Three years ago, students at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania began advocating for their school divesting its billion-dollar endowment out of the largest companies that profit from drilling for and distributing fossil fuels. This was the beginning of a movement that since has spread to over 400 colleges, as well as churches and other organizations. And while the movement hasn’t been an overwhelming success so far, 15 schools have diverted their investments away from the fossil fuel industry.
Back in July, we wrote about the World Council of Churches, a global coalition of 345 churches representing over half a billion Christians, and their decision to pull all their investments out of fossil fuel. Over the last three years, 180 institutions (including philanthropies, religious organizations, pension funds and local governments) along with a number of wealthy investors have pledged to divest their portfolios of fossil fuel company investments and invest in cleaner energy options. in total, the groups pledge to divest $50 billion of investments, and the individuals over a billion dollars more.
On Monday, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, an $860 million philanthropic organization run by the heirs to the John D. Rockefeller fortune, announced that it would eliminate its investments in the fossil fuel industry. Steven Heintz, president of the fund, said “We are immediately divesting from coal and tar sands, the most carbon intensive fuels,” He went on to say that the fund would assess how to cut other fossil fuel investments, and invest in renewable energy companies.
What makes this particular divestment big news is that it’s the Rockefeller family, whose fortune came from the oil business. And, while the $50 billion so far isn’t huge in the overall scheme of things, it does represent a trend, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund joining the movement makes for a symbolic victory, if nothing else. Steven Heintz said in an interview; “It’s not a huge economic lever, but it does begin to send financial signals and it brings visibility to the issue. This is like a snowball, and it’s going to get more and more mass as it rolls forward.”
Occupy World Writes applauds the Rockefeller Brothers Fund along with the other organizations and individuals who have taken this step. We hope that others will do the same. The planet will thank them for it.