Climate emergency: Divest UConn Foundation now!

Feb. 2020 UConn sit-it 10:18
Members of the environmental activism group Fridays For Future stage a sit-in in UConn’s Gulley Hall for the third week in a row on Friday, Oct. 18. The group will continue the sit-ins until university administration responds adequately to their demands for climate justice. (Maggie Chafouleas / The Daily Campus)

By STELLA KOZLOSKI

We are reprinting below an opinion article from the Jan. 23 issue of The Daily Campus, a journal published by students at the University of Connecticut. Stella Kozloski is the vice president of UConn Fridays for Future and a member of the campus chapter of the Young Socialist Alliance.

What does UConn Fridays For Future mean when we demand that the UConn Foundation divest from all fossil fuel holdings?

We recognize that there is a constant exchange of money, endowments, donations, etc. occurring behind closed doors, the ultimate purpose of which is assumed to be for the benefit of the student body and the general public. Yet, we are not privy to most of what occurs, and we do not contribute to what decisions are made by this foundation. It is not us who determines whether our welfare has been increased.

It might seem cold to focus strictly upon a financial issue. The climate crisis is a vast, humanistic issue, and there is much to be said on the anxieties it has brought onto the younger generations and its catastrophic impact on the way of life of many indigenous peoples or coastal communities. This is missing the point. The passionate struggle of many has been exacted by the cold calculations of a few. The climate crisis, from the very beginning, has been caused by the depreciation of life in favor of profit.

What better example can be found than that of ExxonMobil, one of the UConn Foundation’s 2019 donors?

ExxonMobil is well known to be one of the world’s largest publicly traded international oil and gas companies. Less well known is an article posted by the Los Angeles Times in 2015 that revealed ExxonMobil was a pioneer in climate change research during the ‘80s, financing both academic and company research. In 1989, ExxonMobil concluded that global temperatures in the 21st century could rise anywhere between 2.7 and 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit and result in various catastrophic effects on our environment. Yet instead of searching for a more ethical alternative for their business, ExxonMobil launched a $30 million propaganda campaign to fabricate an “uncertainty” in the greenhouse effect.

This corporation, which used its significant resources to knowingly support the obfuscation of years of research, is also a financial contributor to our university, which prides itself on research and academic integrity.

FFF has seen some progress in our demands being publicly recognized by the university. President Thomas Katsouleas, while not outright declaring a climate emergency, has created a sustainability advisory council that includes student representatives and has stated in his letter to the student body that he has plans to “accelerate” the pace of UConn’s reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions. These promises are empty without actual systemic change. Entering 2020, the university is woefully short of the sustainability office’s goal of producing two megawatts of renewable energy. Instead, by FFF’s estimates we only produce a measly 20 kilowatts from the solar panels on Werth Tower, an array which was added by the university back in 2014. It is clear FFF has much to do in securing a better future for the student youth.

One of our main demands we will be moving towards this semester is for the UConn Foundation to finally divest from its ties with the fossil fuel industry. This includes refusing the donations of ExxonMobil Foundation and Chevron Texaco Corporation. This also requires that the UConn Foundation reform its portfolio so that it is divested from all conventional energy stocks. The only way FFF can ascertain total divestment is if the UConn Foundation reveals its assets, so within our demand for the UConn Foundation to divest we also ask for increased transparency from the UConn Foundation.

The effects of the UConn Foundation’s divestment would be beneficial both materially and ideologically. By divesting, we stop supporting corporations who profit off of the continual degradation of our environmental integrity by not investing in their dying technologies. This would also clear space for green energy opportunities. With this, we affirm that UConn cannot ethically associate with a fossil fuel company responsible for countering decades of extensive scientific research.

If you are interested in participating in the UConn Fridays For Future movement, please contact us at uconnfridaysforfuture@gmail.com.

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