By Hannah Borowsky, Chloe Maxmin, and Ben Franta
Yesterday we were honored to represent Divest Harvard as we made the case for divestment at our first meeting with Harvard trustees. After 72% of undergraduates showed their support for divestment on the undergraduate referendum, our group was granted a meeting with the Harvard Corporation Committee on Shareholder Responsibility. Dozens of students lined the hallway as the trustees arrived, showing that Harvard students care about climate change and support the University in its first official conversation about fossil fuel divestment.
Overall, the tone of the meeting was very positive. We had the opportunity to make our case for divestment and explain why it is essential for Harvard to be morally and intellectually consistent. The trustees recognized the urgency of climate change and the moral authority of younger generations who will be feeling the impacts of global warming. Yet they questioned whether divestment would be effective in the effort to mitigate climate change. They argued that, unlike apartheid or tobacco, fossil fuels provide some good for people in emerging economies by enabling a higher standard of living. Because of this, the committee argued that we cannot eliminate all fossil fuels use because carbon fuels are so integral to modern society and tied to social justice issues. The trustees also discussed Harvard’s investments and suggested that divesting from direct holdings may have a minimal effect on our endowment. Future meetings will explore the specifics of the divestment process.
We responded with our moral conviction and with the arguments that we are all familiar with. While the debate over divestment is far from over, we are moving forward. The Harvard Corporation will have an in-depth discussion about divestment, and we will hear from them about next steps within the next two weeks. The conversation about fossil fuel divestment has begun, and we are excited to work with the University as the conversation continues.
It is unacceptable for any higher education institution to sponsor climate change, and the urgency of climate change necessitates immediate action. As our political system continues to be clogged with the power of the fossil fuel lobby, divestment bypasses the ineffective political establishment and declares that students and citizens will make a movement that will change the world.