At U.Va., many students are concerned about sustainability and creating a green community. But an issue that has not yet been addressed in this sphere has recently come to my attention through the new, blossoming group 350 UVa. 350 UVa is trying to start a fossil-free campaign by encouraging divestment.
U.Va., along with hundreds of other colleges, is receiving an endowment every year, made up of donations from alumni and supporters of the University of Virginia. In order to maximize this money, a company, the University of Virginia Investment Management Company (UVIMCO), hired by U.Va. is investing the money in many different companies in order to gain a large return on investment. This campaign is concerned with the fact that some of these companies unfortunately include huge fossil-fuel corporations. These big corporations are so focused on the importance of their short term profit that they are unconcerned with the fact that they are releasing CO2 into the atmosphere and speeding up the process of climate change, and generally not respecting the environment. The national campaign focuses on the top 200 oil and gas companies that are doing the most damage.
Divestment means, first, eliminating U.Va.’s investments and ties to these corporations in order to start a movement against these immoral corporate actions, and furthermore reinvesting in responsible companies, such as local sustainable farms or wind and solar power. University divestment works — it helped immensely in the anti-apartheid movement by pressuring the U.S. government to divest from South Africa. The hope is that by divesting, companies’ costs increase which makes it more difficult for them to operate with impunity. But this is not the only reason to divest: five university communities have already divested, and hundreds more are working to do the same. By joining the movement, U.Va. can be part of the catalyst for the greater movement across the country. It is extremely important to have a broad understanding of how our community can affect the entire world.
I know that I am going to join in the effort, and I wanted to make it clear to the students that this is an important, historic effort to be a part of. Here at U.Va., students have power. Their voices are heard daily and can make change happen. So I encourage all the students at U.Va. to stand for change in this circumstance. To get involved in 350, email firstname.lastname@example.org , search and become a fan of 350 UVa on Facebook, or visit gofossilfree.org.
Jackie Morrogh is a first-year College student.