by Laura Humes
Last week, world-renowned environmental activist, author, and 350.org founder Bill McKibben visited the Macalester campus to promote his new book, Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist. The book recounts McKibben’s personal journey to activism, and examines how his actions, on both the local, national, and international stage, are embedded in a larger movement towards sustainability.
McKibben also directly addressed the Fossil Free movement, a national campaign aimed at empowering college students to encourage their administrations to reinvest in sustainable stock options rather than stock tied to the fossil fuel industry. By refusing to invest in fossil fuels, McKibben and others hope to take away the social capital of fossil fuel companies.
Fossil Free divestment campaigns exist at a number of academic institutions in Minnesota, including the University of Minnesota, Augsburg College, the University of St. Thomas, Macalester College, and many more.
At Macalester, a number of students involved in the school’s Fossil Free campaign attended McKibben’s talk. McKibben emphasized the importance of inclusiveness, respectfulness, and persistence in activist groups. Maria Langholz, a member of Fossil Free Macalester, was struck by McKibben’s perspective on activism. “Doing nothing about this issue is a form of action—it’s supporting the unsustainable industries,” Langholz said. She emphasized that changing the current status quo requires direct action and dialogue with administrative leaders.
Rick Beckel, another member of Fossil Free Macalester, also spoke about the future of the Fossil Free movement at Macalester. “We’re trying to move the conversation forward,” he said, speaking of the many outreach events Fossil Free Macalester has engaged in to involve the local community. “Climate change s a formidable and sometimes disempowering topic,” said Beckel. “We’ve made an effort to make this campaign accessible and fun, and engage the Macalester community in a positive way, through events like Fossil Fools’ Day, open Q&A sessions, and collectible buttons.” Currently, Fossil Free Macalester is scheduled to talk to the college’s Social Responsibility Committee in the spring to discuss the feasibility of divestment of the college’s endowment.
While the Fossil Free movement was originally targeted at college and university students, other community leaders, including churches, municipal units, and other institutions are joining the campaign. In fact, a number of community members from outside Macalester’s campus attended McKibben’s talk.
“I think that’s symbolic,” Beckel said. “Young people realize they’re worried about the world they’re inheriting, and the older demographic is doing their best so that this place in the best shape possible for us.”
Currently the Minneapolis, Edina, and Duluth all have active Fossil Free campaigns. To find a group near you, visit the interactive map on Fossil Free’s website.
Laura Humes is a student at Macalester College with a passion for conservation, sustainability, and community activism.