Author Archives: harvardsjsf

Shell Takes Over the Kennedy School

February 16, 2017

Today the Harvard Kennedy School is giving a public platform to the Royal Dutch Shell Oil & Gas Company, otherwise known as Shell, for promoting its video series “The Rational Middle”. This event is part of a Shell-sponsored media campaign attempting to control the public representation of the natural gas industry, blatantly bracketing the exploitative and destructive ramifications of its production and development to the communities affected by its local distribution and its contributions to the global climate crisis.

The most worrisome fact is that Shell is a funder of the Harvard Kennedy School Environmental Economics Program, which indicates a conflict of interest that severely jeopardizes the academic integrity of the Harvard Kennedy School. It is hard to imagine how much freedom the Harvard Kennedy School had when receiving the request from Shell to showcase their corporate propaganda.

It makes it even more troublesome that the corporate film screening will be followed by a panel featuring Shell’s Executive Vice President of Unconventionals, Greg Guidry, and other speakers friendly to the fossil fuel industry. Given the dramatic urgency of the climate crisis, which requires bold climate policies that would undermine the financial interests of the fossil fuel industry by leaving most fossil fuels in the ground, it is morally reprehensible for the Harvard Kennedy School to host an event clearly biased to portray Shell and the fossil fuel industry as a positive player.

At a time when the White House and Congress are being taken over by the fossil fuel industry, it is disheartening that the Harvard Kennedy School is also being taken over by its obscure corporate donors. The Harvard community should speak up and demand the Kennedy School to cut its ties with the carbon lobby.

Divest Harvard

Letter to President Faust: Break Up With Coal

To Be Delivered on February 17, 2017

Dear President Faust,

The last time we wrote to you we lived in a different political world. Now, President Donald Trump poses a threat to progress on the climate crisis. President Trump’s actions, including his appointment of Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, his statement to remove the U.S. from COP 21, his promise to repeal the Climate Action Plan, his questioning of the very existence of global warming and climate change, and his commitment to revive the fossil fuel industry, signal an antagonistic approach to climate science and a disregard for the severity of anthropogenic climate change.

We are committed to have Harvard divest its direct holding from the top 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies. We call on Harvard to begin by divesting fully from all and any coal companies and promise to not invest in coal in the future. We request a response and divestment from coal to begin by March 10, 2017

In the past, the Obama Administration’s attitude toward climate science gave your argument against divestment more credibility. We are here to ask: what will Harvard do now that climate science research is being rejected and silenced? What will Harvard do as scientists scramble to back up climate data out of fear that President Trump might suppress or destroy it? What will Harvard do as President Trump plans to cut federal science budgets or staff? What will Harvard do now that climate science research no longer translates into executive orders, federal legislation, or international policies? What will Harvard do now that climate change denialism pervades the White House?

Promoting climate science research and focusing on reducing on-campus operating emissions is insufficient in the face of such menacing prospects. Harvard must prioritize more than money and convenience; it must act morally and with a conscience.

During an interview with Harvard Gazette, you stated that Harvard ought only to divest from  the most “heinous” causes to preserve the many privileges that society affords the University. And we agree. The causes that are most injurious to other human beings merit moral and economic sanction. President Bok outlined this logic in his announcement to divest from tobacco companies out of a desire “not to be associated as a shareholder with companies engaged in significant sales of products that create a substantial and unjustified risk of harm to other human beings.”

Coal certainly meets that criteria. Given that when burned coal creates more pollution than gasoline, oil, or natural gas, coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel. An abundance of research links coal pollutants with respiratory, cardiovascular, and neurological issues, including asthma, heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory disease, that impacts fetuses through the elderly.

To reinvest in the previously dying coal industry is not just ‘business as usual’ but a moral backslide to prioritize financial gain over human health and sustainability. Investing in coal companies signals Harvard’s endorsement of President Trump’s de-regulation practices.

It is time for Harvard to demonstrate real commitment to fixing this global problem.

Sincerely,

Divest Harvard

Open Publication: Divest Harvard Requests Meeting with Stephen Blyth

Today, Divest Harvard sent a letter to Dr. Stephen Blyth, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Harvard Management Company, to request a meeting within the next month to discuss HMC’s new investments in distressed oil and gas companies. The communication is below.


