Climate change awareness has taken the world by storm over the past decade. Governments, corporations, and important figures are called on by civilians to change their policies and help create a sustainable world for future generations. While the campaign may have taken a backseat during the COVID-19 pandemic, it definitely was not forgotten, as students urge their schools and universities to alter their policies and investments.
Most recently, student campaigns from the U.S.’ top universities filed a complaint against them over the institutions’ investments in fossil fuels. Students from Stanford, Princeton, Yale, and Vanderbilt Universities, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) filed complaints with their respective state attorneys general to pressure schools to divest their fossil fuel investments.
Fossil fuels are found in the Earth’s crust and contain carbon and hydrogen, which are burned for energy. This is dangerous for the environment as fossil fuels are responsible for ¾ of the emissions humans produce, and is extremely harmful to our atmosphere. A union of student groups, working with the Climate Defense Project, have filed complaints against their respective universities for investing in fossil fuels and contributing to global warming. These groups also argue that these expenditures are illegal.
The main purpose of this campaign against these major universities is to reduce their contribution to harmful emissions. Specifically, the campaign requests an investigation into whether these schools have violated a state law related to investments by nonprofit institutions. Essentially, the complaints from the students maintain that the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act demands universities to ensure their resources are used to benefit society, and investing in fossil fuels harms the community, contradicting the mission of the act. In addition, the students argue that the investments are not financially beneficial as the industries, such as oil and gas, have been unstable and will continue to have an uncertain future.
Hannah Reynolds, the co-coordinator of Divest Princeton, noted that their group filed the complaint as a last resort. According to her, Princeton has been under pressure for nine years to take action for fossil fuel divestment, but the university has not taken it seriously. After nearly a decade of organizing, Princeton’s administration announced, in May 2021, about a potential divestment from tar sands and coal. However, this declaration did not guarantee any tangible change. Students hope these extremely wealthy and prestigious schools, listen to their words and make a commitment to change.
Climate change and global warming are phrases used more frequently in everyday conversations. As we develop and grow, it is imperative we collectively look at the impact our actions have on the Earth. Devising methods in which a sustainable environment can be developed is equally as important to ensure future generations have a safe Earth to call home. If we don’t care for our environment, then who will?
“Fossil Fuels.” National Geographic Society, www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/fossil-fuels/
McGreal, Chris. “Yale, Stanford and MIT's Fossil Fuel Investments Are Illegal, Students Say.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 16 Feb. 2022, www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/feb/16/us-universities-fossil-fuel-divestment-students-legal-complaint
Reynolds, Hannah, and Lynne Archibald. “Why We Filed a Legal Complaint against Princeton.” The Nation, 16 Feb. 2022, www.thenation.com/article/activism/divest-princeton-legal-complaint/
Svrluga, Susan. “Student Climate Activists from Yale, Stanford, Princeton, MIT and Vanderbilt File Legal Complaints to Compel Divestment.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 16 Feb. 2022, www.washingtonpost.com/education/2022/02/16/college-fossil-fuel-divest-legal-action/