Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability

Students Rally for Divestment from Fossil Fuels at Seattle University

  • by Sustainable Student Action

    Climate Change and the Fossil-Fuel Industry    

    In July, 2012, author and activist Bill McKibben published an article in Rolling Stones magazine called “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.” McKibben reminded readers that the countries of the world, through the United Nations, have agreed that we must limit human-induced Image SSA Rally at Librarywarming of the planet to 2°C. To do so, scientists warn that we can only emit 565 more gigatons of CO2. But the fossil fuel industry currently has 2,795 gigatons of CO2 in their reserves and is spending millions every day looking for more carbon to burn. (See for more.) 

    McKibben argued: “…Given this hard math, we need to view the fossil-fuel industry in a new light. It has become a rogue industry, reckless like no other force on Earth.” It is also the most profitable industry on Earth.  

    Seattle University Divestment

    In response to this scary math, people across the globe are calling for divestment from the fossil-fuel industry. For the sake of humanity and the well-being of other species and ecological systems the fossil-fuel industry must be stopped from doing what it does best: drilling and mining oil, coal and gas to burn for energy. Impassioned by their Jesuit education and the longing for a just and humane world, the student club Sustainable Student Action (SSA) is calling on Seattle University to divest from fossil fuels.  

    Image SSA March at Admin

    Divestment 101

    Divestment involves selling off investments in a particular industry to make a moral or political statement with potential economic leverage. Seattle University, like all universities, has an endowment which it invests in the stock market as a means of producing revenue. SSA calls on Seattle University to take a moral and political stand with their investments. Divestment has been used as an effective political tool, perhaps most notably as a tool to help overturn South Africa’s apartheid policy. 

    Students Rally  

    On May 2nd SSA led a rally to demonstrate student support for divestment. Over 150 students (and a few faculty and staff) gathered as speeches and spoken word rang out on the library steps.  It was a stirring experience, as students expressed their demands to the administration. Once the speeches concluded, rally participants marched to the administration building. Student leaders delivered a petition with over 600 signatures demanding that SU divest from fossil fuels. For good measure, they also dropped off an oil barrel for President Stephen Sundborg, S.J. 

    SSA’s Request

    Image SSA March and Barrel

    Father Sundborg, Administrators, and the Board of Trustees:

    Because we as an institution have made it our mission to act for social justice and sustainability, we call on Seattle University to immediately freeze any new investment in fossil-fuel companies, whose practices condemn the planet to climate disaster, and to divest within three years from direct ownership and from any co-mingled funds that include fossil-fuel public equities and corporate bonds.

    SSA Gained an Audience

    Based on the success of the rally, SSA was invited to speak at a meeting of the university’s Investment Committee. Student leaders expressed how Seattle University’s mission and the education they are receiving drive them to make a moral and political statement against the largest threat to justice and humanity on this planet.

    Now What

    SSA is waiting for a response from the Investment Committee. This summer the group will use social media to distribute an electronic petition, especially focused on reaching alumni. SSA is deeply committed to this divestment campaign, and looks forward to working with the administration in the future.

    Get Involved

    “Like” SSA on Facebook at Sustainable Student Action and sign the online petition.  To join SSA, or find out more about organizing the movement, contact Ames Fowler at