Quantcast
Climate
500 students, faculty, alumni, and community members march though Harvard Yard at the "The Tide Is Turning" rally. 350.org

Harvard Board Member Calls on University to 'Stop Owning Climate Change'

Kathryn "Kat" Taylor, a member of the Harvard Board of Overseers and wife of billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer, made an unprecedented public call on Harvard University to divest from fossil fuel stocks.

The action comes after the university's $37.1 billion endowment—the world's largest academic fund—reported a lackluster 8.1 percent return that reflected "deep structural problems" that will take years to turn around, its endowment manager said.


Taylor, whose six-year term on the elected board will be ending this spring, wrote in an op-ed that as her last act, she is calling on University President-elect Lawrence S. Bacow and the Harvard Corporation, the university's highest governing body, "to adopt ethical investment principles."

"At a minimum," she is asking the endowment arm of the university, Harvard Management Company, "to divest from fossils fuels to prevent the end of life as we know it through cascading climate-driven disasters."

"This single act would not only take steps to address the existential crisis of our time, but it would allow the University to lead its peers, as few, if any, American universities thus far have taken this important moral stance," Taylor said.

The Harvard alumna ('80) joins a growing chorus of students, faculty, alumni and community members criticizing Harvard's portfolio that contains fossil fuel companies. The 70,000-member organization Divest Harvard demands that the Ivy League institution immediately divest direct holdings from the top 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies.

"Many more experts than I have advocated for Harvard's leadership to take the responsible action of divesting. For instance, more than 200 Harvard faculty members, including top scientists in the field, have called on the University to divest from fossil fuel corporations," Taylor said.

According to 350.org, a major campaigner in the global fossil free movement, more than 800 institutions, including universities, religious and medical groups, have joined the divestment movement to date.

"The movement to divest is large and thoroughly mainstream, comprised of many other top schools, cities, including New York City, as well as the Church of England and some pension funds," Taylor noted. "Their commitments to divest over the next few years now cover over $6 trillion in assets. So, our request, with these august endorsements, is not radical—but recalcitrance is."

In a stunning conclusion, Taylor said:

I am not going public with this call to action lightly or to be impolite. I have tried everything else—diplomatically in the background with other Overseers and outspokenly but behind closed doors in plenary. But this is too important for me to remain silent. It's because I love Harvard that I am compelled to speak with all the force of my position before it extinguishes. Harvard once refused to divest from companies doing business with apartheid South Africa in spite of a moral movement on campus. I marched in the student protests in 1980 and received the same disregard we are dishing out to our future leaders now. After ten years of dismissal, and the election of no less than Bishop Tutu to the Board of Overseers, Harvard finally reversed itself. Let's not repeat this mistake.

It's time for Harvard to stop owning climate change. We can make money ethically, with more resilient returns too. We don't just get profit from what we finance in this life, we endorse the activities underlying that profit—there is nowhere to hide from that. It is because we love our country and its most respected institutions that we call out the highest standards to which they must live.

While Harvard has not fully dropped its fossil fuel holdings, last year the elite college indicated it was "pausing" investments in minerals and oil and gas.

Colin Butterfield, the head of natural resources at the Harvard Management Company, said at the time that climate change is a "huge problem" and "I clearly feel that we are stealing from the future generations."

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Animals
Dolphin found with a bullet wound in California's Manhattan Beach. Marine Animal Rescue / Facebook

'Senseless Killing': Dolphin Found Shot Dead on California Beach

How could anyone shoot a dolphin? A dolphin that washed up dead in Manhattan Beach, California died from a bullet wound, according to local animal rescue workers.

Earlier this month, Peter Wallerstein, the founder of Marine Animal Rescue, responded to a call about a stranded dolphin on the surf, according to NBC News. By the time he arrived at the scene, the marine mammal was dead.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
A critically endangered Javan rhino in Indonesia's Ujung Kulon National Park. Robin Moore / Global Wildlife Conservation

See Stunning Footage of World's Most Threatened Rhino

With only 68 individuals left on the planet, the Javan rhino is the world's most threatened rhino species.

So you can image the surprise when a team from Global Wildlife Conservation and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) saw one of these incredible creatures wallowing in the mud in Indonesia's Ujung Kulon National Park, the only place on Earth where these critically endangered species are found.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Laurie and Charles / The Image Bank / Getty Images

Turkeys: Who Are They, and Why Should We Care?

By Karen Davis

We adopted Amelia as a young turkey into our sanctuary from a local farmer. She lived with us for five years until her legs gave out, and we had to call our veterinarian to put her to rest, surrounded by her friends in the yard. Until then she hung out happily with the chickens and ducks, and when people visited, she'd fan out her white tail feathers and stroll amiably beside them.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez addresses a rally held to call on Sen. Jeff Flake to reject Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court. Jessica Rinaldi / The Boston Globe / Getty Images

Khanna to Pelosi: Don't Just Create Green New Deal Select Committee, Make Ocasio-Cortez Its Chair

By Jon Queally

As the debate within the new House Democratic caucus continues to grow over the demand to create a New Green Deal select committee, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) came out on Saturday to say that not only should Nancy Pelosi create such a committee, she should appoint newly-elected New York freshman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to be its chairperson.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Food
Foxys_forest_manufacture / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Awareness of Food Waste Can Help Us Appreciate Holiday Meals

By Bryce Hannibal

Americans celebrate the winter holidays in many ways, which typically include an abundance of food, drinks, desserts—and waste. Food waste is receiving increasing attention from managers, activists, policymakers and scholars, who call it a global social problem. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, wealthy nations waste nearly as much food every year as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa.

Efforts to reduce food waste tend to focus on consumption practices, with less attention to the production and distribution side. But according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a large proportion of food loss and waste in the U.S. occurs at the farm-to-retail level, with about 133 billion pounds of food available at retailers going uneaten.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
The SeaRose FPSO and offshore support vessels. Berardo62 / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

250,000 Liters of Crude Spills off Newfoundland Coast

An estimated 250,000 liters (66,000 gallons) of crude spilled from the SeaRose FPSO, a floating production, storage and offloading vessel, in the White Rose oil and gas field off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.

Husky Energy, the operator responsible, said the spill happened on Friday when the SeaRose FPSO "experienced a loss of pressure" in an oil flowline, according to the Canadian Press.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Politics
Trump speaks while Wheeler stands by at the White House State Leadership Day Conference for Alaska, California and Hawaii in October. Win McNamee / Getty Images

Trump Wants Coal-Friendly Wheeler to Run the EPA Permanently

President Donald Trump announced Friday that he would nominate former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to permanently run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), CNN reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Protestors block traffic on Westminster Bridge, demanding urgent action on climate change. Amer Ghazzal / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

6,000 Climate Activists Block 5 London Bridges, Demand Urgent Action

On Saturday, More than 6,000 climate activists shut down five bridges in Central London. The protest, organized under the banner of Extinction Rebellion to call for urgent action on climate change, was the first to intentionally block the bridges "in living memory," the group reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!