Written by: Fiona Gettinger, Fiona is a Sophmore at the Univerisity of New Hampshire majoring in Environmental Conservation Studies, she is also a campus coordinator with the Greenpeace Student Network and the President of the Student Environmental Action Coalition.
It’s been a rough week for University of New Hampshire President Mark Huddleston, and the UNH Student Environmental Action Coalition could be to blame for that. Three months into our campaign to get our institution to divest from fossil fuel companies, we received an official statement from the administration saying that divestment isn’t a “practical or feasible option”. Two weeks ago, we decided it was time for action. So, this past week we’ve been turning up the heat, starting with this opinion piece released on Tuesday. On Thursday, forty of us marched into the President’s office to deliver over a thousand petition signatures from the student body in support of our campaign.We asked President Huddleston and the UNH Foundation to consider the possibility of divesting our endowment from the fossil fuel companies that are destroying our planet. Thousands of students across the nation support this campaign for socially and environmentally responsible investments. We asked that he and the Foundation look into the research, in particular the Mercer Climate Change Scenarios – Implications for Strategic Asset Allocation Report which we presented with the petitions. This report and many others like it, agree on the huge financial impact global warming will have over the next few decades, though they were obviously not considered before the UNH Foundation rejected the possibility of divestment.
On Tuesday, our President issued a statement for a Portsmouth Herald article on our campaign, which included, “as a general rule, it is critical that UNH Foundation funds be managed to generate maximum returns…Those who would seek to limit the scope of foundation investments should introduce themselves to the current UNH students who would have their financial aid suspended as a result of such actions, and ask them how they feel about such a policy.” As several of us in SEAC do have scholarships and financial aid, it is something that we have already considered and is very important to us. That’s why we are also working with the UNH Peace and Justice League on their campaign ‘NH Fund Our Futures’ to ensure that state funding is restored. And, while we appreciate the concern of President Huddleston on this topic, he cannot assume that divesting from fossil fuels would ultimately lead to a loss of revenue from the endowment. The report gives a thorough summary of the financial costs of global warming that we will see in the coming decades and, I quote, ‘identifies a series of pragmatic steps for institutional investors to consider, including allocation to climate-sensitive assets and the adoption of an “early warning” risk management process.’
The UNH foundation needs to divest from fossil fuels while investigating socially and environmentally responsible investment alternatives that will drive the same if not a larger rate of return. So far, they have declined to even inquire into different options, which seems incredibly irresponsible and hypocritical to students who are told by UNH professors everyday to explore all the options. As students, we cannot, and will not consent to having our futures threatened by rising sea level, natural disasters, poor air quality, and a warming planet. As I said on Thursday in the President’s office, “What we do today will be our legacy, and we need our administration to consider the long term well-being of its students, instead of the the short term profit.” We asked that President Huddleston meet with us before the end of January, 2013, to discuss the most important issue of this century.
Not only did the event make front page news of our school newspaper the next morning, but the Editorial Staff also wrote an opinion editorial in support of our campaign and is looking forward to covering our campaign for its duration.
The Portsmouth Herald published a second article on the divestment campaign from a national perspective this morning, which, while we were hoping it would mention some of the points we’ve made when addressing the possibility of lesser returns, it includes some great quotes from 350.org’s Daniel Kessler and Unity College President, Dr. Stephen Mulkey.
We have also just released a video of our Thursday event and you can really help us out by sharing it with your friends and tweeting it at @MarkHuddleston and @UNHSEAC – help us show him the support this campaign has from the local, national, and global community!