Reinvest IU, an organization committed to urging the IU Foundation to divest from the top 200 fossil fuel companies, held a demonstration in front of the Sample Gates last Friday.
The Graduate and Professional Student Organization began urging the IU Foundation to divest from fuel companies in 2013, passing the Resolution Regarding Fossil Fuel Divestment and Carbon Neutrality in December of that year.
Brady Harman, GPSO president, and Jeffrey Meek, former GPSO sustainability officer, met with Gary Stratten, IU Foundation vice president and chief investment officer, last March.
Because Harman and Meek were unsuccessful in convincing the IU Foundation to divest, Harman and Andrew Bredeson, current GPSO sustainability officer, got a second chance to make their case during a meeting with Stratten; Dan Smith, IU Foundation president; Gary Anderson, IU Foundation investment committee chair and the IU Foundation investment committee last December.
Harman and Bredeson, however, were again unsuccessful in convincing the IU Foundation to divest, receiving the foundation’s official response in January.
The IU Foundation, according to Harman, responded that its members base their investment decisions on many considerations and do not use their investment decisions to make symbolic statements.
Though GPSO is backing off, Reinvest IU is taking over the cause, having made a public appearance for the first time last Friday.
Kathleen de Onis, an IU graduate student who lead the demonstration, opened with a call to action.
“As a member of Reinvest IU, I ask that the IU Foundation divest from the top 200 fossil fuel companies and reinvest in renewable energies,” de Onis said. “This is a climate crisis. And we ask that IU recognize this climate crisis and divest from fossil fuels. We’re going to have some fun today. We’re going to make some noise.”
And make noise they did. Demonstrators filled the hour with chants and songs, holding up signs and handing out fliers.
“The purpose of the demonstration is to get the word out, to really show that we’re serious, both to the students and also to the IU Foundation,” IU senior Bronson Bast said. “They said that the issue was over for them, for the most part, and we’re kind of saying that we’re still around and we’re still serious and we’re not going away. Instead, we’re only going to get more serious.”
Bast said he believes divestment from fossil fuel companies is both ethically and symbolically important.
“I think, ethically, it’s important for the justice of people who are disproportionately affected by climate change,” he said. “And I think, institutionally, it’s important for IU to be a leader in this movement and to be on the right side of history to say that, ‘No, we’re not going to be profiting from climate change.’”
Bast also said he believes divestment from fossil fuel companies is financially important.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the increase in temperature must be limited to two degrees Celsius to avoid catastrophic and irreversible damage by 2100.
Therefore, roughly 82 percent of known fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground.
Bast said as a result, fossil fuel companies will soon face stricter regulations and see less profitable investments.
“In the last couple of years, investments in renewable energies, like solar, have been more profitable than investments in fossil fuels, so it’s not unreasonable to say that it’s a better financial decision to invest in renewable energies,” he said.
De Onis stressed not just divestment from fossil companies, but reinvestment in renewable energy companies.
“Reinvestment is so key, because we have to figure out where we go from here,” de Onis said.
Bredeson closed the demonstration with a call for further support.
“Although there’s only, like, 25 of us here right now, a lot of people support this cause,” he said. “And I think in these next few months, the most important thing is to spread the word and advance the conversation.”
Reinvest IU wants the IU Foundation to divest and reinvest its $1.5 billion endowment from fossi fuel companies and into renewable energy, according to Reinvest IU’s Facebook page.
This call goes to all eight of IU’s campuses, not just the IU Bloomington campus according to the group’s Facebook page.
A full statement regarding their call to action can be found linked on their Facebook page, which explains in detail why divestment is needed now and linked to the GPSO resolution from Dec. 2014.