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Divest Coal expands goals under new name

Fossil Free Brown, green activist group, urges divestment from top 200 fossil fuel firms

One year after the Corporation decided not to divest the University’s endowment from the country’s 15 biggest coal companies, the Brown Divest Coal Campaign is redoubling its efforts, changing its name to Fossil Free Brown and altering its mission to divesting from the top 200 fossil fuel companies in the world.

Divestment from fossil fuels has always been part of the group’s broad mission, said Ryan Greene ’16, a member of Fossil Free Brown. But in the past, group members chose to focus on divestment from coal because they hoped a more specific campaign would achieve immediate results and pave the way for future divestment from other fossil fuels, he said.

When the Corporation’s “no vote” on divestment from coal was made public last October, the group decided that “it made more sense to ask for what we really wanted,” Greene said.

This summer, Greene and five other undergraduates helped plan the group’s transition toward tackling a broader issue.

“Given the urgency of the problem and the reality of it, it makes much more sense to expand our ask to all fossil fuels,” said Camila Bustos ’16, another member of Fossil Free Brown.

“This is a new campaign with a lot of membership that overlaps with the last one and a lot of history that overlaps with the last one,” Greene said.

While divestment is a financial action, group members assert that the movement is more about social justice than money.

“My goal is that the Brown community critically engages with the question of climate change as a social justice issue,” Bustos said.

“The people in the group fundamentally see the fossil fuel industry as exacerbating and perpetuating social inequity,” Greene said.

Since the semester began, the group has focused on creating a community in which new members are kept up to speed on the history of the campaign and feel their voices are heard.

In focusing on fossil fuels, the movement at Brown aligns with campaigns at campuses across the country.

“In a lot of ways the action being taken on our campus ties directly to movements on other campuses in other cities,” Greene said, citing the 400 campuses pledged to the Fossil Free campaign.

“Of the many factors that went into our decision, one of them was being in solidarity with a national movement, internationally, all over the world,” said Cameron Johnson ’17, who has been involved with the movement since the beginning of last year. He added that this solidarity creates a “collective power.”

Several other institutions in the U.S. and abroad have recently reached decisions to divest. On Wednesday, Glasgow University in Scotland became the first European institution to divest from fossil fuels, marking a victory for the Glasgow University Climate Action Society, multiple news outlets reported. Last May, Stanford University’s Board of Trustees concluded the university would not make direct investments in coal mining companies following a campaign by Fossil Free Stanford, according to a Stanford press release.

“From alums to faculty to students, so many people I’ve talked to are severely disappointed” by the Corporation’s decision against divestment, Greene said. But while group members were disheartened by the Corporation’s decision not to divest, “there were a lot of victories,” he added.

Corporation members were forced to consider climate change and how the University is implicated, Green said, adding that the group also perceived an outpouring of support from individuals both inside and outside the Brown community.

Several group members expressed excitement that the Undergraduate Council of Students has included a question on this year’s undergraduate fall poll about support for divestment from coal.

“This is a big chance for people to interact with the issue,” Johnson said.

“The conversation is not over,” he added. “We are not done.”


Correction: A previous version of this article misstated that the Corporation voted against divesting from coal. In fact, it decided against doing so without a formal vote. The Herald regrets the error.


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