Scoop on Sustainability: For divestment, the time is now
Published: Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 02:03
On Monday, March 4, many UNH community members gathered to discuss, in a democratic fashion, the vital issue of divestment from fossil fuels. It is an issue that has spurred some conflicting views throughout campus.
For months, my SEAC co-members and I have been trying hard to get the administration to listen to us, and not just through one ear and out the other. We wanted to be intensely listened to, and acknowledged and respected. We wanted the fact that we are students at this university, who pay money to go here, and who love going here because it is a leader in environmental sustainability, to be enough for the administration to want to listen. From this event, put on by NH Listens and the Discovery Program, we now know their ears may finally be tuned to hear what we have to say.
I sat anxiously at my assigned table looking over my prepared notes, skimming over the packet we were provided, and going over in my head how important and exciting this opportunity was.
Each round table discussed the complicated and sensitive issues surrounding divestment.
My table talked about the cut in funding coming from the state and the transitioning economy from fossil fuels to safer and healthier alternatives like wind and solar. A faculty member in my group voiced his strong concern about funding his children’s college education, and his concern that if we do divest, there may not be enough financial aid. A professional investor in my group conceded that there is no cost to divesting, that anyone can find studies that either show positive outcomes or negative outcomes and that it’s all about timing. Julie Laudon, a SEAC member who was in my group, said “the time is now.”
There was a mix of disagreements at points and laughter at others, and even at the end when there weren’t any answers and nothing concrete had been solved, the night was still a success.
We had finally gotten the chance to voice our opinions, the administration finally seemed to care what their student body thought, and all in all there was an apparent respect for each other’s opinions. That was gratifying.
But as we parted ways, the divestment discussion didn’t end there, and is still only just beginning. This fight is much bigger than the 1,000-plus UNH students who signed SEAC’s divestment petition last semester. The fight exists in over 250 other colleges in the United States. It also exists in the hearts and souls of environmentalists, celebrities, politicians, investors, professors, parents, children, and of course, students.
Despite clear and abundant evidence that the world is in a dire environmental situation, and that change is nothing else but urgent, people are still somewhat passive. This passivity is easier, and ignoring the facts simpler, if you don’t see and feel on a daily basis the obvious effects of climate change. However we cannot wait any longer. We must stop being ignorant and selfish and realize that it does affect us.
It affects us just as much as it does the people living in the carcinogen-clouded air of Houston, Texas. It affects us just as much as it does for the residents off the Gulf of Mexico where oil is still present since the BP oil spill. It most definitely affects us just as much as it does for the people who lost homes due to Hurricane Sandy, Irene, and Katrina.
If in Durham, instead of in Houston, Texas, there was a higher risk of contracting leukemia because of air pollutants, then maybe it would be easier to understand how dire this divestment situation is.
If in the Potomac River in Washington D.C., instead of the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, there were a pipeline spill of nearly 1 million gallons of oil, then maybe President Obama would stop giving in to the oil industry, say “No” to the Keystone XL Pipeline, and invest more money into green energies, so we could finally see the light at the end of this thick political smog.
The issue of divestment is obviously complicated, but if we think in a “moving forward” kind of way, then the answer appears in all its sustainable glory.
During the discussion, I couldn’t stop thinking about a chant I learned at the Keystone XL Pipeline protest in February: “Tell me what democracy looks like! THIS is what democracy looks like!”
And so the crowd cheers and adrenaline pumps through everyone because all we care about at that moment is not ourselves, but the world as a whole. And I come back to reality, sitting at my round table after discussing for almost two hours, and it is the most clear to me it has ever been – we must divest.
Alex Binder is a senior English major and a member of SEAC.