Students throughout the state gathered in Western’s Red Square on Thursday, Feb. 6, to show support at a divestment rally.
Divestment is the process of pulling money invested in fossil fuel companies, such as Exxon Mobile, Lukoil Oil Company and Chevron, and investing instead in renewable energy companies.
Students are asking the university to immediately stop all new investments in fossil fuels and outline a clear five-year divestment plan, said Jenny Godwin, Western senior and former Students for Renewable Energy president.
Western’s SRE club organized the rally to educate students and encourage more people to sign their petition, which they hope will prompt the school to divest, Godwin said.
After months of research and bi-weekly meetings, the club is compiling information and will soon be posting it online so the Associated Students Board of Directors can vote on the issue, Godwin said.
“Once [the AS Board of Directors] has voted and hopefully given the green light for divestment to go forward, it will be presented to Bruce Shepard,” Godwin said. “We really hope that in the spring, he’ll be obliged to present it to the Board of Directors Foundation.”
Western freshman and SRE club member Katelyn Nagel said schools throughout the nation are reaching a critical point.
“We have to put up a united front against investing in fossil fuels, and it’s reaching a pinnacle where, as a society, we can’t accept it anymore,” Nagel said. “We thought having a powerful student demonstration would put pressure on them and show there really is a big student base that agrees with this.”
The divestment movement is now going nationwide and is being promoted on more than 300 campuses, Godwin said.
Ames Fowler, a junior at Seattle University, heard about the rally through the sustainability office at his school and decided to attend to challenge the economical and political power of the fossil fuel industry, he said.
“We need a cultural revolution of sorts in which we come together as small communities and really learn to live ecologically,” Fowler said. “We need a paradigm shift in the way the industry is working. We are going to hold the institutions we’re part of to be accountable in their direct actions and in how they finance themselves.”
John Tuxill, a professor at Fairhaven College who teaches students about climate change, said we all have to contribute to reducing our effects on the atmosphere.
“I feel it’s important to put into practice what we teach,” Tuxill said.
To learn more about the SRE club, students can attend its weekly meeting at 6 p.m. every Tuesday in Viking Union room 460.