to fossil fuel divestment and the motivations behind it. There are, of course, dozens of well-reasoned letters calling for divestment, but these are just a good, quick start to understanding the issue.
- Bill McKibben's Global Warming's Terrifying New Math, published in the July 2012 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine, can be loosely credited with getting the divestment campaign off the ground. In it, he articulates the "carbon bubble" argument (citing the Carbon Tracker Institute study, linked below) as a major reason to move away from fossil fuel investments as fast as possible.
- Seven months later, McKibben published The Case for Fossil Fuel Divestment, expanding upon the basic divestment arguments and, essentially, giving an update on the status of the rapidly-growing movement after touring the country on his "Do the Math" tour.
- Bevis Longstreth, the head of the Securities & Exchange Commission under President Reagan, wrote an exceptionally thorough and dense essay in the Huffington Post advocating for divestment solely on financial grounds, discussing primarily the dangers related to not divesting, and explaining that fiduciaries should do it simply out of self-interest. (Note: This is a great essay by a highly qualified person, but perhaps a bit opaque for those not actively engaged in the world of finance.)
- When Harvard University President Drew Faust delivered her letter rejecting divestment, Tim DeChristopher (a student of Harvard Divinity School) published a response in The Nation. This is a succinct and eloquent rebuttal to the red-herring-obfuscations that administrators and fiduciaries often use to dismiss the issue.
- When Pitzer College announced it was divesting, Donald Gould, investment committee chair of Pitzer's Board of Trustees, wrote a letter in The Chronicle of Higher Education articulating the main reasons behind their decision to divest. Where DeChristopher's letter represents the core of the moral and social perspectives behind divestment, Gould supports the issue from a fiduciary's perspective, and speaks directly to other fiduciaries in his plea for further divestment actions.
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- Carbon Tracker Initiative: “Are the World’s Financial Markets Carrying a Carbon Bubble?”
- The report that started McKibben’s “Do the Math” tour, this Carbon Tracker Initiative study developed the carbon bubble thesis, listed the top 200 companies as the ones to target, the amount of carbon reserves they have, and more.
- Aperio Group: “Do the Investment Math: Building a Carbon-Free Portfolio”
- The first financial analysis of the impact of divestment on portfolio performance, the Aperio report analyzed the relative risks and the returns of divesting the Russell 3000 (an index of 3000 of the biggest corporations) of fossil fuels. They found that the increased degree of risk that came from divestment was miniscule, and the impact on returns was neutral.
- Tellus Institute Report: Institutional Pathways to Fossil-Free Investing
- The Tellus report, published in May 2013, is essentially a literature review of divestment-related studies, along with detailed explanations of the argument. If you’re looking to find strong, summarized arguments about the rationale and financial impacts of fossil fuel divestment, this is the place to look.
- Stranded Assets Program: Stranded Assets and the Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign
- In our opinion, this is the most significant academic report about fossil fuel divestment to date. Whereas most reports examine the impact of divestment on an institution's portfolio, this report, published by Oxford University's Stranded Assets Program, analyzes the financial and social implications of fossil fuel divestment on the industry itself. In it, the authors develop a social change framework to assess the impact of divestment campaigns in general, then apply their theory to the current fossil fuel divestment campaign. Divestment from fossil fuels, which is the fastest-growing divestment campaign in history, "poses the most far-reaching threat to fossil fuel companies and the vast energy value chain," the authors write. Highly recommended reading.
- Institutionalizing Delay: Foundation Funding and the Creation of U.S. Climate Change Counter-Movement Organizations
- Drexel University professor Robert Bruelle authored the first academic paper, published in the journal Climatic Change, examining the extensive “climate denial machine” established by the fossil fuel industry. The paper clearly traces the ways that the industry has deliberately muddied the political discourse around climate change in order to prevent progress on the issue. For clearer language (albeit a less rigorous analysis), see the Greenpeace study Dealing in Doubt.
- Additional Studies
- Here are five independent studies that each found fossil fuel divestment is a relatively harmless proposal for the average institutional portfolio:
See Videos Hide Videos
- Short, Explanatory Fossil Fuel Divestment Videos
- Here is a video produced by 350 about the divestment campaign:
- Here is a video explaining divestment from the students at American Universty. A bit less professional, but a lot more explanatory:
- Here is a 14-minute mini documentary about the divestment campaign, produced primarily by the students at San Francisco State University:
- Videos By or About Student Climate Culture
- First, a video produced by the student paper, the Vermont Cynic, about a pipeline protest and an early Board of Trustees meeting:
- In the weeks leading up to the Board's initial divestment rejection, we tried to send our Trustees relevant material (studies, etc.) that we felt they needed to see as part of their due diligence. Instead of welcoming the research we had collected, they refused to accept any and all materials that came from students, with one exception. They told us that if we wanted to have a voice in their meeting, we needed to give them a video no longer than 3 minutes, within the week. It was the middle of finals week. Regardless of the disrespect implied by this demand, a few SCC members put aside their studies to produce this video, on time. (And of course, it didn't matter anyway--the Board members had made up their minds long beforehand, and there was nothing we could do to get them to look at the issue differently.)
- Here is another video produced by the Cynic about the Board meeting immediately following the initial rejection:
- Videos About UVM's Divestment From South African Apartheid
- Here are two videos put together by UVM English professor Nancy Welch, regarding UVM's divestment from South Africa in 1985:
There are many observations to be taken from this footage, but one we find particularly salient is how unreasonable the UVM administration was at that time. Students were nearly required to shut down the university before administrators took the issue seriously; given our experience with fossil fuel divestment, we expect a similar circumstance. The Trustees' actions have demonstrated that it does not matter how strong our arguments are or how much we can demonstrate support for the issue among the UVM community. They are not interested in divestment because they are interested in having as much power over the university as they can. To support divestment is to affirm the legitimacy of organized student power to shape the decisions UVM makes as an institution, which is the last thing they want. The administration is going to try to dismiss and obfuscate the issue, and quarantine it among an eternity of subcommittees until all the conscientious students graduate and get out of their hair. Our plan, drawing on the lessons learned from earlier divestment campaigns, is to force them to take our proposal seriously, by any means necessary.