Divest Harvard Storms President's Building

Student environmental activists from Divest Harvard stormed Massachusetts Hall Thursday morning demanding that the university divest from fossil fuels.

According to the Crimson, around 40 students occupied the hall—which houses the office of University President Drew G. Faust—at around 10 a.m. Thursday.

The group called for divestment and hung up a large banner that read “Harvard Divest From Fossil Fuels.” 

On its website, Divest Harvard provides the following list of demands of the university:

  • immediately freeze any new investments in fossil fuel companies 
  • immediately divest direct holdings (currently $79.5 million) from the top 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies
  • divest indirect holdings in the top 200 fossil fuel companies within 5 years, and reinvest in socially responsible funds.

Here is the group’s mission statement:

Global warming has already begun to take its toll on our communities. Hurricane Sandy’s devastating power, the scorching drought across the Midwest, and the wildfires that raged through Colorado last year demonstrate the damage that global warming can cause to our society and economy. Millions of people are and will be affected.

Higher education institutions like Harvard exist as investments in the future for their students and their countries. Yet, while investing in our future, Harvard simultaneously invests its $36.4 billion endowment–the largest University endowment in the world–in corporations that threaten our future and that of our planet by causing the climate crisis.

We are targeting the top 200 publicly traded fossil fuel corporations for two reasons. First, these corporations are largely responsible for political gridlock that impedes the passage of climate legislation. Through divestment, we aim to highlight the rogue status of the fossil fuel industry and rebrand them as social pariahs. Secondly, 80% of global carbon  reserves must be kept in the ground in order to limit global warming to under 2 degrees Celsius (the upper warming limit set by the UN). The share prices of public fossil fuel corporations are inflated by the illusion that all of their reserves will be burned and become profit. But this scenario is incompatible with any hope for the future of our planet. When government regulation limits fossil fuel use, fossil fuel companies will need to leave their reserves in the ground, thereby devaluing their share price. Harvard thus puts its endowment at risk by investing in fossil fuel corporations.

Harvard has stood for centuries as a beacon of knowledge, discovery, and service and should not put its long-term survival at risk for small short-term gains. Investing in fossil fuel corporations jeopardizes Harvard’s institutional resilience and integrity as well as the future of its students. To maintain intellectual consistency and live up to the values that it promotes, Harvard must divest.


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