Last fall, the climate advocacy group 350.org held a series of rallies in 21 cities across the U.S., making the case that combating climate change requires fossil fuel companies to leave a large portion of their reserves in the ground — and that large-scale divestment by their shareholders could help convince them to do so. Since then, four small U.S. colleges have committed to ridding their endowments of fossil fuel investments, and more than 250 other colleges and universities have spawned student- or faculty-led divestment campaigns pushing for action in the next five years.
When the group held a rally in Seattle in November, a couple of unusual things happened.
First, the night ended with a commitment to set the divestment process in motion — a rarity in what can be a long and difficult process. Second, the promise came not from a university, but from Mike McGinn, the mayor of Seattle, making the city the first in the U.S. to embrace fossil fuel divestment.