Greetings from Whitman College in Walla Walla Washington! Here at Whitman, our young campaign has grown up very fast. We had our very first demonstration in February and have already had three meetings with administrators and trustees. This is one upside to campaigning for action on a small campus – people hear you. Now, whether or not people act after hearing is another story. In our experience at Whitman, after listening, people tend to talk more. In this way, we have definitely brought the climate change conversation back to campus.

But this time, when people here talk about climate change, they are also talking about the fossil fuel industry, and the national energy infrastructure. By re-approaching the gargantuan problem of our generation from a new angle (divestment) I believe we have done a great service to ourselves. We have created an entry point in the seemingly unfixable fortress of this problem. We can use the finance sector to make something of this mess, to begin to solve this puzzle.

At Whitman, economics have been the centerpiece of most conversations on Divestment. This may be because Whitman has a high population of economics majors and young investors, or it could be because we are still a young campaign and haven’t had time to develop a broad issue base around divestment that groups like Swarthmore have with their well-refined and relentless commitment to social justice. With economics dominating the discourse, we have felt confined and occasionally denigrated by the language and conventions of the finance world. This has been difficult but it has also been enlightening and has led our campaign in new directions. For example, we have had the opportunity to conference with 6 finance professionals from across the field who all have important things to say about divestment. I won’t go into detail about these conversations yet, but I do want to share one exciting realization that they warranted: People are talking about us in the board rooms. Boston Common Asset Management even published a statement about the national campaign in relation to their investment strategy. 

Now, we are a powerful movement even without validation from the higher-ups we are pressuring, but I have to say this validation feels good, and at Whitman we see it as something to celebrate. When more people from every background join in on this conversation, our words will be more resonant and our solutions more comprehensive. Last night at our local Do The Math screening we heard four strong voices from the Walla Walla community who all expressed awe, support, and new ideas for the work we’ve been doing on campus. One week from today, Bill Mckibben will be speaking here and we expect talk and action to flourish after that event.  As the conversation heats up, our regional rumbles will soon become a national thunder.