Inside the Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement

When we spend money, we make investments. Even when we make purchases that are seemingly insignificant, such as a coffee on the way to work or a nice dinner, we put money towards something in the hopes of experiencing a return. While investments can benefit those who are willing to shell out the money to support a company or industry, they can also support unsustainable practices such as fossil fuels and unsustainable energy. It is important to understand exactly where our money is going when we invest. 

Fig. 2- Burning Fossil Fuel pollution- Source:

In 2014 alone, fossil fuel powered energy sources were responsible for 78 percent of the United States total global warming emissions. Due to these environmental and social costs, environmental activists have become louder in their calls to divest from fossil fuels. Fossil fuel divestment, the removal of investment assets from companies involved in fossil fuels extraction and processing in an attempt to reduce global climate change, has become a major movement influencing policy and driving awareness about the price we all pay with our reliance on fossil fuels. Divestment has become a national movement protesting unsustainable energy and continues to grow as consequences of fossil fuel reveal themselves, exemplified by the recent leaks across the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.  With fossil fuels taking the prize as the the largest single source of toxic air pollution in the U.S, our dependence on and support of fossil fuels has reached a critical level of damage to public and environmental health. Our world continues to support unsustainable practices, and without action to change our current practices, global climate change due to fossil fuels will only intensify.

By profiling the divestment movement and the activists that promote its vision of sustainability, we have the chance to plan for a future that is opposed to investment in fossil fuels and open to renewable energy sources for a cleaner global future.

Fig. 2- Students protesting Fossil Fuel investment at UCSB- Source:

Here in Santa Barbara, the divestment movement is closer to our community than one may think. Student activists at UCSB have been pushing for the UC system to divest from fossil fuels for years, protesting against an institution of higher education that uses student’s tuition to invest in fossil fuels. This movement to divest has recently become a major event across several UC campuses as students host sit ins and occupations of UC offices to demand divestment from fossil fuels. So far student movements from UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, UC San Diego,  and UC Davis have led to their respective chancellors supporting petitions to divest UC funds from fossil fuels. These developments have the chance to influence the UC board of regents, potentially leading to the divestment of the 2.8 billion dollars that the UC system currently invests in fossil fuels.

The important aspect of UC Divestment lies in the economic power that the UC system has. In supporting clean, sustainable energy, California’s higher education system has a chance to exemplify a higher education that protects our future and planet. While the UC system has taken steps towards implementing sustainable practices, a transition to clean energy in such a large institution has potential to set an example for universities across the country and promotes an environmentally and socially conscious global community.

Fig. 3- Seattle citizens protest Wells Fargo investment in DAPL- Source:








This activism is apparent outside of the UC system and has taken root in major cities across our nation. One of the most recent examples of major divestment is evident in Seattle’s recent divestment from Wells Fargo in protest of the bank’s investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline. This milestone has set an example of the power that divestment can have in creating a sustainable future. By setting an example of the power that community organization in regards to revoking support of unsustainable practices, our communities have the chance to take activism in regards to fossil fuel into our their own hands.

In divesting from fossil fuels, we have a chance to change our future. By targeting parties that sit across the spectrum of fossil fuel investment, from large corporations to local governments, citizens of communities across the world have the chance to take matters into their own hands. Students protesting the UC system’s investments are gaining more ground each day and movements in local communities are growing exponentially. The divestment movement’s growth is dependent on community activists and community divestment movements (like the resources found here). Even little steps such as signing petitions (such as the one for Santa Barbara found here) have the chance to make a major difference in our global future.



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