By divesting, the nation's capital would be calling on country, state, and local governments, as well as businesses, to take urgently needed action to prevent the worst-possible impacts of climate change from becoming a reality.
At a time when institutions of business and government continue to fail society, two of our leading academic institutions missed the opportunity to provide essential moral leadership on the most pressing challenge ever faced in the history of human civilization.
Today, on the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, Brown University defied the will of its student body and its own investment advisory committee and voted not to divest from the 15 largest U.S. coal companies.
"We demand that Columbia and Barnard immediately freeze any new investment in the 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies currently holding the vast majority of the world's proven coal, oil and gas reserves," the initiative read in part.
Just as you have a duty to look out for Harvard's academic mission, the City of Seattle must look out for our employees, who rely on our pension system for a secure retirement. We also share a greater and overlapping responsibility -- one to our planet and to future generations.
Europe is the next front in the growing movement. Home to some of the largest stock exchanges and corporations in the world, making progress in Europe will be key if the divestment effort wants to pose a serious threat to the fossil fuel industry.
It is always good to remind ourselves that progressive change doesn't happen overnight, that most progress comes as steppingstone victories, and that setbacks are a normal part of the struggle for social justice. Social justice activists have to be marathon runners, not sprinters.
The word "divest" was like a dog whistle to campus activists who've been pushing their colleges and universities to rid their endowments of stock in companies that are part of the fossil fuel industry.
Sitting in our inboxes and on our desks are two piles of petitions we've received as university presidents. One pile consists of petitions we are being asked to sign; the other contains those telling us what we should or should not do.
What these new numbers from the White House remind us is that the real question isn't the cost of divesting from the fossil fuel industry, but the cost of staying invested in an industry that is trashing the planet.
Colleges should devote more time to teaching economics and elementary finance to their students. Armed with some basics, these well-meaning students would be able to make a much bigger impact on our world.
RISD students have been pushing for divestment since January, but after an initially positive response, the Board of Trustees has now refused to move any proposals forward despite large amounts of support from students and faculty.