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.