–Fossil Free University of Colorado’s response to CU Board of Regents–

Fossil Free CU

Last week, things got seismic when Fossil Free CU shook up the South West Divestment Scene. On Wednesday, November 19th, the three campus campaigns, made statements pressing, yet again, for the University of Colorado Board of Regents to divest the over $27 million endowment funds from fossil fuel industry shareholdings. University of Colorado Denver, Colorado Springs and Boulder Fossil Free CU students and faculty members, backed by over 70 supporters present, called on the Regents for a meeting with the full board and all three campuses before the next Board of Regents meeting in February.

During the open comment section of the meeting, Fossil Free CU reps and faculty supporters made statements calling for the regents to cease their inaction and take responsible steps for investing in a healthier climate. These statements were returned, and even interrupted by the Board with heated comments, seen here in the Daily Camera’s coverage of the meeting. As seen from the comments made Wednesday, some board members are actively protecting the interests of the fossil fuel industry.

Regent Jim Geddes, R-Sedalia, stated that he knew of 1300 scientists who deny Climate Change being a real phenomena and that the Earth is entering a cooling cycle. Geddes cited his sources for climate change denial with the statement “Oh, I read things on the Internet a lot.” With over 97% of the scientific world agreeing that global climate change is happening and attention and action, we recommend Regent Geddes to do some more research. He’d likely get a failing grade on a college paper.

Regent Gallegos, Republican District 3, who told the divestment campaigns to “do your homework” missed the central argument for why CU students are pushing for divestment from fossil fuels.  Campaigns have done their homework. In fact, it’s because of the history of extraction in Colorado and the havoc it has wreaked on its people, that has inspired the community to action. The boom and bust cycles of many extractive industries have ruined far too many towns, just like in Parachute in Garfield county. Towns like Parachute saw a boom in their local economies due to rapid development from the industry, only to see a bust after the land dried up. This all too common narrative in Colorado also drives the environmental degradation– which negatively impacts ecosystems, ecosystems that humans depend on for clean air, water and land.

Regent Sharkey, R-Castle Rock, also missed the big-picture when she questioned students about how they traveled to the Regents meeting that day. Instead of acknowledging that a dozen students traveled 1-2 hours to meet with them to talk about systemic change, she pushed students to think about their ride to the Springs. The global divestment movement is understands the importance of individual actions, but more importantly hopes to challenge institutions to think about the changes that can be made on a larger scale. The University of Colorado as an educational system committed to educating young people in building a better future needs to truly stand behind that mission by divesting from industries that do not support that vision.

The kind of change that’s needed is as big and urgent as the problem we face. Sharkey’s argument fails to recognize how our education and political system is married to fossil fuels and quite literally forces us to be complacent in this system–unless we build something new. Sharkey also fails to recognize the current violence that takes place during fossil fuel extraction. From forced migration of indigenous people in Northern Arizona due to Peabody Coal, mountaintop removal in Appalachia, to fracking in Colorado, we know that the extraction industry is reckless and dangerous. This is a moral and ethical issue that stretches far beyond the typical frame of climate change. It is an issue that serves to directly confront an industry that has been immune from any consequences and put a stranglehold on our democracy.

Regent-at-Large, Democrat Stephen Ludwig took offense when students and faculty members called the industry immoral. But the fact is, if it’s wrong to wreck the planet, then it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage.

Regent Sharkey stated “These students have the ability to become leaders, the ability to make change, and they also have the ability to take responsibility for their future. We, the Board of Regents, will not change this dialogue. But they will. To put the responsibility onto the leadership of this university and to treat [the students] like children, it’s up to us to take care of their future, I think that’s discrediting them and us.” Taking leadership on this issue is exactly what students, faculty and staff at the 3 CU schools are doing,.. yet the campaign demands are being ignored. Therefore, the campuses will continue to build power and support by fostering relationships across the CU system with faculty, staff, the greater communities of Boulder, Denver, and Colorado Springs and with campaigns across the nation. With more resistance from the administration, Fossil Free CU will only grow stronger. Students, faculty and staff will continue organizing until the school joins us to stand on the right side of history.

Franky Navarrette

Fossil Free CU-Boulder Campus