1. Introduction

It’s time to write a new chapter in the fight against climate change.

The Stakes

A few years ago, global warming seemed like a distant threat, something that would maybe affect our great grand-children, but not us. In 2012, that all changed. Now, millions of people have witnessed climate disruption first hand in the terrible droughts, floods, heat-waves, wildfires, and storms that have ravaged much of the globe. Scientists warn us that we’re reaching tipping points where the system could spin out of control.

We Have the Solutions

Unless we take action. We have the solutions to solve this crisis. Every day, scientists are inventing new technologies that can free us from the tyranny of fossil fuels. Around the world, citizens are coming together to transform their communities—planting gardens, putting up solar panels, fighting dirty energy projects, painting bike lanes, and advocating for change. Local governments are implementing groundbreaking new policies that will dramatically reduce pollution and improve quality of life. Around the world, people power has shut down coal plants and mining operations, occupied the offices of corporate polluters, and blocked major projects like the Keystone XL pipeline.

But we still have more work to do. Here in the United States, “climate change” was a laugh-line in political conventions and was absent from presidential debates for the first time since in 20 years. To understand why, just follow the money. Every year, the fossil fuel industry spends hundreds of millions of dollars to lobby politicians and buy elections. They’ve bought the silence of our politicians and filled our airwaves with misinformation. Unless we can break the stranglehold these industries have over our democracy and our economy, we’re never going to see the climate progress we need.

But We Need a New Strategy

Past movements can help teach us how. In the late 1980s, a movement sprung up on college campuses and in communities across the United States to divest from the apartheid government of South Africa. Eventually, 155 universities ended their investments in companies that were helping prop up the regime. Divestment not only applied direct economic pressure, but also helped reveal the immorality of apartheid, galvanizing a movement of concerned citizens around the world. The divestment campaign was successful because it was supported by a wider movement that included protests, demonstrations, marches, and creative campaigns that highlighted the atrocities occurring in South Africa. Combined with the incredible leadership of the South African freedom movement, the apartheid government crumbled decades earlier than many thought was possible.

A similar strategy can help us topple the fossil fuel regime. This guide is broken up into two main sections: how to run a fossil fuel divestment campaign on college campuses and how to build a powerful movement off campus that takes on the fossil fuel industry.

The campus divestment movement will be at the core of a our strategy. Just the presence of student groups advocating for divestment at a hundred or so universities will send ripples through the industry; as schools begin to actually divest, it will send shockwaves. Alumni, professors, and community members will play a key role in this campaign, along with students.

Also, schools aren’t the only institutions that can and should divest from fossil fuel. Religious institutions, foundations, and pension funds all have major holdings in the industry. As this campaign gains momentum, we’ll be looking for opportunities to expand in these directions.

While you’ll hear a lot about the campus divestment work, the off-campus work is just as important. Off-campus, we will work to strip away the fossil fuel industry’s social license, using creative action and online campaigns to help our communities connect the dots between extreme weather events, climate change, the corruption of our democracy, and the overwhelming power of fossil fuel companies. And at every turn, we’ll challenge new dirty energy projects – the fracking, tar sands extraction, mountaintop removal, pipelines,and more that are poisoning our communities and climate.

We can stop them, but only if we work together. Let’s get started.

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