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OPINION: It is time for IU to divest from fossil fuels



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The sun sets in front of leaves and three women near the Sample Gates. After the University of California's announcement it will divest its $83 billion endowment and pension funds from fossil fuel companies, some are pushing IU to do the same. Joy Burton Buy Photos

Following the climate crisis can feel like chasing after hurricanes, only stopping for a moment to observe a leveled town before moving onto the next one. 

However, the University of California announced Tuesday that it would divest its $83 billion endowment and pension funds from fossil fuel companies. IU should do the same.  

There are many reasons to do so. For one, investment into these companies contributes, perhaps more than any other single action, to the destruction of our world. Indeed, a 2017 report found that around 71% of the world’s greenhouse gases had been emitted by just 100 companies. Nearly all of them are in the fossil fuel industry.

A study by the International Renewable Energy Agency found that, "electricity from renewables will soon be consistently cheaper than from most fossil fuels.” The study goes on to state that the renewable energy sector will become cheaper by as soon as 2020.

Finally, IU counts “sustainability, stewardship, and accountability for the natural, human, and economic resources and relationships entrusted to IU” and “respect for the dignity of others” among its core values. It is impossible for IU to pursue these standards while investing in the fossil fuel industry.

Though divestment may seem like a radical step, it really isn’t. Over 150 campuses worldwide have committed to divest from fossil fuels. Combined with businesses and pensions beginning to move away from fossil fuels, institutions worth over $11 trillion have committed to some form of divestment.

This issue isn’t a new one either. IU students have been calling for divestment for a long time. In 2017, the student group Reinvest IU marched to President Michael McRobbie’s office demanding that the IU foundation divest from fossil fuels. However, the IU Foundation has not weaned itself off fossil fuels.

IU is in urgent need of an intervention. The University has refused to sign the Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments despite student petitions. This is a step terrifyingly out of the norm. As of 2018, over 750 schools have been working to adhere to their commitment to combat climate change. IU is not even at the table.

What is known about the climate crisis so far is that no one solution is going to be enough. It will require a concerted effort on many different fronts. Some of them may be individual actions like giving up plastic straws as was asked of many of the Democratic candidates running for president.

However, other actions will certainly need to alter the structure to make sure that changes have a large enough impact to halt, if not reverse, the climate crisis. Divesting from fossil fuels fits squarely within this category.

Making IU divest is going to require us pushing them to do so. The All University Student Association, the student advisory committee working with the IU Board of Trustees, took the first major step in 2014 when it passed a resolution calling for the IU Foundation to divest from fossil fuels.

This is a unique moment to push for divestment because the tide is finally turning. The University of California decision started off this week, and Friday there will be climate strikes all over the U.S., including Bloomington, and across 150 countries. IU needs to divest from fossil fuels, and you need to get involved today because if not you, who will?

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