News, On Campus, Administration

CJBC, UGBC Call for BC to Divest From Fossil Fuels at Global Divestment Day Event

At least 1,600 institutions have divested from fossil fuels as part of the global divestment movement, according to Juliet Schor, professor of sociology.

Absent among those institutions is Boston College, she said.

“We have to ask the question, ‘Why is Boston College not on that list yet?’” Schor said. “You can see here who is divesting—faith-based organizations are the largest fraction of these institutions.”

Climate Justice at BC (CJBC) and UGBC co-hosted an event on Wednesday in honor of Global Divestment Day, calling for the University to divest from fossil fuels.

“We have an undisclosed amount of money within our school’s endowment invested in the fossil fuel industry, and as members of the community concerned with climate justice and global injustices, that’s one of our main means of fighting injustice within our club,” said Gabriela Levitt, president of CJBC and MCAS ’24.

According to Alexandra Lermond, director of UGBC’s Environmental and Sustainability Division and MCAS ’24, Global Divestment Day was created in 2015 to pressure fossil fuel companies to divest.

“It’s just a day that was sort of created back in 2015, where a bunch of groups called upon the top—I believe it was the top 200—fossil fuel companies to divest, and so it’s just become a day that resembles or symbolizes this collective action for this movement,” Lermond said.

Schor said fossil fuel stocks may eventually lose their value if the global community decides to switch to different sources of energy, at which point fossil fuel companies will be forced to find other means of profit.

“Those companies are going to have to write off all of that, and many of them will go out of business in the same way that many of the coal companies have already been going out of business in recent years,” Schor said.

According to Schor, divestment from fossil fuels has both moral and social components. Schor said fossil fuel extraction is an immoral act because of the toxic impact it has on sites of extraction, which she called sacrifice zones.

“It’s not just about what’s going to happen to the climate,” Schor said. “It’s also about what’s happening to the people who live around these fossil fuel extraction locations, because it is a highly toxic product and they’re exposed to tremendous toxins.”

According to Schor, there are also strong racial and economic class disparities among the populations living in sacrifice zones.

“The people who are exposed are much more likely to be Black, to be Latino, to be Indigenous, to be working class,” Schor said. “If you look in wealthy areas in this country, and particularly wealthy, white areas, there are no fossil fuel extraction locations.”

Schor said the destabilization of the climate will also be felt the most in the “Global South,” which are areas that have historically been the least involved in fossil fuel extraction.

“Impacts are going to be much greater in the so-called ‘Global South,’ the place where more people who are Black and brown live,” Schor said. “And [there will be] much less impact in the northern part of the globe, which is predominantly where whites live. Making it even worse, it’s the northern parts of the globe which have caused the problem historically.”

Schor said divestment is ultimately about taking legitimacy and operating power away from fossil fuel companies.

“[It’s] more about what we can do to the share price and these companies through mounting a movement to say, ‘These companies should not be allowed to operate because they have a toxic product which is destabilizing the climate, leading to uninhabitable Earth in ways that have gross injustice associated with them, but also peril for all the species on Earth,’” Schor said.

Strad Engler, a member of the St. Ignatius Parish Green Team, discussed the role of the Catholic Church in fossil fuel divestment, reading from several of Pope Francis’ encyclicals.

“In Laudate Deum, the most recent letter from Pope Francis, [he wrote that] we need a transition towards clean energy, and it’s not progressing in the necessary way—we need to act more,” Engler said.

According to Engler, Pope Francis formed the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, a seven-year program addressing the mounting climate crisis. Engler said St. Ignatius Parish joined the program in an effort to take smaller steps toward divestment.

“It’s not just divestment,” Engler said. “It’s also investment. It’s also thinking about how any activity that we’re doing is going to harm the planet and each other.”

Engler showed the audience a master plan that BC developed in 2008 while it was renovating many areas of campus. The plan included ideas on how to implement sustainable initiatives on campus, Engler said.

“Their goal is that—as part of your living on campus as well as your education—you are learning about the principles of care for creation, both in what you hear in the classroom and what you practice in your living on campus,” Engler said.

Engler said while many of the master plan’s initiatives did happen, such as building a sustainability garden and creating the Office of Sustainability, other ideas are still in the works.

“The other things that they have here, things like an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions, annual updates, those things have kind of slid away, so they haven’t been happening,” Engler said. “There’s an opportunity if Boston College were to reengage with this plan and say, ‘Oh, that was a good plan then, and it’s actually still a good plan.’”

Though the University has not divested yet, it is better to personally avoid using fossil fuels than to do nothing at all, Schor said.

“In a world oriented around fossil fuels, it can be hard to avoid them,” Schor said. “But do your best. Do the things that you can. Do more and more every year, and, of course, it is getting easier, year after year.”

February 25, 2024