Members of the Green Action club hold a rally last Thursday on the front lawn. Green Action wants Lehigh University to divest from fossil fuel companies and instead invest in renewable energy companies. (Courtesy of the Green Action Facebook page)

VIDEO: Green Action holds fossil fuel divestment protest

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Shouted speeches and chants were heard from the UC Front Lawn as the Green Action club held a protest Thursday to rally against Lehigh’s investment in the fossil fuel industry.

Lehigh invests a percentage of its $1.2 billion endowment into the fossil fuel industry. Although the numbers are not public, divestment chairperson Andrew Goldman, ’19, believes it is roughly 7 percent of the endowment.

Goldman said Lehigh’s investment in this industry both plays a part in harming the environment and also is not economically viable for the school. He said the renewable energy industry is doing better now than the fossil fuel industry.

“Renewable energy is growing, fossil fuels are falling, coal is bankrupt and even economically it doesn’t make sense to be invested in fossil fuels,” Goldman said.

Video by Xavier Cousens

According to the International Energy Agency, about 70 percent of energy supply investments in 2013 were related to the fossil fuel industry, whether it be in the extraction, transport or transformation of oil, gas or coal. Green Action is looking for Lehigh to be a leader in a shift to renewable energy investments.

“Universities have a fundamental obligation — it should be in the DNA of the university to be forward-looking and protective of society and to represent the unrepresented,” said Al Wurth, a political science professor who is the head of the Environmental Initiative and the club adviser for Green Action. “It’s silly to expect the average person to lead on this, someone has to lead. If it’s not a university, then who?”

Wurth said administrators have been listening to Green Action’s requests to divest from the fossil fuel industry, but changes have not yet been made. He said it would be smart for the university to get out of the industry now and invest its money elsewhere, both for economic and environmental reasons.

Students who are not members of Green Action also came to support the cause. The club handed out orange squares, which people could pin onto their clothing, to those individuals passing by the front lawn to spread its message and educate those interested in what the demonstration was about.

“I came out to support this because I think that it’s absolutely insane that Lehigh is using its endowment to profit off of the fossil fuel industry, especially when we have so many young and passionate people here who care about this,” Ellie Naka, ’19, said. “And yet no change has been made in their policy.”

Green Action campaigns for recycling and energy efficiency and hosts 5×10 events to educate people about environmental issues, but Goldman said its main focus is the divestment campaign.

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10 Comments

  1. Bruce Haines '67 on

    Green Action Club needs to understand that Lehigh University was founded by someone from the fossil fuel industry in Asa Packer. His railroad was instrumental in bringing coal to the marketplace to fuel the industrial history of this country. In addition it is foolish to campaign to tie the hands of our investment community from growing Lehigh’s endowment thru the best means possible. This includes capitalizing on the cycles of the fossil fuel industry that continues to power the economies of the world. It will be a very long time before renewable energy is both competitive and reliable as a stand alone source of energy.

    You can feel free to push for increased production of renewable energy by working as engineers to make it competitive with fossil fuels; but don’t try to bully the University endowment professionals with your idealistic agenda. Lehigh needs flexibility to grow its endowment just as much as America still needs the fossil fuel industry. A significant number of Lehigh graduates such as myself contributed to the growth of the fossil fuel industry & are proud of the contributions this industry has made and continues to make in driving the American economy. These former Lehigh graduates also have been instrumental in providing contributions back to the Lehigh endowment of which you are blessed to benefit from as a current student.

    There are two sides to every story and always remember the fossil fuel tentacles from which Lehigh University was both founded and nurtured throughout its history including today. Idealism is fine but without having practical common sense there is no progress.

    • Andrew Goldman on

      While I appreciate your response, I think it would do you a lot of good to do some research before you go spreading lies to the internet. While it is true that the fossil fuel industry played an invaluable role in industrializing the United States, that does not mean that they should be given a free pass to operate so incredibly irresponsibly and destroy the planet, and it does not mean we should continue to support them. We owe the United States agricultural economy to the enslavement of Africans, but that does NOT mean that we should continue to support slavery because it helped us grow our economy. We need to be considering the ethical implications of our actions, and funding the industry that has actively lied to us about the effects of climate change and spent billions of dollars lobbying our government to prevent change is certainly not ethical.

