Dare To Divest? A look at GreeND's Newest Initiative

I was debating whether or not to make the trek back to my dorm to retrive forgotten headphones in the LaFun Subway Lounge when Garrett Blad, President of GreeND and all around delight, skipped up to my booth and inivted me to his GreeND meeting. I decided my responsibilities wouldn't be any less intimidating if I left them for another hour, so I joined Garrett and other members of GreeND to learn about their newest initiative, divestment. 

Garrett and I met met during a whirlwind weekend roadtrip to NYC. We drove a total of 28 hours (14 there, 14 back) to attend the People's Climate March, an environmental protest that brought 50,000 college students and around 300,000 other activists to the streets of Manhattan to advocate for large-scale action against climate change. (Author's note: We made it back for classes Monday morning. Coffee is life.)

The March attracted the likes of Leonardo Dicaprio and Al Gore and worldwide media coverage, but Garrett and GreeND are just getting energized. During the meeting, GreeND announced their new divestment campaign, a new opportunity to make a real, tangible statement about fossil fuel usage and environmental stewardship. 

ND students, including yours truly, at the People's Climate March this September

It is estimated that Notre Dame's endowment is valued at $9.8 billion (yes billion, with a B). Every year, the University invests the endowment in a variety of companies and uses the returns to add to the fund. Currently, the University is invested in a number of fossil fuel companies, whose entire bottom line is dependant on the burning the Earth's fossil fuel reserves. 

The UN agreed that in order to avoid catastrophic damage to the earth, global warming must not exceed 2 degrees celsius. In order to achieve this, around 80% of global carbon reserves must be kept in the ground. Fuel corporations' share prices are based on the burning of all of the Earth's proven carbon reserves. Divestment activists argue that as greater governmental sanctions against fossil fuel usage are introduced, fossil fuel corporations will be directly and fiscally disadvantaged. Those with large holdings will, inevitably, see large losses, putting university endowments at risk. 

In addition, divestment activists argue that investing in fossil fuel companies is morally comrpomising. These companies expend massive amounts of resources on lobbyists to impede comprehehensive environmental preservation legislation, perpetuating a potentially catastrophic assault on the environment. In other words, these companies disregard common good for their bottom line. 

Divestment isn't a new idea. In order to make a statement about the injustices occuring in South Africa during the appartheid era, a variety of companies removed support from companies doing business in the country. Analysts argue over divestment's financial impact, but do agree that the collective action did lead to a greater public reaction. If anything, more people knew hw the world felt about apartheid. 

The University currently refuses to invest in companies who produce tobacco, birth control, or abortifacents, presumably because the production of such products show that the companies have values "inimical with those of the University," (as stated on the University's portfolio homepage). GreeND's goal is to prove that at least 200 fossil fuel companies' values, by their very nature, are incompatible with those of the University.

Notre Dame students are joining a host of other schools and companies running divestment campaigns throughout the country, including Harvard University who holds the largest endowment in the country, valued at over $34 billion.

GreeND reps will be contacting students in the coming weeks with more information. If anything, I encourage you to take a few minutes to hear them out.

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