Fossils belong in museums—not in museums’ investment portfolios.
That’s what hundreds of concerned social scientists told the world’s leading science museums in an effort to make them cut ties with the fossil fuel industry altogether.
The Field Museum in Chicago—one of the largest natural history museums in the world—has just stated its stance against fossil fuels by 'divesting' from oil and gas stocks and curtailing donations and funding from oil companies.
For decades, the world’s leading physical and social scientists have called for a decreased reliance on fossil fuels, decrying them as unsustainable and environmentally degrading. Recently, a group of top climatologists turned their sights on big oil's funding for natural sciences museums, and Chicago's Field Museum was among the first to take action.
Natural Sciences Education Leaders Speak Out
In Spring 2015, a letter calling for natural sciences educational institutions to divest from fossil fuels was signed by 148 of the world’s top natural sciences experts, led by climatologists James Hansen (former head of the NASA Institute for Space Studies) and Bob Corell (current Head of the U.S. Office for Global Energy Assessment).
Noting the need for natural sciences museums ”to foster an informed appreciation of the rich and diverse world we have inherited[...] and to preserve that inheritance for posterity”, this letter implored natural sciences educational institutions to realize the hypocrisy of educating visitors about negative effects of climate change while taking funds from an industry “incompatible with a liveable future.”
Shell was one of the companies climatologists recognized as being tied to science museums.
As the letter puts it: “We are concerned that the integrity of these institutions is compromised by association with special interests who obfuscate climate science, fight environmental regulation, oppose clean energy legislation, and seek to ease limits on industrial pollution.”
The scientists also pressured museums through recent awareness-raising initiatives and social media campaigns like the Twitter and Instagram hashtag: #Fossilfree.
Chicago’s Field Museum Answering The Call to Action
It was through social media that the Field Museum announced its divestment from the fossil fuel industry. On Friday, November 13, it revealed it had divested its financial portfolio from fossil fuels, confirming its commitment to its key values of education and scientific exploration. If you pursue natural sciences and humanities courses, you’ll get an in-depth understanding of the values that led to this decision.
#Fossilfree hashtag users say the Field Museum kicked off this divestment trend, being joined by more and more museums around the world that have begun cutting ties with the fossil fuel industry in recent weeks, limiting their sponsorship and donations and culling oil and gas stocks from their investment portfolios.
Natural Sciences Education’s Place in the Anti-Oil Movement
A commitment to thinking critically about society is at the heart of every liberal arts college’s educational philosophy.
An anti-fracking protestor at a Climate Justice rally in New York City.
Each liberal arts, humanities, and great books college teaches examples of independent thinking that have a real impact on the world. This has led to extensive research and support for the anti-oil movement and environmentalists worldwide.
Because of the kind of analysis that natural sciences and humanities grads bring to the table, scientists have not been content to simply seek facts about the world—but have been inspired to take action and preserve the planet.
Are you interested in pursuing your own natural sciences education?
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