Oberlin, OH; October 30, 2022
The student- and alumni-led Oberlin Fossil Fuel Divestment Working Group comments on a milestone resolution by Oberlin’s Board of Trustees.
The Board of Trustees of Oberlin College and Conservatory at their October 2022 meeting publicly pledged to the “orderly divestiture of investment funds related to fossil fuel development.” Oberlin thus joins 1500+ institutions worldwide who have divested over $40 trillion in assets from fossil fuels. They include 76 of Oberlin’s US sister institutions of higher education. “This is a very important milestone,” commented John Petersen, Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Biology at Oberlin. “The recent decision to make this divestment commitment formal and public sends a message to the world that Oberlin views a fossil fuel free global economy as central to the education and survival of future generations.” Read the complete resolution.
The Board’s decision was greeted with enthusiasm by climate activists outside the Oberlin community as well. Bill McKibben, Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and perhaps the nation’s leading environmentalist, said, “Oberlin has been such a standout in the field of environmental studies—and now it is walking the talk in a powerful way. Many thanks to the students, faculty, and alumni who have persevered for many years to make this happen; that kind of persistence will be key in all the climate fights that lie ahead.”
Oberlin for decades has been recognized for its national and global leadership in significant responses to the climate crisis. In 2006, Oberlin was the first of its peer institutions to formally commit to a zero-carbon campus. It is now nearing conclusion of a major Sustainability Infrastructure Program that will make the entire campus carbon-neutral by 2025. At the same time, it has quietly and significantly reduced its fossil fuel investment.
The latest wave of alumni, faculty and student advocacy began in early 2022 with the formation of the Oberlin Fossil Fuel Divestment Working Group. Months of research, analysis, and communication with divestment activists at other universities, notably Harvard, resulted in a May 2022 Call for Oberlin’s Board of Trustees to Link Divestment from Fossil Fuels to its Commitment to a Carbon Neutral Campus by 2025. Read the full statement: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1KU6mrkfQphXzehWh7QhWCeVX2qQzFY-L/view?usp=sharing)
The Call underlined the importance of a public pledge: “The mega-corporations whose profits depend on fossil fuel extraction show no sign of stopping the machine that is driving life on this planet to the brink,” the Working Group wrote. “Their economic and political power is, on the face of it, unmatchable. It is only through collective action, such as the divestment movement, that there is a chance to stop it.” In short, the group urged Oberlin to take on a larger responsibility, one that took a stand commensurate with the existential threat facing the planet.
The Working Group congratulates the Board of Trustees on their critical resolution and thanks the Oberlinians who joined the Fossil Fuel Divestment campaign. It does so with love for the rising generations of Oberlin students and to express its deepest concern for the unjust burden that is placed on the world’s poorest people.
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Contact: Steering Committee for the Oberlin Fossil Fuel Divestment Working Group
Sue Kerr Chandler ’65, firstname.lastname@example.org, 775 229-2933
Molly Niles Cornell ’65, email@example.com, 508 274-8843
Sylvia Lotspeich Greene ’65, firstname.lastname@example.org, 978 809-4409
Sally St.John Volkert , email@example.com, 303 386-2705
 Global Fossil Fuel Commitments Data Base, https://divestmentdatabase.org/.