By Peter Nichols Organizer for Cal Arts Divest to Impress Campaign

The Cal Arts Fossil Fuel Divestment movement got its start during the bizarre climate silence of the 2012 Presidential race. Left without any reason to believe in the competence of our national leaders, we took it upon ourselves assert Bill MicKibben’s dictum “if it is wrong to wreck the planet, it is wrong to profit from that wreckage.”

Pretty soon, however, we changed our argument. Turns out it isn’t profitable to wreck the planet. All arguments to the contrary are premised upon externalizing costs, i.e. exploiting and sacrificing communities and resources. We call that practice “false economy” because it is doomed, on a finite planet, to collapse.


We started a petition to gain support for our demand to immediately freeze new fossil fuel investments and to fully divest from fossil fuels within 5 years. It grew in size. It turned into a scroll. It now has well over 800 signatures on it (there are 1441 students).

The Student Council unanimously passed a resolution endorsing the petition
and even added a stipulation: biannual progress updates. The administration gave us details about our endowment and its exposure to the 200 companies listed in the Carbon Tracker Report.

As we continued to build power we also got to researching.

The California Institute of the Arts has an endowment of roughly $115,000,000, and 9% of our investments are in either “energy” or “utility” companies ranging from Exxon Mobil to Gazprom to Duke Energy.

When the Carbon Bubble pops, 60-80% of known fossil fuel reserves must never be burnt, our energy and utility holdings will face a dramatic devaluation, leaving them at only 20 to 40% their current worth.

After some complex math and a lot of support from our economic allies we determined that the California Institute of the Arts stood to lose between $2,918,700 and $3,891,600.

The administration responded to the on-campus power we built, and the new math.

Today our administration took an big step in the right direction. They, in a campus wide email, committed to developing a road map to divest Cal Arts: freezing any new investments in fossil fuels, and refusing to invest in any direct fossil fuel company funds.This part really got us: “At the end of 2012, the Investment Sub-Committee decided against investing in a private energy fund. The decision was based on the committee’s sensitivity to campus concerns regarding fossil fuel investments.”

We are stoked. But we are not satisfied. We will be sure that implementation and accountably are priority #1 come fall. We are ready to return to campus after summer continuing our demand for a green campus with a green portfolio that contributes to a habitable future.