Washington University in St. Louis

It’s been an incredible couple weeks of victories for the divestment movement! 

Hot on the heels of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Convergence 2014 at San Francisco State University, our momentum is exploding as students pledge to dig deep, link up, and take action.

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430 I’ve learned many things in my four years at Washington University in St. Louis--not all of them in the classroom. For example, before I became a student at Wash U, I had never heard of Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private sector coal corporation.

In St. Louis, Peabody ingratiates itself to the local community by posing as a benefactor of the arts, charitable corporate ‘citizen,’ and hero tackling “energy poverty.” It all sounds pretty good until you realize that Peabody Energy is the world’s largest private sector coal corporation whose business model propagates climate change and destroys communities. Peabody’s list of crimes is a veritable laundry list of social and environmental injustices: the destruction of mountains in West Virginia, the forced relocation of Navajo and Hopi Indian tribes in Black Mesa, Arizona, being a major supporter of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which have been strong advocates of controversial legislation like “Stand Your Ground” laws, the destruction of Rocky Branch, Illinois through aggressive mining and logging, and the distortion of democracy here in St. Louis by striking down a city-wide ballot initiative.

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Yesterday, my friend Ken and I attended an Obama Campaign fundraiser in St. Louis. But we didn’t go there with any ordinary mission. We went to make sure our generation’s demand that President Obama reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline was heard.

After waiting over an hour, and with hundreds rallying outside, President Obama took the stage. As he began his speech, Ken and I prepared for our intervention. I unwrapped my shawl, and Ken opened his jacket, which both had our message clearly inscribed “President Obama: Veto the Keystone XL pipeline.”

After President Obama spoke about leaving a better future for our children, we seized the pause and asked “will you veto the Keystone XL pipeline?” Obama didn’t directly respond, but acknowledged us a few minutes later when saying “we’ve got a couple of people here who are concerned about the environment.” Yesterday, we were heard.

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St. Louis, Mo. – Yesterday afternoon, a crowd of local students and community members gathered in front of Peabody Energy’s world headquarters to protest the harmful effects the coal industry is having on the health of local communities.

The event was planned in recognition of National Asthma Awareness Month; however enthusiasm for the event quickly grew early Tuesday morning when news spread regarding cyber-hoax Coalcares.org. What later turned out to be the work of techno-pranksters Coal Kills Kids, Coal Cares seemed to be a shockingly-uncharacteristic public health initiative from Peabody, offering free asthma inhalers to children living within a 200 mile radius of a coal plant.

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