Divestment isn’t primarily an economic strategy, but a moral and political one. Just like in the struggle for Civil Rights here in America or the fight to end Apartheid in South Africa, the more we can make climate change a deeply moral issue, the more we will push society towards action. We need to make it clear that if it’s wrong to wreck the planet, than it’s also wrong to profit from that wreckage. At the same time, divestment builds political power by forcing our nation’s most prominent institutions and individuals (many of whom sit on college boards) to choose which side of the issue they are on. Divestment sparks a big discussion and — as we’re already seeing in this campaign — gets prominent media attention, moving the case for action forward. For more information on the divestment strategy, click here.
On June 6th, 2013, the Dane County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to pass their divestment resolution, becoming the first county (that we know of) in the US to do so. See press release here, and text of the resolution here. And we also received nice local media coverage from NBC affiliate WMTV.
On April 25th, 2013, Madison’s Mayor Soglin joined nine other mayors around the country in “urging their cities to divest from the top 200 fossil fuel companies because of the industry’s responsibility for the climate crisis.” See their press release here and news story here. Kudos to Mayor Soglin for placing the city of Madison out front as a leader on divestment!
We’re Calling on the UW Foundation to Divest
350 Madison and UW student group Climate Action 350 UW are joining campus fossil fuel divestment campaigns across the country to change the math of the climate crisis. We are calling on the Board of Directors of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Foundation to divest the Foundation’s funds from enterprises that extract, transport, process or distribute fossil fuels. Click here to sign our petition!
According to its mission statement, “The primary purpose of the University of Wisconsin–Madison is to…discover, examine critically, preserve and transmit the knowledge, wisdom and values that will help ensure the survival of this and future generations and improve the quality of life for all.” We find an intolerable contradiction between the University’s mission and the UW Foundation’s investing in companies that not only threaten the future for today’s students, but which threatens human civilization as we know it.
On March 6, 2013, about 2 dozen people went to the UW Foundation office bearing letters and presents for the Foundation Board, to remind them that as good stewards they should divest from fossil fuels. It was a good day. We gave them a letter from our first faith group, the Madison Society of Friends, asking them to divest. We gave them a copy of the divestment resolution passed by the TAA on Monday. We gave them letters signed by 90 current and retired faculty and staff. And we gave them each a Fossil Free pinwheel to remind them of what they need to do and where we need to go with our energy investments. We hope this generated some discussion among the Board members as they went about their business at their meeting in Florida the second week of March. We hope they talk long and hard about climate disruption and responsible investing. And we hope they realize we will be back again and again until they Go Fossil Free.
On December 3, 2013, a group of 38 people from 350 Madison and Climate Action 350 UW delivered over 1,200 petition signatures, along with this letter, to President Knetter at the Foundation.
You can join our campaign calling on the UW Foundation to divest! Here’s how:
- Sign the online petition at this link (and share this link with everyone you know!): http://campaigns.gofossilfree.org/petitions/university-of-wisconsin-madison
- Or download the hard copy petition here, collect signatures, and mail completed petitions to: Seth Jensen, 1218 E. Mifflin, Madison, WI, 53703
- Are you a UW faculty or staff member? Do you know some, current or retired? Sign this faculty letter of support, and see instructions for submitting it here.
- Ask your faith community leaders to revise this sample letter to fit their organization, stating their support for our divestment campaign, and send it to the UW Foundation. Thus far, two faith communities, Yahara Friends Meeting and Madison Monthly Meeting (Quakers), have signed on in support of our divestment campaign!
- We’ve also started divestment campaigns targeting other investors in our community. Sign the petition to “Divest Wisconsin Public Employee Retirement Funds”, whose target is SWIB, the 30th largest institutional investor in the world with over $80 billion in assets.
- Are you alumni? Tell your alma mater how much divestment means to you! Send in a donation check that they can only cash WHEN THEY DIVEST. Sign up here to become a part of this national tactic. Click here for a template letter that lays out your conditions for donating, and why you are calling on your alma mater to divest. Then send the letter and your check to: UW Foundation, U.S. Bank Lockbox, Box 78807, Milwaukee, WI, 53278. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org once you’ve sent in your letter! If you don’t want to send in a conditional donation, you could send a letter like this or this to the UW Foundation when they solicit donations from you (feel free to edit as you see fit).
- Contact us at email@example.com for other ways to get involved with the divestment campaign and other local actions.
Ask other institutions to divest:
Do you have a pension fund? Do you want your church to divest their own funds from fossil fuels? We’d love for you to ask any institution you’re associated with to divest. Click here for a letter you can send to institutions’ investment managers, which lays out why they should divest from fossil fuels.
Personal divestment and reinvestment information:
Want to move your personal investments to funds that don’t include fossil fuel companies? Check out these resources that have been compiled by 350 Madison members.
Media coverage of divestment campaign:
Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch: “Climate Campaigners Demand UW Divest from Fossil Fuel”
WORT-FM: In Our Backyard evening news report on petition delivery
Wisconsin Public Radio:
- “350 group targets UW Foundation Oil Holdings”
- “350.org Climate Dispute Heats Up”
- “Lawyer says info can be hard to winnow from University foundations”
- “Climate change activists demand UW drop fossil fuel investments”