Currently, the UC Board of Regents has hundreds of millions of dollars invested in the fossil fuel industry. Because these investments go against our UC value of sustainability and the efforts of students and staff to make campuses more ecological, the Regents must divest from oil, coal and natural gas companies immediately.
The UC Sustainable Practice Policy states that the UC is committed to “demonstrating leadership in sustainable business practices,” and on each UC Campus, students and staff are hard at work to achieve UC-wide sustainability goals.
According to the World Commission on Environment and Development, sustainable development “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This definition suggests that a UC goal of sustainable business practices would include conserving Earth’s resources so that they will be available to meet future generations’ needs, and the UC is working hard to do just that:
At UCSB, we work to conserve energy with our solar-powered waste compactors and dozens of water-bottle-filling “Hydration Stations” around campus. At the UC level, we have much to be proud of as well:
According to the UC Sustainability Reports, as of 2012 the UC campuses could produce over 17 megawatts of onsite renewable power — wow! Plus, the UC has the most LEED (green building) certifications of any university in the U.S. It is great that our university is making huge ecological improvements. But how can the UC claim to be a leader in sustainable business when it buys stock in fossil fuel companies?
From their extraction to their combustion, fossil fuels are an energy source brimming with pollution. As most of us already know, coal burning causes acid rain, oil spills poison our rivers and “fracking” rock to extract natural gas requires huge volumes of chemical-laden water. Moreover, fossil fuel combustion is contributing to global climate change by increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
It is likely a fiscally-smart investment to own stock in the lucrative fossil fuel industry, but because fossil fuel combustion produces carbon dioxide, this is an investment in favor of global climate change, and climate change is truly a “risky business.”
According to the World Health Organization, global climate change is causing rising sea levels, melting glaciers, changing precipitation patterns and more frequent and intense weather patterns. These alterations to the planet, which are effects of global climate change, compromise our safety and that of future generations. For example, changing precipitation patterns mean that we are experiencing increasingly frequent and intense floods which drown people, destroy homes and create breeding grounds for disease-carrying mosquitoes. Climate change therefore reduces the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
Obviously, climate change is not something in which an aspiring sustainable institution should be invested. Burning fossil fuels is a cause of global climate change, so it is equally inappropriate for the sustainability-oriented UC to own stock in the fossil fuel industry.
UC Students have the power to change the Regents’ investments. Today, we need to pressure our Regents to uphold the UC-wide mission of sustainability by demanding that they divest from the fossil fuel industry. It’s time to take action. Attend an Environmental Affairs Board meeting (Wednesdays, 7 p.m. in the MCC) to get started!
Risa Jensen is an undeclared first-year.