Department of Applied Environmental Science
ENSTU Senior Leads CSU Movement on Divesting from Fossil Fuels
Ethan Quaranta, a senior Environmental Studies (ENSTU) student, has spent his time at CSUMB exploring his interests in politics and environmental policy. Over the past two years, Ethan has rallied together a student-led movement calling on the CSU system to divest from fossil fuels. As the co-chair of Divest the CSU of Fossil Fuels, Ethan was determined to advocate for climate action through divestment from fossil fuels on the CSU-wide & individual campus level. In October, the movement was able to celebrate a monumental victory - the California State University system pledged to purge their investment in fossil fuels. At the campus level, CSUMB has began the process of divesting from fossil fuels as well.
We recently touched base with Ethan to learn more about his involvement in Divest the CSU of Fossil Fuels. To gain more insight into Ethan's experience, check out his interview below.
What interested you in getting involved in the CSU divestment movement?
I have been pushing for CSU fossil fuel divestment since before it was a movement. I started talking about fossil fuel divestment seriously in Spring 2020, when I served as the Associated Students (AS) Sustainability Senator. I was part of a group chat with other sustainability student government officers in the CSU back then and divestment was a big topic of discussion. In 2020 I began discussions with students, staff, faculty, and administration regarding fossil fuel divestment at CSUMB as well as at the CSU level. When I served as the Vice President of External Affairs for AS last year, part of my job was to serve in the Cal State Student Association (CSU student government). It was through my participation in their Systemwide Affairs Committee that I furthered discussions regarding fossil fuel divestment.
Momentum grew when the founder of Divest the CSU of Fossil Fuels and others provided public comments at the February plenary. With increased student interest, we got to work on a resolution in collaboration with student organizers which passed with all but one campus voting in support. I was one of the principal authors along with Divest the CSU of Fossil Fuels Founder Lisa Swartz.
How has your participation in this movement impacted your career goals?
My participation in this movement has greatly impacted my career goals. At the beginning of my college experience, I knew that I wanted to be involved with the policy side of environmental work. However, I now know that I would like to take my skills to a higher level than I was previously thinking: state politics. I am in the process of applying to both the CA Assembly Fellow and CA Senate Fellow programs.
How has your participation in this movement impacted your fellow students?
My fellow students have approached me to say thank you for giving them a reason to hope for a better future and for being a key part in the systemwide announcement. As many are likely painfully aware - environmental work can be a lot of doom and gloom, which takes a great mental toll.
On a related note, having the largest university system of higher education in the United States commit to fossil fuel divestment (partial and full divestment both included) brings a large amount of hope for the end of the era of fossil fuels. This commitment helps address climate change in a bold way that scientists have been calling on for countless decades. For perspective, over $40 trillion has been invested, to date; which is greater than the GDP of the United States and China combined.
What do you hope to see happen in the CSU in the coming months/years in response to your advocacy efforts?
While the CSU announced fossil fuel divestment for systemwide portfolios, full divestment along with reinvestment in climate solutions is contingent on legislative change at the state level. The likely strength of the divestment/reinvestment announcement is unknown. I hope that the CSU and each of its campuses takes a look at their relationship with the fossil fuel industry more broadly.
Any other insight you would like to share?
Fossil Fuel Divestment is about an intersection/alignment of science, values, financial performance, and effectiveness in cultivating social change.
Keep up the incredible work, Ethan! We look forward to seeing where your professional endeavors take you following graduation.