If you haven’t already voted–and you should!–learn something about this Divestment thing, which is on the ballot as part of the ballot initiative. Hailey Riechelson, part of BCDivest, provides an explanation for you to peruse:
Though the Barnard Columbia Divest Campaign has been working hard to establish itself on campus, many students are still unaware of what Divestment is. As a university, Columbia has a large endowment, some of which maintains investments in successful companies o further increase the endowment. The Divestment Movement is a push for the removal of investments from companies tied to undesirable policies. Barnard and Columbia’s first divestment campaign led to the successful divestments of companies supporting Apartheid.
The club’s current goal is to have Barnard and Columbia Divest from fossil fuels. Columbia has not released information about how much of its $7.8 billion endowment is invested in fossil fuels. 3.6% of Barnard’s $215 million endowment is invested in fossil fuels amounting to a $9 million investment. Assuming the percentage of Columbia’s endowment invested is the same as Barnard’s, this would mean a $288 million investment.
In the grand scheme of the fossil fuel industry, a combined $297 million investment may not seem like much, but nationwide universities have $400 billion dollars invested in the fossil fuels industry. 450 colleges and universities have divestment movements and so far 6 colleges and universities and 16 cities have divested.
Aside from the obvious environmental concerns involved in supporting fossil fuels, human rights must be considered as a main reason for divestment. While developed countries are the main users of fossil fuels, the underdeveloped countries will be most effected by the ensuing climate changes. Developed nations have resources to recover from environmental disasters, but underdeveloped nations will be less able to recover.
Another issue is the hypocrisy of Columbia supporting fossil fuels. Columbia spends large amounts of money on its Earth Institute, a leader in renewable energy research, but at the same time invests in unclean forms of energy.
Many students worry that divestment will lower the schools’ endowments and student financial aid, but research has shown that this is not the case.
Adorable dead critter via Shutterstock