School’s out on fossil fuels: Divesting in higher education

Graphic by Sachi Mulkey

Illustration by Sachi Mulkey

Related Topics:
Colleges & Education, Natural Gas, Storyfest 2023

The United States higher education system invests over half a trillion dollars into the stock market every year. For many schools, the returns from this invested endowment is critical to their survival. But the market is rife with fossil fuel companies, and a decade ago, almost every school was invested in fossil fuels– a big problem for those who care about a clean energy future. 

Stephen Mulkey. (UMSeas/CC BY 2.0)

Eleven years ago, Unity College, a small environmental college tucked into the woods of rural Maine, became the first institute of higher education in the country to divest, scrubbing their finances clean from fossil fuels. With the help of climate activist Bill McKibben and activist groups, Unity College’s story started a movement. Today, over 100 schools are divested or in the process of divesting from fossil fuels. From private, wealthy goliaths such as Harvard and Yale to the entire California public college system, fossil fuels are out the door. 

On this Planet Forward audio story, I talk to the former president of Unity College about how divestment works and the story of how his school became the first to do it. Also, he happens to be my dad.

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