Cease U.Va. hosted a political education event pushing the university to withdraw its investments in the fossil fuel industry at 7 p.m. on Thursday in Hall 101 in Nau. The event included a panel discussion from faculty, as well as presentations from student leaders who highlighted the link between fuel divestment and environmental justice.
Cease U.Va. is a student organization campaigning for the University to completely phase out its investments in fossil fuels. Key organizations making up the coalition also include the Young Democratic Socialists of the University of Virginia Ecosocialists, the Student Council Sustainability Committee, the Environmental Justice Collective, and University Democrats, who are engaging in similar advocacy efforts. .
The event follows the publication by Divest U.Va. a petition on Oct. 8 outlining requests to the university’s visitors’ council and the university’s investment management company advisory committee on investor responsibility. The petition highlights the University’s direct contribution to carbon emissions by continuing to invest in the fossil fuel industry and demands that the University completely withdraw funding that supports fossil fuel companies by December 21, 2022.
The panel of professors for the event included professor of environmental studies Deborah Lawrence, professor of ethics Willis Jenkins and professor of architecture Phoebe Chrisman. The panel began with a discussion of the link between fossil fuels and environmental justice, highlighting the disproportionate damage climate change has on poor communities and communities of color, in the United States and around the world.
Lawrence explained how fossil fuels release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, “thus polluting the air” and contributing to climate change. However, they also have a societal effect.
“[Fossil fuels] disproportionately affects poor and marginalized communities, âLawrence said. “[There is] a direct link between fossil fuels and disproportionate impacts.
Panelists discussed how the impacts of climate change – including sea level rise, extreme heat and intensifying natural disasters – are having more adverse effects on marginalized communities, including communities poor and communities of color, who are less equipped to prepare for and respond to climate change. disasters.
âAdapting to climate change at the individual, family and community level depends on the resources you have,â Jenkins said.
In response to a question from the public regarding the importance of disclosure of endowment funds by the University, Jenkins said there should be transparency in UVICMO investments.
“The possession of an endowment which [is] held for the common good should be reasonably transparent so that there can be meaningful oversight or at least public comment, âJenkins said.
The University’s $ 14.5 billion endowment is a fund made up of philanthropic donations to support the operations of the University. It is among the 20 largest colleges and universities in the United States and the fifth largest of public institutions, according to UVIMCO’s 2021 annual report. 10 percent of this endowment is currently invested in âreal assets,â which includes fossil fuel companies as well as retail and hospitality businesses.
Jenkins suggested that the University can learn from its late response to its history of founding and building through the labor of bonded laborers. While the University has only recently started to recognize this story and think about restorative responses, there is now an opportunity for a more preventive response to the climate crisis and its environmental injustices, Jenkis said.
âWe don’t want to do recognition and redress for this a century from now,â Jenkins said. “We can learn from and connect directly to our current calculus with the structural white supremacy within which this university was built, with the nascent calculus, with the fossil fuel infrastructure and its link to the climate crisis.”
The panel also discussed that an important reason for divestment is the illegitimacy of the fossil fuel companies. Jenkins pointed out that a main argument for divestment is that investing in a business is an implicit recognition of the business as a legitimate business and that many fossil fuel companies are no longer legitimate businesses but rather companies that have committed crimes against humanity.
“Now, [fossil fuel companies are] trapping us in whole new ways, leading us into a climate crisis, and the biggest emitters have also launched disinformation campaigns, âJenkins said. âThey actively try to suppress political and cultural efforts to understand the crisis and have reasonable political debates. ”
The University established a UVIMCO Investor Responsibility Advisory Committee in spring 2021 after Divest U.Va. the leaders met Kristina Alimard, chief operating officer of UVIMCO. ACIR includes a representative of students and alumni, as well as seven members appointed by UVIMCO. The committee makes recommendations to UVIMCO.
Cease U.Va. Leaders noted that ACIR members have yet to issue formal recommendations to UVIMCO and called on the committee to open its meetings to public comment and release the public transcripts.
Executives ended the event with an overview of the organization and its divestment campaign.
âIn recent years, U.Va. has made major commitments to the environment, in a new sustainable development plan, which plans to be carbon neutral by 2030 and fossil fuel-free by 2050, âsaid Katherine Thomas, third-year student year of college. âDue to its investments, U.Va. currently benefit from the use of fossil fuels, which makes their commitments performative and misleading.