Refuel Our Future celebrates global divestment day

By SEBASTIAN KETTNER | February 16, 2017

Refuel our Future (ROF), a student-led fossil fuel divestment group at Hopkins, celebrated Valentine’s Day on Tuesday by handing out cards to raise awareness for Global Divestment Day and the University’s investment in fossil fuels.

The group has a divestment proposal currently under consideration by the Public Interest Investment Advisory Committee (PIIAC), which was reconvened near the end of last semester. In response to ROF’s protest on Nov. 17, PIIAC has updated its website with minutes and is currently replacing PIIAC members who have graduated or left the Committee. PIIAC applications are currently being reviewed.    

Maggie Weese, president of ROF, hopes that PIIAC will have an answer to their proposal before the end of the spring semester. She explained that if their proposal is approved, it will then go to the Board of Trustees’ Finance Committee, which will then present it to the University’s Board of Trustees for an official vote.  

Jeffrey Kahn, PIIAC’s current chair and director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, stressed that it’s important the Committee takes time to produce a thorough report.

“I’m confident that everyone in the Hopkins community shares the Committee’s commitment to engaging in the highest quality analysis, and to our producing a thorough report with recommendations that are well-supported,” Kahn wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “I don’t have a history to point to for the purposes of predicting how long it will take. The PIIAC website will be updating regularly now that we have dedicated staff support and I’ve committed to open communication with Maggie and others in ROF.”

Freshman Isabela Garces said that Tuesday’s event was meant to help increase enthusiasm about their mission.

“We’re just getting the word out on Refuel our Future and divestment. Most people have heard about it, but we want to keep the pressure up and keep the enthusiasm,” Garces said. “So we’re handing out these Valentine’s Day cards, because it’s Valentine’s Day and it’s Global Divestment day.”

The cards had “Refuel Our Future” overlaid on a green heart on the front, and opened to read “It’s time for Johns Hopkins to Break Up with Fossil Fuels </3”.  The card also mentions that 43 universities in the United Kingdom have made fossil fuel divestment commitments, according to People and Planet, a British student initiative. The card states that this is a quarter of all British universities.

Global Divestment Day is an international anti-fossil fuel day that promotes urgent action on climate change, Garces explained.

“It’s an international holiday, where everyone who is pushing for divestment has a day of rallying against fossil fuel use,” Garces said.

Freshman Colin Bowen, a ROF member, said that it is incredibly important for Hopkins to divest from fossil fuels.

“The University has approximately 100 million dollars invested in fossil fuels, so it’s a sizeable amount – obviously not enough to cause the industry to come crumbling down – but it’s enough where a top institution, like our school, to use our reputation and our name to spur larger movements,” Bowen said.

Bowen also cited Seattle’s recent divestment from Wells Fargo as a good way to send a message to the fossil fuel industry.

“The city of Seattle just divested all of their assets from Wells Fargo, because of their stance on the Dakota Access Pipeline,” Bowen said. “That was around 3 billion dollars, so that’s a step in the right direction.”

Garces said that it is also important for Hopkins to take into account student interests when planning their investments.

“I feel that the majority of the students on campus don’t agree with the use of fossil fuels over renewable energies, and I think a lot of us can agree that we don’t want our tuition money that we pay being divested into something that we don’t believe in,” Garces said.

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