A year ago, Oregon State University student Jessie Pettibone had never heard of divestment. But last April, a social-media post drew him into to a national movement started by the climate action nonprofit 350.org to divest funds from the fossil fuel industry. Part of the goal was to reinvest in sustainable practices. As president of the group, OSU Divest, Pettibone and almost 20 faculty and student members worked to pass a divestment resolution in the OSU Faculty Senate and one branch of the Associated Students of OSU government.
Currently six percent of the OSU Foundation’s total endowment is in the fossil fuel industry, but OSU Divest hopes to see that portion reinvested elsewhere. OSU Divest member Lexa McCallister sees divestment as a way to change our priorities, despite fossil fuels still comprising the bulk of the energy market due to their refined processes.
“We’re shifting gears and making fossil fuels less economically advantageous,” McCallister says.
This movement is anything but isolated. Campuses, cities and organizations across the country are pushing for divestment, and 10 colleges have already made the switch. With OSU President Ed Ray’s signature on a university agreement to be carbon neutral by 2025, supporting divestment is a step towards adapting to a changing planet.
“This affects everything,” Pettibone says. “We can turn off lights and recycle all we want, but there are bigger problems. Our core group is not that big — no more than 20 people — but we have made this big impact.”
While the OSU Foundation has yet to take an official stance, it has been receptive to the idea and is open to discussing it further. For now, the group will continue to press onwards through petitions and meetings as it demonstrates the impact that a small group of individuals can have on a global issue.
In February 2014, the First Alternative Co-op participated in Transformation Without Apocalypse at Oregon State University.