It’s Tuesday, January 29, and Middlebury College just divested from fossil fuels.
For seven years, students at Middlebury College, a liberal arts school in Vermont, have been fighting to get their college’s board of trustees to get rid of its fossil-fuel investments. Today, Grist has learned that the board voted unanimously to fully divest the school’s $1.1 billion endowment from fossil fuels, selling off assets tied to oil, gas, fracking, and other environmentally harmful industries.
The resolution passed by the board on Saturday won’t just put an end to the school’s approximately $55 million-worth of direct investments in oil and gas; it also establishes a carbon tax on the school’s energy consumption aimed at cutting energy use by 25 percent by 2028, mandates that the campus runs entirely on renewable energy, and expands environmental education programs.
The divest movement was led by a Middlebury student organization called the Sunday Night Environmental Group, founded by students under the guidance of environmentalist and author Bill McKibben (a member of Grist’s board of directors).
The road to divestment has been rocky. In 2013, Middlebury’s board of trustees and the school’s president at the time, Ron Liebowitz, decided against divestment from fossil fuels, arguing it was too difficult. What changed? Maybe popular opinion. Last spring, student organizers held a referendum, and around 80 percent of students and 92 percent of faculty supported the move.
Cora Kircher, a current Middlebury student, divestment organizer, and family friend of this journalist, was pretty pumped, too. “I’m just ecstatic,” she said. “I’m so proud of my fellow organizers at Midd and around the world; I’m so proud of my school.” Way to go, ya crazy kids!
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