      To your second point about it being a “very long time before renewable energy is both competitive and reliable as a stand alone source of energy,” unless you consider four years a “very long time,” renewable energy will actually be cheaper in almost all places than fossil fuels, according to the US Energy Information Administration’s 2016 Annual Energy Outlook [1]. On top of that, the only reason that renewables have not yet blown fossil fuels into the dust is the fact that companies like Exxon Mobile spend over $1 million per month lobbying congress to prevent the changes in policy that would put taxes on carbon emissions and fund the transition to a renewable economy [2]. By divesting we show that we will not be held captive to a future that we can’t survive by an industry that only cares about its money.

      Furthermore, this is not an “idealistic agenda,” but rather the necessary action that must be taken in order to ensure that all the growth created by this industry doesn’t culminate in the extinction of the human race. If it were so “idealistic” then why have over 600 colleges, universities, and institutions already been able to divest a combined value of over $3.4 trillion? This isn’t idealistic; it’s already happening, and Lehigh is behind the curve.

      Not to mention that fact that fossil fuels DO NOT help the university grow its endowment. In fact, a study performed by the MSCI showed that over the last 7 years fossil-free portfolios actually OUTPERFORMED those that included fossil fuel companies like Chevron and Exxon Mobile [3], and with the decline of coal [4] and growing opposition to fracking [5] (which contaminates groundwater and destroys communities, not to mention the methane leaks that fuel global warming), the future of fossil fuels has never been bleaker. We would be in a better position if we had divested 10 years ago, but it’s not too late to get out now.

      I respect that people like you helped grow the economy by working for these companies, but they have long overstayed their welcome. Fifty years ago when these companies found out about the effects of climate change from their OWN research and decided that instead of helping to make the transition to renewable energy and becoming leaders in the fight against climate change they were going to lie to us and pretend like it wasn’t an issue, they made the decision that they were no longer working for the benefit of society, and we need to show that we do not support this deceit and the destruction of our planet.

      We will not let our future and the future of our children be suffocated by the “tentacles” of the fossil fuel industry, and we will not let our university fund the destruction of our future.

      [1] https://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/pdf/electricity_generation.pdf
      [2] https://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/clientsum.php?id=D000000129
      [3] https://www.msci.com/documents/10199/d6f6d375-cadc-472f-9066-131321681404
      [4] http://d35brb9zkkbdsd.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/GS_Rocks__Ores_-_Thermal_Coal_July_2013.pdf
      [5] https://www.ft.com/content/127effba-73ca-11e3-beeb-00144feabdc0

  2. Bruce Haines '67 on

    The same man made global warming alarmists back in the 1970’s warned of global cooling. Now they just say climate change to cover all occurrences. Global warming is related to cycles of the sun as evidenced by the end of the ice age long before fossil fuels.

    Stop spewing your liberal agenda to force a carbon tax to further erode US manufacturing competitiveness. Your regulations & unfair trade deals already drove jobs for inner city workers to offshore places that could care less about your agenda or fair labor practices. Now you want to shut down high energy users like US steel manufacturers that still pay a fair wage to minority workers here in America.

    Students only hear your one sided story & are led like sheep or face poor grades for challenging liberal professor agendas. Global climate change is a fabrication that needs exposed. The ice age will return again with or without a carbon tax as the Sun cycles.

      • Bruce Haines '67 on

        I don’t deny that the temperatures have risen from 1980 but take a look at your chart from 1940 to 1980 when temperatures dropped .5 degree C during the peak of the industrial era when coal and steel and alumninum production were at their highest levels in Europe and America without emission controls. This is when the same scientific community was united in calling for dire predictions of global cooling and a return to the ice age—remember that?

        The liberal agenda for government to control everything during the past 20 years while pushing for carbon taxes are the same people in Washington doling out federal and state funding to universities to generate studies to support their agenda. When you already know the answer they want, you generate the data to support the end game so you get more funding for more studies.

