Meagan Tokunaga is a member of the Pomona College Divestment Team, Cross-Posted from the Claremont Climate Justice website.

Check out great coverage in their student newspaper here:

Today the Pomona College Divestment Team celebrated two years of organizing for climate justice, and urged the Trustees to reconsider their previous decision on divestment. The campaign began on this day two years ago, so today we celebrated with cake, party hats, and balloons for a Birthday Celebration Action. We were joined by guest speakers including professors Brinda Sarathy and Char Miller, as well as Dong Gould, Pitzer College Trustee and Pomona College alumnus. Following the speeches, and a few exciting announcements from our team, we marched to the Office of the President, where we delivered petition signatures and an invitation to join the divestment party. Here is my reflection of the action, climate justice, and the national divestment movement.

I’m deeply troubled by inequality in income, education, and most specifically, environmental harm. I came to Pomona excited to make a difference in some of the social problems we face. Yet I was disappointed after my first year here. I don’t think we talk about these issues enough, and when we do, how often do we actually do anything about it? As students at this school, we have the opportunity to contribute to causes beyond those that immediately affect us – but do we? For me, divestment is an effective way of getting our peers to think about social responsibility, climate change, and the larger capitalist systems that cause it.


Divestment is not the only approach to addressing climate change, but I believe it is the best way to challenge college communities of their role in the climate movement. More than actions to reduce our campus’ carbon footprint, divestment encourages students to address the causes of climate change in political and economic systems dominated by fossil fuel companies. Divestment incorporates a dimension of justice that many previous environmental movements have lacked; by targeting the fossil fuel companies themselves, we consider climate justice: the disproportionate burden of climate change on low-income and minority communities.

We see divestment as part of a greater student movement for social justice. Our sister organization, Claremont Climate Justice, is working to fight fracking and toxic waste sites in the Inland Empire. Organizers from Claremont Climate Justice coordinated a march of over 400 students last Tuesday. Their Ferguson Grand Jury Announcement Solidarity Action inspires us; it shows us that students are willing to stand up against the greater racial and economic discrimination facing our country.

It is not a coincidence that certain communities continue to face the contributing pollution and negative effects of climate change. Divestment lets us stand with these communities, rather than against them. Divestment is just one of many tactics for climate justice. It is the best action Pomona can take to participate in the climate movement right now.
Pomona’s campaign is just one of over three hundred student divestment campaigns across the country. Finally, young people are demonstrating their commitment to fighting climate change. The national movement received its first batch of divestment rejections last year, which did nothing to diminish student support. The movement ignited. Students at Washington University in St. Louis were arrested. Harvard students have fasted and gone to jail. Just this month, students at American University held the largest divestment demonstration, with over 300 in attendance, as a part of 7 actions leading up to their Trustee vote.

Here’s where the big announcement comes in. Facing administrations unwilling to cooperate, like our own, students rallied against the largest endowment financial advisor in the country: Cambridge Associates. If you recall, Cambridge is our financial advisor, who wrote a report that claimed divestment at Pomona would come at great expense. Over the summer, students rallied weekly outside Cambridge offices across the country. The result? This month, cambridge announced that they would support institutions interesting in divesting from fossil fuels. Cambridge expanded its Mission-Related Investment database to clear any obstacle for clients seeking to divest their financial holdings. This announcement removes a major barrier for colleges seeking to divest their financial portfolios, and opens up better communication between investor demand and asset manager supply. With the support from the school’s financial advisor, the cost of divesting Pomona’s endowment should be significantly less than previously anticipated.
When President Oxtoby rejected divestment last fall, he based the decision on a cost estimate that assumed we would have to create our own fossil free pathways. Now that we have Cambridge’s support, this argument no longer supports Pomona’s rejection. The terms have changed, and so should Pomona’s decision.

With this news, the divestment movement is only going to gain in momentum. We’ve already seen Stanford divest from coal, Pitzer from 99% of its endowment, and just yesterday, Concordia University in Canada of $5 million. They are contributing to the climate movement. We have to decide what side we want to be on: the one that watches as our peers surpass us, or the one that accepts the opportunity to lead. Today we formally invited the Pomona community to join the divestment party!

The exciting news doesn’t end there. This morning we received a response from the Trustees regarding our request to present at their February meeting. Due to our our campaigning this semester, we have been invited to present to the Full Board of Trustees on February 26. I would like to congratulate the Pomona Divestment campaign for this major victory. We have coordinated our voices so effectively that the Trustees have no other option but to listen. I want to thank all the members of our team for the countless hours spent petitioning, writing op eds, planning this event, and talking to peers. It is your passion and ability to engage the Pomona community that inspires others to act.

We are so thankful for the opportunity to present on February 26, but the presentation alone is not enough. Allowing us to present will not quiet our voices. We won’t rest until the trustees decide to divest! With our action, we invite the Board of Trustees, President Oxtoby, and the entire Pomona College community to join the national divestment party. Together, we march into our third year of campaigning for climate justice!

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