College students are notorious for their anti-war sensibilities. But that hasn’t stopped several institutions of higher learning from declaring war on fossil fuels. The Fossil Free campaign was started by 350.org, a group dedicated to spreading awareness of climate change in order to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and support the growth of clean and sustainable energy options.
And if you’re wondering about the name of their organization, it comes from the measure of carbon dioxide (350 parts per million) in our atmosphere that scientists say is essential to hit if we want any hope of preserving our planet for future generations. Ideally, it should be even lower, but with a current reading that hovers at 392 ppm, we’ve got a ways to go if we want to bring it down to safe levels. In any case, this global, grass-roots movement is getting college students involved in their growing project by prompting them to take up the fossil free challenge and make their voices heard on campus.
The way to do this is by pushing colleges to stop investing in fossil fuels altogether. The companies that manufacture these products may show a return on investment – no surprise considering their power and influence – but their products and practices are slowly (or not so slowly, as the case may be) poisoning our planet. And since the only thing that could really force these corporations to change the way they do business is tampering with their bottom line, universities that divest themselves of any endowments related to fossil fuel industries are sending a clear message that these companies will hear loud and clear. And while Harvard recently announced that it would not support this movement, despite the fact that 72% of the student body voted to do just that, there are a ton of schools jumping on the 350 bandwagon, including 100 recent additions to the Fossil Free roster.
The question that many schools should be asking themselves is: what kind of world are we sending our students into? If it is our goal to prepare them for healthy and prosperous lives through their education, should we also be concerned about the state of the planet that will support them? And if so, can we do more through our actions to provide these young adults with sustainable solutions for a cleaner, greener tomorrow? In short, is investing in fossil fuels in line with the overarching goals of our organization? For most college administrative boards, the answers to these questions should be obvious. This is probably why so many schools have turned the corner and decided to use their investment funds as a tool to voice their displeasure with the current practices in the fossil fuel industry.
Companies that engage in fossil fuel mining operations, cause nearly irreparable damage to the Earth at every turn while creating products that pollute the air. And with more and more colleges and universities joining 350′s Fossil Free campaign, it won’t be long before the group makes a dent in the industry’s finances. This is just what is needed to influence these companies to change their ways, and change they must if we want the world to continue to support human life. Hopefully, they will see the error of their ways and come to the realization that sustainable energy is not only better for the planet, but also for their brand image and the continuing profitability of their operations.