I am a sophomore majoring in International Affairs with a dual concentration in Comparative Social, Political, and Economic Systems and International Environmental Studies, along with a minor in Sustainability. I grew up in Boca Raton, Florida, but many of the experiences that sparked my environmental ethic took place in places like Yosemite, the Rocky Mountains, and the desert Southwest, where I discovered a lifelong love of nature. Although I believe that protecting our last remaining wilderness areas is an indispensable part of environmentalism, the most important environmental work we can do is about directly making peoples’ lives better, in fighting for clean air and safe homes. To me, environmentalism is about connecting people to their communities, drawing common cause between nations, and allowing people to take back control of their land and livelihood. Also, I can say any tongue twister, and yes, I accept challenges.
The George Washington University seeks to be a model of urban sustainability, but its record is clouded by financial support for firms which engage the least sustainable practices in our society. Thousands of students have called upon their University to severe their ties with firms that have used their political influence to profit from looming global catastrophe. Fossil Free GW offers the following ideas to reverse this course, and move towards a humane and forward-looking investment strategy.
- Disclosure of Investments in the Top 200 Coal, Oil, and Natural Gas Companies
- Restoring “Sustainable” Investments to 2014 levels, and expanding investments thereafter
- Divestment from Coal Mining Operations
- A comprehensive shareholder engagement and proxy voting strategy
- Divestment from companies producing Tar Sands Oil
- Divestment from companies engaged in Hydraulic Fracturing , or “Fracking”
- Investment Disclosure Through a Student-Faculty Ethical Endowment Advisory Board
- Divestment from remaining oil and natural gas companies over several years.
- A Comprehensive Sustainable Investment Plan promoting social, economic, racial, and environmental justice
The coordinating committee of Fossil Free GW, along with partnering individuals and organizations, will focus on the importance of each recommendation at length in a series of pieces published every week. The pieces will be collected into a final report for the University community that will be presented at the close of the semester.
Saint Francis of Assisi, born into privilege, spent his life living and connecting with the poor and working for animals and the environment. In fact, he is considered the patron saint of the environment and all those who study ecology. St. Francis of Assisi died in 1226, but almost 800 years later, it felt like his spirit was alive and well in Washington DC.
I was one of around twenty five students that joined Fossil Free GW for the Moral Action on Climate Rally. The entire morning was full of incredible speakers such as Reverend William J Barber, who called for a moral critique as we are faced with an unparalleled climate crisis that affects most those who are least responsible for causing it. It was full of passionate people who showed up to rally in support of the Popes call of climate justice, ranging from student groups such as us, to parent groups such as Moms Clean Air Force.
But the crowd was there for one reason, to see the modern day Francis who has been making waves in the international community because of his comments about climate change and climate justice. And just like St. Francis, when he spoke people listened. He broached a wide range of topics, from his opposition to the death penalty to immigration. However, the one that was most moving and that drew the largest applause from the crowd was his call for the United States to take “courageous action” on climate change. He continued to call for “…a courageous and responsible effort to ‘redirect our steps’ and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity.” The Pope’s message was heard loud and clear by the people attending the rally, and received raucous applause for his statements. He was well received by Congress, as this was one of several times where he drew a standing ovation from those in attendance. The Pope continues to inspire millions, and hopefully he inspired all members of Congress to take action on stopping climate change and reducing its effect on those most vulnerable.
On Tuesday, GW announced that the university, along with American University and the GW Hospital, is in agreement with Duke Energy Renewables to cut carbon emissions by transitioning to solar. The gist of the agreement:
The Capital Partners Solar Project will break ground this summer near Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Once fully operational in 2015 with 243,000 solar panels, the three solar farms are expected to generate 123 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year. Planners said that translates to eliminating about 60,000 metric tons of carbon emissions per year or taking 12,500 cars off the road.
Undoubtedly, the shift to solar is good news.
We desperately need to cut our carbon emissions rapidly and transition to alternative forms of energy.
While we should celebrate the transition, there are implications of the deal worth considering.
June 24, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Earlier today, American University (AU), the George Washington University (GWU), and the George Washington University Hospital (GWUH) signed a joint agreement to bring 52 megawatts of photovoltaic (PV) power from North Carolina to the three institutions, equivalent to the electricity used in 8,200 homes each year. While this represents the largest non-utility solar PV power purchase agreement in the United States in total contracted megawatt hours, students from Fossil Free AU and Fossil Free GW fail to see how their universities reconcile such a large investment in renewable energy with continued investment in fossil fuels.
Fossil Free AU and Fossil Free GW, both fossil fuel divestment campaigns, stand together to congratulate our respective universities on their growing commitment to renewable energy and sustainability initiatives. But today, our campaigns urge our universities to acknowledge that our investment practices contradict this new initiative, and that bolder action on climate change is necessary.