        You never addressed how the ice age ended without the fossil fuel industry in place to cause that problem? Climate change is a normal process and not controlled by man. What happened to all the massive hurricanes that your experts were predicting would wipe out Southwest Florida as predicted 10 years ago after the last hurricane hit the gulf coast?—another hoax driving up insurance rates for no reason with flawed studies.

        • Andrew Goldman on

          Climate change is a normal process, climate change at the rate that it is changing is NOT a normal process. Saying that the billions of tons of CO2 that we pump into the air each year doesn’t have an a effect is preposterous.

          As for your massive hurricanes, not sure if you follow the news, but have you heard of Hurricane Mathew? Or how about Hurricane Sandy? Katrina? Or the dozens more that have become increasingly severe and frequent [1].

          The data is there, you can choose to ignore it or you can choose to do something about it. I can share all the studies and data with you so you can educate yourself, but ultimately if you choose to be stubborn and ignore the science I can’t make you see the urgency here. You may not be around for the worst effects of climate change, but us students will; and we will not back down and let people like you destroy our future.

          [1] Smith, Adam B., and Richard W. Katz. “U.S. Billion-dollar Weather
          and Climate Disasters: Data Sources, Trends, Accuracy and
          Biases.” Natural Hazards 67.2 (2009): 387-410. National Centers for
          Environmental Information. Ncdc.noaa.gov, 03 Feb. 2013. Web. 15
          Apr. 2016.

  3. Andrew Goldman on

    Yes, historically fluctuations in Earth’s orbital eccentricity, the procession of our axis, and changes in Earth’s tilt relative to the plane of orbit around the sun (or as you call them “sun cycles”) have been the cause of changes in the global climate over large timescales. And yes, periodic fluctuations in those values will still affect our climate, but saying that human activity through the anthropogenic production of carbon dioxide by the burning of fossil fuels does not affect the climate is quite simply absurd.

    We know from arctic ice core samples that the carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere have not exceeded 300ppm in over 400,000 years, and that in the last 200 years the CO2 levels in our atmosphere has increased from roughly 250 to over 400ppm, as a DIRECT result of our burning of fossil fuels [1]. Add onto that the fact that global variations in temperature have coincided almost perfectly with CO2 levels, and that in laboratory experiments we can directly see the effect of CO2 on the greenhouse effect and warming, and you simply CANNOT reasonably argue that we are not causing the observed warming that has been steadily increasing over the last 200 years. The current rate of warming that we are seeing is more than 10 times the rates that have been caused by orbital fluctuations alone [2].

    I’m not quite sure what “regulations & unfair trade deals” you are referring to, or who you think I am and who I am affiliated with, but I do see that as a deflection from the argument at hand. We know that burning fossil fuels leads to increased temperatures, as well as increased ocean acidification that kills coral and fishes [3], and we know that the fossil fuel industry has known about this for half a century [4,5], and is actively preventing the transition that we need. Lehigh is supposed to be an institution dedicated to preparing us for the future, and that is why we think it is wrong to be invested in the destruction of said future. We are simply asking that our endowment reflect the values of the university, and work to protect our future for ourselves and our children. Please stop accusing us of things that we are not doing.

    Again, global climate change is NOT a fabrication; the real hoax is the lies and deceit that have been spread by the very industry that first discovered the effects of fossil fuels on climate change. These students are not being “lead like sheep,” they are doing their own research and discovering the truth for themselves. I suggest you do the same.

    You are entitled to your own opinions; you are not entitled to your own facts.

    [1] http://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/carbon-dioxide/
    [2] http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/GlobalWarming/page3.php
    [3] http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/co2/story/Ocean+Acidification
    [4] Robinson E, Robbins R C. 1968. “Sources, abundance, and fate of gaseous atmospheric pollutants. Final
    report and supplement.” Stanford Research Institute,Menlo Park, CA. OSTI: 6852325.
    [5] http://graphics.latimes.com/exxon-research/

  4. Bruce Haines '67 on

    More propaganda to promote the liberal agenda–you are being misled by big government bureaucrats/liberal media/Hollywood & professors that benefit from gov’t grants.

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