Stanford University uses its purse strings to protest coal companies

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Marco Werman: Divestment proved to be a powerful tool for the anti-Apartheid movement. Remember the push to get American institutions to pull their dollars out of South Africa? These days, the word divestment is more closely associated with climate change, and on that front, big news today - Stanford University announced it will no longer invest any of its $18 billion endowment in coal mining companies. The university's president said the move is meant to promote sustainability. Yari Greaney, a junior at Stanford and a member of the group "Fossil Free Stanford" and she is pretty excited about the news. Yari Greaney: It was one of the most empowering moments of my life. I've grown up in the context of climate change, we've learned about, we've known that there were solutions but we've been so frustrated that adequate action hasn't been taken given the urgency of this issue. The divestment movement has really given me and other students something to rally around, something concrete that we can use to fight climate change in a big way. It's so heartening that a university listened to us. Institutions are listening to individuals and we can leverage the power of institutions, have an impact on the national dialogue and in turn affect the way the climate goes. Werman: When I think divestment, my mind goes back to my college days and divestment from South Africa, which was a cause that many campuses championed around the US. Was that also happening at Stanford and did you think about South Africa yourself when you and Fossil Free Stanford were thinking about strategies? Greaney: Yes, absolutely. When we speak with administrators and when we speak with alumni, we often hear "Oh yes, well I was part of that divestment movement decades ago." We've been able to draw from that. That movement was what created these official channels at Stanford for us to voice our concerns about the endowment, so that was very powerful. It's really interesting to realize that that generation all feels some sort of tie to that divestment movement and now we have this divestment movement and this will be the movement that our generation remembers as the movement that really bolstered the rest of the climate movement. Werman: How much was Stanford's endowment was tied up in coal? Greaney: Stanford isn't transparent about where exactly their endowment goes but they're working with their external asset managers to encourage them to pull our endowment out of the coal industry and we feel like that can have a big impact and help other institutions transition away from coal as well. Werman: You do realize that you did play some role in freezing some chunk of $18 billion? That must have been kind of empowering. Greaney: Yes, it is very empowering. It's good to see that this generation has the power to affect change in a big way. We can turn off our lights and we can live as sustainable a life as we possibly can and still not feel like adequate change is being made on a political level and on a national and global level. This is just finally a way that we can really pull together to make that happen. Werman: Yari Greaney, a junior at Stanford University, who is a part of Fossil Free Stanford, they helped Stanford divest its investments in the coal industry. Yari, thanks very much. Greaney: Thank you so much.