To: Stephen Blyth, Harvard Management Company

From: The students of Divest Harvard

March 9, 2016

 

Dear Dr. Blyth,

The students of Divest Harvard believe climate change is the greatest problem of our time. Climate change drives other global crises and threatens to devastate our species and planet for thousands of years. Because of this, we are writing to request a meeting with you to discuss the Harvard Management Company’s continued investment in climate-altering fossil fuels.

Absent strong action, those of us who are young will likely see some of the world’s great cities begin to be submerged underwater and millions of people displaced or killed by droughts, floods and famines. In our view, this crisis calls for new intergenerational accountability entailing drastic reductions in fossil fuel investment, production, and use.

Harvard has so far failed to meet this moral challenge by refusing to divest itself of fossil fuel stocks. In fact, as recently reported by Bloomberg, it is investing large sums of new capital in oil and gas exploration and production. To refuse to divest from fossil fuel stocks is an abdication of moral leadership. To actively invest in oil and gas drilling that would not otherwise occur is directly destructive to the planet and its people.

This past December, the world agreed to limit the amount of human-caused climate change, setting goals that Harvard claims to support. If this global agreement is to be honored, at least half of current reserves must remain in the ground, and investments in fossil fuel production must decrease considerably. The Harvard Management Company betrays these obligations by investing in new fossil fuel production.

We request to meet with you within one month to discuss the current policies of the Harvard Management Company and how it can better honor the need for sustainable investing. Please contact Divest Harvard at harvardsjsf@gmail.com to schedule this meeting.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

The students of Divest Harvard

Who Gets a Spot at the Table: Divest Harvard at the IOP Forum

Today, November 16th, the IOP Forum hosted an event about the 2015 Paris Climate Conference. Divest Harvard held a presence inside and outside of the event. We were there to confront the panelists, including President Faust, with Harvard’s choice not to divest from fossil fuels and the decision to exclude voices of those most affected by climate change from a discussion about the “global community.”

The UN climate talks historically give the most power to rich countries and major corporations that profit from the creation of global climate change, allowing them to escape the responsibility they have to invest in a just transition to renewable energy. In its selection of who would represent the global community, Harvard too created this power imbalance. The panel was titled “Bringing the Global Community to the Table: Paris 2015 UN Climate Change Conference,” and yet all but one of the panelists were journalists or academics from the United States. The global community represented by this panel excluded the voices of the communities most impacted by climate change and the voices of our own community in Boston. This event is a further reflection of Harvard’s exclusive thinking, which has brushed aside the widespread call for divestment, leaving the majority of its own institution’s community out of the conversation about solutions to climate change.

Harvard has avoided acknowledging its own role as a financial contributor to the changing climate. It has used the advancement of research as an excuse to increase its financial returns through unjust and destructive investments in the fossil fuel industry. It has failed to truly empower the “global community” to discuss solutions and hold big climate opportunists accountable. We staged our action today to confront Harvard administrators with the following questions: How does Harvard decide who gets to sit at their table? And, whose solutions are Harvard’s decision makers choosing to champion when we talk about international solutions to climate change?

Divest Harvard to students of color at Mizzou and Yale

Divest Harvard stands in solidarity with students of color at the University of Missouri and Yale University who are fighting against systemic racism to reclaim their campuses. We recognize that the actions of these brave students are not just reactions to isolated events, but are instead thoughtful and impassioned responses to the structures of racism and oppression that are deeply embedded in their institutions. We are also appalled at the violent backlash that students of color are facing as a result of their courageous actions. Even as we stand in awe of the work of student activism at Mizzou and Yale, we hope our peers continue to find strength and healing in themselves and in their communities.

As activists, students of color, and allies on Harvard’s campus, we are inspired by the organizing that is happening on both of these campuses to challenge institutionalized racism. We are moved by their demonstrations of strength and resilience. We recognize that this is not a new struggle but rather that these actions constitute one moment in the movement for racial justice that is our generation’s duty to carry forward. Divest Harvard commits to supporting the efforts of resilience movements on campuses across the country, including ours, and we commit ourselves to confronting the racism and oppression that is still prevalent here at Harvard.

We stand behind these students and their vision of a world where people of color are no longer oppressed by systemic racial injustice; where students of color feel safe and included on their own campuses; and where everyone is free from intolerance and the threat of violence in their own communities.

