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Activists Press Museum to Divest From Fossil Fuel Companies

Judy Fahys/KUER
Ryan Pleune delivered a petition bearing more than 50,000 signatures to the Natural History Museum of Utah as part of a global divestment campaign.


Climate change activists urged the Natural History Museum of Utah on Tuesday to cut itself free of fossil fuel money.

The idea is that fossils belong in museums, not museum investment portfolios. The global divestment movement wants people and institutions like museumsto shed their financial stakes in companies that produce coal and other fossil fuels blamed for climate change.

“The Natural History Museum of Utah could be the second one, could be a leader in the nation, could be a leader in the world saying: ‘yes, sustainability education -- it matches our mission to divest from fossil fuels’,” said Ryan Pleune, a climate activist who presented a petition with more than 50,000 signatures.

The divestment movement originally targeted universities, including the University of Utah. The U’s endowment is around $715 million, and the activists say fossil-fuel investments could be as much as 7 percent, or roughly $50 million. Some of the endowment helps pay for the natural history museum. Amy Wildermuth, chief sustainability officer at the U, pledged to deliver the petition to university advisors exploring the complicated divestment question.

“What we expect is that by the end of the year,” she said, “we will have recommendations from that committee about how the university might think about investing in a way that is consistent with our longstanding commitment to sustainability.”

The two dozen people on hand for delivering the petition applauded President Obama’s decision last week to reject the Keystone XL pipeline and pledged to step up their fight in the run up to climate talks in Paris later this month.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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