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Health, Science & Environment

Activists Press Museum to Divest From Fossil Fuel Companies

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Judy Fahys/KUER
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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 museums to 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.

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