#DivestWontRest: 45th Alumni Reunions

On Friday, October 23rd, students of Divest Harvard are standing in silent protest outside and inside an event that is part of the class of 1970’s 45th reunion. This event is an opportunity for alumni to participate in a conversation with President Drew G. Faust and Harvard treasurer Paul G. Finnegan. This conversation immediately follows an alumni panel entitled “The Heat Is On: Science, Politics, and Economics in the Climate Change Era.” Divest Harvard is excited about this panel, which includes our direct supporters, because it echoes the intensity we have brought to campus conversations about the need to address climate justice in our conversations about solutions. Even as this panel stimulates important conversations on Harvard’s campus, however, Harvard continues to profit from its investment in the fossil fuel industry. These investments are minute in the context of Harvard’s $37.6 billion endowment, but represent a continued complicity in the destructive and exploitative activities of the fossil fuel industry.

At this Friday’s discussion, President Faust and Treasurer Finnegan are making themselves available to alumni to answer questions about how they choose to run this University. Included in such operational matters are concerns about the endowment.  In light of their continued failure to recognize the University’s moral and intellectual responsibility to divest its endowment from fossil fuels, we, along with alumni, feel it is our duty to show up at this event in the hopes of forcing the decision-makers and alumni in the room to confront the moral inconsistency of our University’s stated commitment to climate solutions and continued investment in the fossil fuel industry. Our presence outside and inside of this event is to once again remind University decision makers and the larger Harvard community that we cannot be a leader on climate change solutions while we profit from climate injustice.

Statement of Solidarity: Divest Harvard to Baltimore

In fighting for divestment and climate justice, our ultimate goal is not only a world where Harvard University no longer invests in the fossil fuel industry — it is a world where all forms of oppression are actively and directly confronted. The model of corporate greed and state-sanctioned normalized violence that we fight against as climate justice activists is not an isolated phenomenon. It manifests itself through the business model of the fossil fuel industry and also through pervasive, destructive, institutionalized racism.

Knowing this, our struggle for climate and environmental justice will not and cannot be complete until we achieve racial justice, economic justice, and justice in all forms. That is why Divest Harvard stands in solidarity with the people of Baltimore and those protesting the death of Freddie Gray at the hands of the Baltimore Police Department. We must explicitly strive for a world in which Black lives matter, and in which people are valued more than property and profit. We need a world in which police brutality and systemic racism are not constant spectres in the lives of the marginalized, and in which Black and Brown people can survive and thrive without threat of unjust persecution.

As we stand in solidarity with protesters in Baltimore, Divest Harvard acknowledges that as student activists on Harvard’s campus, both our voices and our bodies are highly privileged. Media, mainstream and otherwise, notice us and ask us for comment in their stories. More often than not, we are treated cordially, by police and administration alike. Therefore it is our responsibility to be active allies with those protesting in Baltimore.

We urge all those who raise questions about the riots and violence in Baltimore to consider the centuries-long, systematic, and institutionalized violence enacted on Black and Brown bodies. Now is the time to practice empathy and solidarity. We urge all of our supporters and all Harvard students to consider what each of us can do — in our own lives, on campus, and in our own communities — to stand in solidarity with and join in the fight against racist police violence and all forms of systemic institutionalized oppression.

With love and support,

The members of Divest Harvard

*******

Resources:

 

 

Statement from Harvard College Democracy Matters

Senator James Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Environment Committee, does not believe in climate change. Inhofe has received $454,500 from the Oil and Gas industry since 2009.

Oil and gas companies contributed more than $70 million to federal candidates in the 2012 election cycle, more than double the total from 2010. While our planet is suffering irreversible change, Big Oil is increasing their voice in government.

We are Harvard College Democracy Matters, a student organization working to combat the influence of big money in politics by raising awareness on campus. In many ways, our mission aligns with that of Divest Harvard: both groups recognize the power that energy interests have over our politicians and the enactment, or lack thereof, of sensible, necessary, pro-environment legislation.

We endorse Divest Harvard because we believe that Harvard should not condone the actions of these fossil fuel companies. By continuing to invest, Harvard is tacitly supporting the destruction of our planet and the weakening of our political system. We want change, but we realize that if we don’t fix our political system, our voices won’t be heard. Citizens like you, who are rallying here this week to create a cleaner, more sustainable future will be brushed aside by politicians who are beholden to special interests. We demand reform from Harvard and from our political system at large.

