If you happened to be eating lunch in Rastall last Tuesday afternoon, you might have paused and put down your fork as the trio of Darth Vader, a tiger bride, and a priest strolled into the dining hall. Darth Vader, who was blanketed with the logos of fossil fuel companies including BP, Citgo, and Lukoil, reached out his hands to the tiger bride, representing Colorado College, as the priest began to recite their vows to one another.
“Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today in the presence of these witnesses, to join the beautiful bride Colorado College and Big Oil, Dark Lord of the Sith in twisted matrimony.” This was not a performance art piece put on by an art major or hooligans just trying to make a scene; rather, this was an organized demonstration put on by the CC Student Divestment Committee (SDC), a student run organization that has asked the Board of Trustees eliminate institutional investment in the fossil fuel industry within the next five years.
Last school year the SDC, then run by graduate David Cully and current students Phoenix McLaughlin and Alex Suber, received a formal rejection from the board after a thorough report and proposal was presented at an annual board meeting. The report addressed the environmental obligations to divest, but mainly focused on the economic opportunities of reinvesting in socially responsible ventures such as renewable energies. In a response letter written by the board, the Board of Trustees justified not withdrawing socially irresponsible investments due to their “fiduciary responsibility and duty to invest with the sole goal of maximizing returns on the endowment.” For a school that prides itself on environmental consciousness, leadership, and sustainability, this was a puzzling proclamation, but also a predictable one considering some members of the board hold significant assets in corporations such as Halliburton – the world’s largest oilfield service company.
Surprisingly, this rejection was not the worst possible outcome for the SDC. Out of the 250 college campuses with divestment campaigns, only seven have committed to fully divest, including Unity College, Hampshire College, and Naropa University in Boulder. The vast majority of college boards do not give outright rejections, but rather publically contemplate a decision in hopes that the student body will quiet down and forget about divestment. Receiving a “no” shows that the board understands that the SDC is serious, and serious they are.
Just this past week, Ellen Rigell, Henry Holm, and Weston Sandfort – along with a posse of divestment team members – organized a public performance demonstration, conducted meetings with Mike Siddoway (Dean of Faculty), Ian Johnson (sustainability manager), and lastly hosted an event in the Cornerstone Screening room called “The Climate Conversation,” where a panel of students from a variety of departments eloquently spoke about their personal connections to preserving the health of our planet. Topics included the environmental fears of raising children on a vulnerable warming planet, students’ home economies being devastated by natural disasters, and even the solace of bird watching. The event ended as each audience member wrote down their climate legacy on a piece of paper, which was then placed in an empty bottle that will be shipped to a group in Washington called The Student Environmental Action Coalition. Capsules from around the world will be displayed for the Obama administration before the group buries them along the proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline so that if the President allows the pipeline to be built, he will first have to dig up America’s climate legacies.
After the board’s rejection last year, the SDC realized that now was the time to increase student participation in the divestment movement, which is the only way effectively pressure the board to consider divestment. Last year, 1,200 student signatures were collected in favor of divesting, which is over half the student body. “We have to come back and say it’s not just these 13 kids in a room that are passionate about it; it’s the whole campus,” said Henry Holm, commenting on the importance of how integral this movement is to the entire student body, faculty, staff, and local community.
Look out next semester for opportunities to get involved in the divestment movement, or attend the SDC’s meetings, info sessions, and events. Simply showing up to support a movement rooted in maintaining the health of our planet is a significant contribution towards convincing the board that divestment from fossil fuels is something that the CC community demands.