Western Washington University students gathered in Red Square on May 2 to participate in the Fossil Freedom Day of Action, a national movement that encourages universities to divest in fossil fuels.
Coal, gas and oil are fossil fuels created from the organic remains of prehistoric plants and animals. When burned, their high carbon concentration pollutes the air, adds to the greenhouse effect and warms the Earth, according to the Washington State Department of Ecology website.
The Western Foundation, an organization that invests donations into companies. The money produced is then used for scholarships, said Patrick Stickney, Associated Students presidential candidate .
The divestment campaign is meant to challenge the Western Foundation's investment in fossil fuels, Stickney said. The point is to urge the foundation to invest in things other than fossil fuels.
Western senior and rally participant Eddy Ury said Western is in a good place to become the first public university to commit to divestment in fossil fuels in the U.S.
“[That] could potentially put Western in national news,” Ury said. “It’s the biggest student campaign to come around in decades.”
Ury and other campaign activists think it is possible the recognition could attract more donors to the foundation, he said.
“It’s going to be a great pitch for the school to put on their portfolio and website,” he said.
Ury said he attended a national center for the campaign at Swarthmore College in February, where delegates from 77 American and Canadian universities discussed and organized the day of action, he said.
“We decided to make [the] orange patch the national solidarity symbol for divestment,” Ury said. “This is a new movement representing the [union] of a number economic issues and social justice.”
Universities from all over the country planned to take part in the May 2 day of action, including Stanford, Davidson College in North Carolina and the University of Kansas, according to the website. Seattle University was the only other Washington school that posted a day of action event on the map provided by the website.
Western sophomore Andrew Eckels said he sees divestment as a larger movement to address climate change, and said it’s a great way for students to get involved.
Eckels said he also sees conflict between Western’s reputation for being green and the university’s continued investment in fossil fuels.
“It’s hypocritical for a university to claim to be green and be profiting from the industries that are inherently unsustainable,” Eckels said.