The day after this article is published, the voters of the US will decide the future of this country. Next week, the students of Olin will decide our own future.
On November 16, Olin students will have a chance to vote on a referendum supporting the divestment of Olin’s endowment from fossil fuel industries. Divestment is the act of taking an organization’s investments out of an industry or company for moral or financial reasons, and it is an accessible tool for combating corrupt or immoral corporations and industries. More importantly, divestment is effective. In 2016, when the world’s largest coal producer – Peabody Energy Corp. – declared bankruptcy, they cited divestment as one of the primary reasons for going out of business, and fear of divestment has led many fossil fuel companies to lobby for legislation prohibiting it. Voting yes on this referendum will demonstrate the student body’s care about our planet’s future, but above all it will put direct pressure on the board to divest Olin’s endowment from fossil fuels.
But why should you care? You’ve already heard about the fatal warming trend, the rising sea levels, the incredible loss of biodiversity, and the catastrophic increase in weather events that come with climate change. What’s more important is that, as Oliners – and frankly just as people – we have values that we need to uphold. We value equality, yet the impacts of climate change will disproportionately affect those in need. We value sustainability, yet the practices of the fossil fuel industry are exploitative and irresponsible. We value integrity, yet fossil fuel companies have consistently lied about the impacts of their industry. We are at THE defining moment where we can truly stand by these values. Hundreds of colleges and universities have already divested. We lag behind with $8 million of our endowment still invested in fossil fuels. More than the money, the lack of action by the college that touts itself as a forward-thinking institution is a noticeable silence, and honestly, a hypocritical embarrassment. So let’s make them do something about it.
The Olin administration has always said that it values the voices of the students; here’s a chance to use it. If you vote, you’re putting immediate and direct pressure on the board to divest our funds from fossil fuel industries and making a statement that will pave the way for even more institutions to follow in our wake. This is a chance for YOU to make a real difference – to improve not only the health of the planet, but to uphold our values as responsible stewards of our communities. It’s only a little time out of your day, but it is an action that will have large ripples.
So as the Town Hall comes up on November 16th, we need you to vote for our planet, vote for our future, vote for divestment.
Climate justice cannot wait.