My name is Kara and I am an alumnus of Prescott College, Class of 2013. I am currently assisting with student divestment movements in California and the Southwest. The fossil fuel industry and college administrators are waiting for student organizing to subside as we graduate, but I am writing to pledge my commitment to organizing for the long haul.
I grew up in Arlington, Virginia during a time of rapid urban sprawl and development. I witnessed my peaceful community overtaken by bulldozers, parking lots, bigger highways and bigger cars. In protest I soon joined the environmental advocacy movement, which (at that time) focused on passing or fighting specific bills in Congress. However, nothing seemed to truly change.
Learning about the fossil fuel divestment movement gave me a glimmer of hope. I learned about the history of divestment from South African companies, which Nelson Mandela credited for helping to end apartheid. If it worked with that movement, then why couldn’t it work with fighting fossil fuel addiction? After all, few people thirty years ago thought divestment would work against apartheid.
As a work-study student with the Sustainability Council at Prescott College I was given permission to research our school’s funds and alternatives to our current (fossil fuel supported) investments. I spent a year analyzing financial spreadsheets, buffing up my economics (did I mention I’m a liberal arts major?), networking, holding informative events and writing a formal report on why and how to divest. What I realized is that just about everyone, regardless of his or her politics or background, wants a more sustainable future and is willing to work for it. But many people are afraid of change – even when the cost of not changing means certain suffering and demise. So I set out to expose these fears and assure others that this change would not be so scary. In February of 2014 our board voted to divest from the top 200 fossil fuel companies within the next 5 years.
After graduation I began a series of seasonal outdoor education jobs. I loved my work, but felt myself disengaging from the movements that I still believed to be vitally important. Worse still, I couldn’t help but thinking what a hypocrite I was – driving from state to state and flying overseas to teach kids about climate change and stewardship. I still travel a lot for seasonal work, but I have fixed up a bicycle for local commuting and am making efforts to use less fossil fuels directly and indirectly in my personal life. Additionally, I have vowed to stay involved with the fossil fuel divestment movement by assisting student networks currently organizing on their own campuses.
I take this commitment seriously because I refuse to give up on the planet and future generations. I hope that you will also pledge to fight for a more sustainable, healthy and just future.
Kara Kukovich, Environmental Educator
Prescott College, 2013