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72% of Harvard Students Vote to Divest from Fossil Fuels

Climate

350.org

On Nov. 16, the Harvard College Undergraduate Council announced that the student body had voted 72 percent in favor of Harvard University divesting its $30.7 billion endowment from fossil fuels.

Members of the Harvard chapter of Students for a Just and Stable Future have been campaigning since September to divest Harvard’s endowment from the top 200 publicly-traded fossil fuel corporations that own the majority of the world’s oil, coal and gas reserves. 

Chloe Maxmin, a co-coordinator for Divest Harvard, said that the election results show unprecedented student voice around divestment: “In 1990, 52 percent of voting students supported complete divestment from apartheid South Africa. Today 72 percent of voting students are raising their voices for fossil divestment, telling Harvard to stop investing in companies that are threatening our future.”

Divest Harvard was the first student group in six years to successfully qualify a referendum question for Harvard student government elections, gaining hundreds of signatures beyond the 670 (10 percent of the undergraduate student body) necessary for qualification. The passage of the referendum makes fossil fuel divestment the official position of the Harvard College Undergraduate Council.

The Divest Harvard campaign, supported by Better Future Project and 350.org, is part of a quickly-growing fossil fuel divestment movement that has spread to more than 50 universities and colleges across the country. Inspired by the 1980s divestment movement the helped end apartheid in South Africa, the groups hope that fossil fuel divestment will help solve the climate crisis by stigmatizing the fossil fuel industry and supporting a clean energy future. 

350.org founder, and Harvard alum, Bill McKibben is currently on a 21-city Do the Math tour which is promoting fossil fuel divestment to sell-out audiences across the country. More than 2,000 people attended the event in Boston at the Orpheum Theater last Thursday night. 

“Forget the outcome of the Harvard-Yale game, nothing has made me prouder to be a Harvard alum than the news that its students are leading the country in standing up to coal and gas and oil,” said McKibben. “Let’s hope the Harvard Corporation cares as much about the future.”

The divestment campaign has scored some early victories across the country, with Unity College in Maine announcing they would fully divest their endowment and the Mayor of Seattle pledging to look into divesting city funds. 

Students at Harvard hope that the overwhelming support for the resolution will convince President Faust to end her refusal to meet with them to discuss divestment. The president recently stated in a public forum that Harvard University only divests in “the most extreme of circumstances” and that no issue made her feel “compelled to divest” at this time.

In the past, Harvard University has divested from tobacco corporations, corporations that supported the genocide in Darfur, and (in part) corporations involved in apartheid South Africa.

Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE for more related news on this topic.

 

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Aerial view of Ruropolis, Para state, northen Brazil, on Sept. 6, 2019. Tthe world's biggest rainforest is under threat from wildfires and rampant deforestation. JOHANNES MYBURGH / AFP via Getty Images

By Kate Martyr

Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest last month jumped to the highest level since records began in 2015, according to government data.

A total of 563 square kilometers (217.38 square miles) of the world's largest rainforest was destroyed in November, 103% more than in the same month last year, according to Brazil's space research agency.

From January to November this year an area almost the size of the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico was destroyed — an 83% overall increase in destruction when compared with the same period last year.

The figures were released on Friday by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), and collected through the DETER database, which uses satellite images to monitor forest fires, forest destruction and other developments affecting the rainforest.

What's Behind the Rise?

Overall, deforestation in 2019 has jumped 30% compared to last year — 9,762 square kilometers (approximately 3769 square miles) have been destroyed, despite deforestation usually slowing during November and December.

Environmental groups, researchers and activists blamed the policies of Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro for the increase.

They say that Bolosonaro's calls for the Amazon to be developed and his weakening support for Ibama, the government's environmental agency, have led to loggers and ranchers feeling safer and braver in destroying the expansive rainforest.

His government hit back at these claims, pointing out that previous governments also cut budgets to environment agencies such as Ibama.

The report comes as Brazil came to loggerheads with the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) over climate goals during the UN climate conference in Madrid.

AOSIS blasted Brazil, among other nations, for "a lack of ambition that also undermines ours."

Last month, a group of Brazilian lawyers called for Bolsonaro to be investigated by the International Criminal Court over his environmental policies.

Reposted with permission from DW.

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