Like Divest Harvard, Harvard College Democracy Matters is also working to leverage our unique voices as students to build political power and create meaningful political change. We’re working with campuses across the country to petition Congress and presidential candidates for real campaign finance reform that reverses disastrous Supreme Court rulings like Citizens United and puts our democracy back in the hands of the people rather than a small group of wealthy interests. You can be a part of this growing movement by signing our petition and coming to our Tuesday evening meetings.

We are dedicated to protecting our climate and our democracy, which is why we fully support Divest Harvard and hope you’ll join our cause, too.

BREAKING Communication Between Divest Harvard and Drew Faust

Today President Faust sent the email below to Divest Harvard members. The Harvard Spokesperson forwarded her email to news outlets. In response, we are releasing the statement below as well as her original email because we want to be open and honest about our interactions with the Harvard administration.


From: Chloe Maxmin <cmaxmin@yahoo.com>
To: “Madsen, Lars Peter Knoth” <lars_madsen@harvard.edu>
Sent: Thursday, April 16, 2015 7:15 PM
Subject: Re: Event in Emerson

Dear President Faust,

Thank you very much for your email. We appreciate the opportunity to meet with you. A team of students, faculty, and alumni would like to sit down with you and representatives of the Corporation at a meeting to formally negotiate about Harvard’s divestment.

Assuming that Harvard will continue in the meantime to invest in fossil fuels, we will continue to act with the full support of the movement that you have seen this week. This is what the urgent climate crisis requires.

After three years, we are glad to hear that you are interested in having a productive discussion about divestment. We look forward to moving this process forward.

Sincerely,

Divest Harvard


From: “Madsen, Lars Peter Knoth” <lars_madsen@harvard.edu>
To: Chloe Maxmin <cmaxmin@yahoo.com>
Sent: Thursday, April 16, 2015 2:14 PM
Subject: RE: Event in Emerson


Hi Chloe —  Thanks again.  Drew wrote you a message, which I have pasted below.

Lars



Dear Chloe,

The sign held by students at Emerson Hall yesterday was the first request I had received for a meeting from your group this week, and I want to respond to that invitation.

As you know from our many previous meetings and from the offer I made when you occupied Mass Hall in February, I am always open to hearing from Harvard students about their thoughts and concerns.  I would like to renew the offer I made in February:  I would be happy to meet with you and a representative group of your student colleagues when you have ceased disrupting university operations.  I would welcome the opportunity to discuss again our shared belief that climate change is a serious threat as well as the ways universities can most effectively confront it.

I thought I would also share with you the video recording of Monday’s open forum on climate change, where views both for and against the tactic of divestment were expressed:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pDb0mPyedk

I look forward to meeting you to continue our long series of conversations on this important topic.

Sincerely,
Drew

Harvard Heat Week Update: Student Day Call to Action

Divest Harvard expanded its blockade again early Thursday morning by blocking administrators’ access to all six entrances of University Hall, while maintaining the currently blockaded three doors of Massachusetts Hall. These actions aim to increase pressure on Harvard to divest from fossil fuel companies by stopping business as usual where the President works.

The blockades launched on Student Day – calling all students to come out to the Yard to show their support for divestment. Divest Harvard has already mobilized over 1000 students, faculty, alumni, and community members, and some have traveled across the country to stand in solidarity. Despite this massive outpouring of support, the administration has chosen to hide from our voices, treating this growing coalition of support for divestment from fossil fuels as temporary. But we are committed to fighting for a more just future and to making this institution accountable to its students.

We call for divestment because we believe that Harvard should not support and profit from the destruction of the planet. We also believe that Harvard should not invest in companies blocking political solutions that would transition us towards a sustainable future.

It is our responsibility to act now to mitigate climate change. That starts with having our voices heard. We are in the heart of campus voicing our concerns to show the administration that we need to do all we can to reverse climate change – and we need to do it now.

For this institution, business as usual means supporting fossil fuel companies. Because of this, we have expanded our disruption of business as usual. Today, we are showing the support and solidarity for this movement on a scale greater than ever before.

Today is about showing student power and support for climate justice. Please join us at 5 PM for a special solidarity action!