By EDDIE MIKUS
It may seem unlikely that a small group of college students could change the future of the world, but that is exactly what Fordham Divest is seeking to do through its effort to get the University to end its investment in fossil fuel companies.
“I think the biggest issue is climate change and the fact that by burning fossil fuels, the planet has already warmed 0.8 degrees Celsius,” Valerie Meyer, FCRH ’15 and Fordham Divest’s director for media and students, said when describing the organization’s rationale. “If we continue with this, scientists have said that by midcentury, so 2050, the planet will warm two to three additional degrees Celsius, and this will cause more severe storms, droughts and floods, which is just really bad for the planet.”
Meyer also explained that rising temperatures could cause social issues when coupled with population growth that is expected to occur between now and 2050.
“Scientists have agreed that every degree the planet warms, food yield will decrease by 10 to 20 percent,” Meyer said. “This is disconcerting because population is also going to increase by 2050. They have estimated that population will increase to 9 billion by midcentury. So if food is declining as population is increasing, overall, global hunger and starvation is going to get worse.”
According to Meyer, immediate action is needed to prevent such drastic consequences from occurring.
“All scientists really agree that there is a point where the planet can be warmed, and they agree that it is two to three degrees warmer than it is already now, where humans can’t do anything to stop the planet from melting,” Meyer said.
As a result of such environmental damage, Meyer said that University investments in fossil fuels goes against the general welfare of students.
“How can a school claim to have its students’ best interests at heart when it is investing in the destruction of a livable climate,” Meyer said. “If colleges say, ‘Hey, I want to raise my student body and make students who will be great for the future,’ yet they’re investing in companies that are bad for the future and are destroying the future, it’s kind of hypocritical.”
When asked why Fordham would invest in fossil fuels in the first place, Meyer cited the facts that other colleges invest in fossil fuels and that such investments can bring about short-term investments.
“A ton of universities, who are higher in educational value, such as Harvard and other great institutions, they’re invested in fossil fuels as well because they are profitable in the short term, but short term is the key word in that,” Meyer said. “And so, I mean it’s understandable why Fordham invests in fossil fuels, but morally and economically, it’s bad.”
The fact that fossil fuel investments can have short term benefits has created a gulf between comparable student-led divest campaigns and administrators at other colleges, Meyer said.
“Colleges like Cornell and Tufts, they’ve made great strides and had great success in getting the student body and getting people to support [divestment], but administration still kind of refused to divest from fossil fuels,” Meyer said. “An example, Harvard. 72 percent of the student body voted to divest from fossil fuels, but the administration still ignored the student will and decided not to divest from fossil fuels.”
Meyer also pointed out, however, the fact that some student-run divestment campaigns have been successful.
She said that four universities have already voted to divest from fossil fuel investments: College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine; Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass.; Sterling College in Craftsbury Common, Vt.; and Unity College in Unity, Maine.
Additionally, faculty have voted to support divestment at Rhode Island School of Design.
That decision, however, is not binding because it did not come through the university’s Board of Trustees.
Finally, the University of San Francisco and Seattle University are considering divesting from fossil fuels.
Meyer said that the impact of divestment upon universities is minimal.
“It’s not as difficult as people may believe to move it away, because studies have shown that it won’t be that harmful profitably,” Meyer said. “It will barely lower profits.”
Meyer emphasized that Fordham Divest had nothing against the University; in fact, she said that divestment would actually be extremely beneficial for the University.
“A big deal about this is we don’t want to come across as angry with Fordham, because if we sound angry with Fordham, they’re not going to work with us,” Meyer said. “I love Fordham University, I absolutely love the administration, I really think this is a great school, I just want to improve it and make the Fordham community a better place for everyone.”