Divestment and Conservation at EcoPledge’s Harvest Week

The many events, speakers and panels held over EcoPledge’s Harvest Week had a simple message: Boston College and its students have an important role to play in the fight against climate change.

Bill McKibben (Image via Flickr)

Bill McKibben
Image via Flickr.

On Thursday evening, renowned environmentalist and founder of 350.org Bill McKibben addressed a packed lecture hall regarding the daunting challenges presented by global warming.

Titled “350: The Most Important Number in the World,” McKibben emphasized the need for immediate action in response to rising world temperatures if human beings are to save the earth from the effects of climate change.

The number 350 refers to a recent scientific study by James Hansen stating that 350 parts-per-million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere is a safe upper limit if humanity is to avoid passing a climate tipping point. McKibben stated that we are currently at roughly 400 parts-per-million, and increasing by about 2 ppm every year.

With several members of BC Fossil Free in attendance, McKibben drew attention to the divestment movement. Simply, divestment refers to the pressure that student and alumni groups seek to exert on universities, hoping that they will stop investing in fossil fuel companies.

Photo via BC Fossil Free/Facebook.

Photo via BC Fossil Free/Facebook.

BC Fossil Free, a student-run divestment organization here on campus, believes in the power of the movement, its mission being to raise awareness among students and faculty about the ongoing climate crisis. Instead of profiting off companies that, as McKibben puts it, “are allowed to pollute for free,” the divestment movement hopes to convince colleges like Boston College to instead invest in greener and more renewable energy companies.

McKibben rebuffed frequent criticism of the environmental movement by stating, “We are not radicals.” Simply, environmentalists are only trying to preserve “a planet that works a little like the one that we were born onto.”

Members of BC Fossil Free cited their interests and passion for the environment and natural habitats as starting points for their involvement. Margaret Stack, A&S '15 and a BC Fossil Free member, stated, “I personally do not want to live in a world where these habitats are only found in photographs and imaginations.”

The next day, EcoPledge continued with an all-day forum entitled, "Energy: From the Last to the Next 150 Years." After speeches by Boston College administration officials highlighting the university’s conservation efforts, double Eagle and Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey gave the keynote address.

350.org members at the Great Barrier Reef

350.org members at the Great Barrier Reef.
Photo via Flickr.

Senator Markey included in his remarks a discussion of his failed 2009 cap and trade bill that was able to pass the House of Representatives before dying in the Senate. Despite this setback, President Obama was able to reinstall solar panels at the White House, and the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline has been delayed.

Senator Markey praised efforts by President Obama to invest in green energy, including the 2009 stimulus bill. In closing, Markey ended on an uplifting note, saying, “We can do well and do good at the same time. I'm optimistic that Boston College will play a role in this.”

With regards to that aforementioned role, Senator Markey did endorse the mission and efforts of BC Fossil Free locally and the divestment movement as a whole during the question and answer session. This follows remarks made by President Obama in favor of divestment at Georgetown University this past June.

One of BC Fossil Free’s founding members, Bobby Wengronowitz, GA&S '19, hopes that the past week of events can help spread his group’s message. “When Boston College invests in fossil fuel companies, they are sending a political message just as they would be if they divested from fossil fuels.”

BC Fossil Free members. Photo via BC Fossil Free/Facebook.

BC Fossil Free members.
Photo via BC Fossil Free/Facebook.

Many speakers and panels sought to help students come away from the week’s events with an understanding that students themselves have a role to play in sending this message. For more information, please visit Bill McKibben’s website 350.org or attend BC Fossil Free’s informational session tomorrow, Wednesday, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m.

To support the divestment movement and sign BC Fossil Free's petition, click here

Featured image via BC Fossil Free/Facebook.

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James Cody