Divestment Crusaders Set Their Sights On Massachusetts

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Environmental activists in Massachusetts are moving ahead on fossil fuel divestment, even as a growing number of high-profile environmentalists continue to warn against full-scale divestment.

Following the University of Massachusetts system’s recent decision to jettison its $770 million endowment from fossil fuel holdings, divestment crusaders in the state now believe the time is now to get Massachusetts to purge oil.

“In terms of state divestment, I think this is a huge boost of momentum,” Craig Altemose, executive director of the Better Future Project, told reporters Monday. “This is a statewide public institution that decided it wants to align its investments with its values and the future of its students.”

He added that divestment movements such as the ones created by anti-fracking activist Bill McKibben represent how much the fossil fuel industry contributes to so-called global warming. Altemose predicted that fossil fuels could become less prevalent in the future as a result of green technology.

Altemose went on to say that he believes people are starting to see “the writing is on the wall that fossil fuels are immoral to be investing in.”

The Massachusetts cities and towns that have voted to purge include Cambridge, Boston, Somerville, Framingham, Concord, Sudbury, Provincetown and Truro, according to the Better Future Project, a Massachusetts-based environmentalist activist group.

“Every win bolsters the campaigns that are already on the ground, but for those decision-makers who already have their minds set, it doesn’t move them,” said Alyssa Lee, the Better Future Project’s campus organizer. She was referring to the number of schools in the state that have either divested from oil or are considering an oil sell off.

The University of Massachusetts Foundation Board of Directors, which monitors and allocates UMass’ massive $700 million endowment fund, voted unanimously in May to jettison the school’s fossil fuel assets equaling $5 million. The university sold off less than 1 percent of its overall endowment – hardly a sacrifice.

The move to jettison oil and gas was in response to divestment protests in early April orchestrated by environmental groups such as, the brainchild of divestment champion Bill McKibben. The Divest UMass protest attracted 250 people, most of whom chose to participate in a sit-in at the UMass Amherst Whitmore Administration Building — the sit-in eventually led to 34 arrests.

Meanwhile, several high-level environmental activists have warned that the divestment movement is a no-go, mostly because the entire world is beholden to fossil fuels.

Former NASA climate scientist and godfather of global warming, James Hansen, for instance, said in a 2013 interview that the belief that “renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.”

The White House has also chastised those who believe the world can divest from oil.

The U.S. cannot ban all fossil fuel resources overnight, the White House said in response to a February petition from anti-fossil fuel activists requesting federal lands stop being used to develop fossil fuels. The petition requested President Barack Obama secure his so-called climate legacy by “halting all new drilling, fracking, and mining on public lands and waters.”

“Even as we move full steam ahead towards cleaner energy, the United States will still need to use fossil fuels in the near term,” the White House wrote in a post on its website.

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