By: Benjamin Silverman, MS in Environmental Policy & Sustainability Management, New School
A historic victory has been made for the climate justice movement as The New School has announced that it will be divesting its endowment from fossil fuel companies. In an email to the whole university President David Van Zandt and Provost Tim Marshall announced that, “The New School’s Board of Trustees approved a motion to divest from fossil fuels. The Board’s Investment Committee has also approved a significant investment of the university’s endowment in renewable energy.” By doing so The New School will be permanently severing its $220 million endowment from any involvement with those dirty energy companies responsible for climate change, making it the second largest university in the world so far to do so.
On behalf of all those students, staff and faculty who believed in and worked hard on this campaign, I want to say congratulations to whole New School community. We did it! We have made history and have given the climate justice movement a huge victory to be proud of. For nearly two years those of us involved in the campaign through The New School University Student Senate, the Sustainable Cities Club and many more individuals, organized, educated and agitated the whole university on the issue of fossil fuel divestment. We organized events, rallies, panel discussions, all so as to raise awareness amongst the community on what they and their university can do to help meet the challenges of climate change. What we accomplished at The New School should be seen as proof positive that if you fight than you can win real change.
For this victory is not just for The New School and its commitment to sustainability, but for the entire climate justice movement. This announcement, coming just a few days before the Global Divestment Day of action on February 13th, should be seen as a rallying call for all those fighting against the fossil fuel companies responsible for climate change. We always believed that the greatest service out campaign at The New School could give was not just for our own university, but for the whole movement. The New School is a moderate sized university surrounded by the major NYC schools like Columbia and NYU, each with their own vibrant fossil fuel divestment movements and endowments in the billions of dollars. We hope that our victory at The New School will only be the first of many in NYC and around the country, as those movements at NYU, Columbia and elsewhere take inspiration from the work we have done. What is more, we hope that the important decision by The New School’s Board of Trustees will be seen as a challenge to other major universities and institutions, that now is the time for them to follow our lead and take a stand on climate change.
For with encouragement from the student body, The New School has taken a bold step beyond just simply divesting from fossil fuels by holistically integrating the move into a larger sustainability plan of action. The action plan includes new course work and research institutes on climate justice, offsetting 100% of the university’s electricity with alternative energy credits, institutional wide reduction of energy and water consumption, and more. This step of a multi-layered institutional strategy to combat climate change shows that the divestment movement isn’t just about one single issue or strategy, but it intersects with all aspects of environmental justice. In this way the university as a whole – student, faculty, staff – is becoming an institutional wide advocate to combat climate change and offers a model of true commitment to sustainability that others can follow.
Change takes hard work, perseverance and time. But if you and those you work with believe in the cause you’re fighting for, than you can win.