Maina, Murray, and McKenzie summarize the literature on campus fossil fuel divestment


in PhD thesis, The environment

From: Maina, Naomi Mumbi and Jaylene Murray and Marcia McKenzie. “Climate change and the fossil fuel divestment movement in Canadian higher education: The mobilities of actions, actors, and tactics.” Journal of Cleaner Production. 2020:

Prior to the current research, few studies have reviewed Canadian HEIs [higher education institutions] investment policies or divestment activities in relation to climate action (Curnow and Gross, 2016; Del Rio, 2017). There has been limited scholarly work on the FFD movement in HEIs in general. The few studies that have examined the movement have explored student activism in climate justice, the connections between FFD and sustainability in higher education, and the factors influencing divestment decisions across the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Netherlands (Curnow and Gross, 2016; Bratman et al., 2016; Grady-Benson and Sarathy, 2016 [sic]; Hamaekers, 2015; Healy and Debski, 2016; LeQuesne, 2016; Ringeling, 2015; Singer-Berk et al., 2014). Studies outside of Canada indicate that FFD is increasingly being engaged as a response to the failure of HEIs to adequately address climate change, and is seeking to (re)politicize climate action by demanding transformative and radical change (Bratman et al., 2016; Healy and Debski, 2016; Ringeling, 2015). In the US, several studies found that students previously involved in sustainability initiatives are now more likely to focus their attention on FFD, with support from other stakeholders such as sustainability officers (Singer-Berk et al., 2014).

Decisions to commit to and/or reject divestment have been reported across U.S., Canada, and U.K. HEIs, with most of the commitments coming from small universities and colleges with smaller endowment funds (Hamaekers, 2015; Healy and Debski, 2016; Grady-Benson and Sarathy, 2016). Common reasons for rejections have been said to include fiduciary duty, cost risk to endowment funds, and minimal impact on fossil fuel industry (Bratman et al., 2016; Healy and Debski, 2016; Singer-Berk et al., 2014). Despite rejections, studies have shown that organizers have escalated their campaign tactics to involve direct action and are prepared to carry out long term organizing until their demands are met (Grady-Benson and Sarathy, 2016; LeQuesne, 2016; Ringeling, 2015).

In the case of the Canadian higher education FFD movement, one of the two existing scholarly studies shows that campaign organizing is shifting towards an intersectional social justice framing (Curnow and Gross, 2016). It describes a shift among FFD student leaders and national organizers such as Divestment Student Network (DSN) towards engagement with race, colonialism, environmentalism and solidarity with Indigenous frontline communities (Curnow and Gross, 2016). The two Canadian studies focused on the campaign at the University of Toronto, outlining the motivations, goals, and outcomes of this campaign (Curnow and Gross, 2016; Del Rio, 2017).

References: (as formatted by these authors)

Curnow and Gross, 2016
J. Curnow, A. Gross
Injustice is not an investment: student activism, climate justice, and the fossil fuel divestment campaign
J. Conner, S.M. Rosen (Eds.), Contemporary Youth Activism: Advancing Social Justice in the United States, Praeger, Santa Barbara, California (2016), pp. 367-386

Del Rio, 2017
F. Del Rio
In a World where Climate Change Is everything…; Conceptualizing Climate Activism and Exploring the People’s Climate Movement (Master’s Dissertation)
Retrieved from McMaster University Libraries Institutional Repository (2017)

Bratman et al., 2016
E. Bratman, K. Brunette, D.C. Shelly, S. Nicholson
Justice is the goal: divestment as climate change resistance
J. Environ. Soc. Sci., 6 (4) (2016), pp. 677-690

Grady-Benson and Sarathy, 2015
J. Grady-Benson, B. Sarathy
Fossil fuel divestment in US higher education: student-led organising for climate justice
Local Environ.: Int. J. Justice. Sustain., 21 (6) (2015), pp. 661-681

Hamaekers, 2015
N. Hamaekers
Why Some Divestment Campaigns Achieve Divestment while Others Do Not: the Influence of Leadership, Organization, Institutions, Culture and Resources (Doctoral Dissertation)
Retrieved from Rotterdam School of Management: Erasmus University (2015)

Healy and Debski, 2016
N. Healy, J. Debski
Fossil fuel divestment: implications for the future of sustainability discourse and action within higher education
Local Environ., 22 (6) (2016), pp. 699-724

Singer-Berk et al., 2014
L. Singer-Berk, M. Matsuoka, B. Shamasunder
Campuses of the Future: the Interplay of Fossil Fuel Divestment and Sustainability Efforts at Colleges and Universities

LeQuesne, 2016
T. LeQuesne
Revolutionary Talk: Communicating Climate Justice
Master’s Thesis, University of California, Santa Barbara (2016)

Ringeling, 2015
X. Ringeling
Transformative Reformism: A Study of the UK University Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement’s Potential for Significant Change
Master’s thesis, University College London (2015)

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

. November 23, 2021 at 10:24 pm

Scholarship and activism in the interest of a more sustainable world.

For my writing on the campus fossil fuel divestment movement, see link below:

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