I have a friend from Kentucky. Coal Country. He’s been in Yankee territory now for as long as I’ve known him, but he is most definitely from Dixie. Even his accent still shows it.

He was in a Masters Program in Soil Science when he had this harebrained idea for a graduate project. He would go back to the land of his youth with, what might be called by his neighbors, a “Northern” idea.

Those blue hills of his childhood were not fit for agriculture. You can’t put crops on the side of an arbored Appalachian slope. That’s why all the folks on Rocky Top get their corn from a jar. Many farmers prefer to grow on flat land. The thing was, some of those mountaintops were flat now, thanks to the controversial mountaintop removal method used to access more coal with less labor.

So my friend had this idea to try and reclaim those areas, revitalizing the soil and introducing an agricultural landscape. At least one of the coal companies heads he spoke with was happy to throw some money at the project. A lot of money. Especially for a good ol’ Kentucky boy.

Whether it was the perception of that money being less than clean, or the impressive scope of the project, it has not yet come to fruition.

This project may still come to be, but what strikes me is the concept of how much money there is to be had, and how we just need to figure out ways to channel it onto and into farms, farm common land and land access projects.

Groups like the Responsible Endowments Coalition (REC), who are hosting a conference May 8th, are already working with similar goals in mind. The REC works to change the way colleges invest, shifting from investments that fund social and environmental destruction and creating pathways to investments that build community, a clean energy infrastructure, and a just economy.

Colleges and Universities can divest from the fossil fuel industry and reinvest in land, agriculture and community. In a way, a big picture version of turning the abused mountaintop into a farm.

Learn more about the Responsible Endowments Coalition (REC) and

Attend their Conference May 8th in New York City

Barnard Divest

The following is information on the REC’s fossil fuel divestment initiative.

College students and alumni at over 300 colleges and universities across the United States are demanding universities:

Stop: Freeze new investments in the fossil fuel industry.

Drop: Divest and implement screens to ensure their portfolios are fossil free within the next 5 years.

Roll: Reinvest 5% of their endowment into community and energy solutions like credit unions and revolving loan funds.

Fossil fuel companies like Chevron, Shell, and Exxon are responsible for thousands of deaths each year. Most directly affected communities that have been fighting these extractive industries for decades have called for support from students. Divestment is a way to take action against these corporations locally, and end the silence around the deadly impacts of fossil fuels.

Additionally, as supported by the newest IPCC report, the urgency of climate change cannot be overstated. The burning of fossil fuels is the leading contributor to climate change. Divestment and reinvestment not only tackles the root of this problem, but spurs the development of innovative sustainable technologies and enables communities to creatively come up with solutions by investing money directly into community-controlled institutions.

We are asking for 5 percent of the endowment to be reinvested in climate solutions, with 1 percent in community investment and 4 percent in traditional endowment asset classes.  For specific examples of appropriate reinvestment, click here.

Sign up here to let us know you are interested in getting in touch with a REC staff member for support on your fossil fuel divestment and reinvestment campaign. You can also send an email to organize@endowmentethics.org.

For more resources on fossil fuel divestment and reinvestment, click here.


Taking Away and Giving Back
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