On Global Divestment Day, a call for change at UNH

By Mark Kobzik, Contributing Writer

Photo courtesy of Chris Crinely  Students march to Thompson Hall to hand deliver a petition to the UNH administration. Friday’s demonstration was a part of Global Divestment Day.

Photo courtesy of Chris Crinely
Students march to Thompson Hall to hand deliver a petition to the UNH administration. Friday’s demonstration was a part of Global Divestment Day.

This past Friday, University of New Hampshire students gathered in Memorial Union Building Room 156 to discuss the means of bringing change to how the university invests its money in companies that use fossil fuels. According to SEAC (Student Environmental Action Coalition), investments in fossil fuels are harmful to both the environment and those who live in it.

Posters and signs that were displayed around the room informed everyone that UNH invests $3 million of its endowment in unsustainable practices. SEAC looked to not only inform students about divestment, but also to encourage change. All around the world, universities, environmental activists, religious institutions and others that are inspired to see companies and governments invest more in sustainability came out to celebrate Global Divestment Day.

“We want to remind UNH admissions, remind the UNH foundation, remind President Huddleston, that we’re asking for divestment, and that we want to know what any steps forward are on the ESG portfolio,” said Lisa Demaine, an environmental science major and SEAC campus coordinator.   

Two years ago when SEAC obtained 1,000 signatures, UNH reacted by starting an environment, social and governance (ESG) portfolio. ESG portfolios are sustainability tools used in helping companies and organizations invest in sustainability. According to Demaine, UNH has still invested too much in fossil fuels regardless of what the ESG portfolio has done to promote change. UNH does have some investors looking to contribute to sustainability.

“We’ve researched it, I will tell you that UNH has some companies from the 350.org’s Fossil Fuel 200 Dirty Companies … of the Top 100, UNH has invested in some of those,” Demaine said.

During this informational meeting, SEAC members and concerned UNH students gathered to talk about divestment and how each of them could pass along the message of environmental awareness. With about 30 people in attendance, students divided into three groups, each with a leader from SEAC.

In one group, they focused on personal stories and how each of them feels about the environment. Another group was taught how to pitch an effective summary of divestment to friends, family, and strangers. The last group focused on investments and where UNH and other organizations and companies can invest for the future.

“Global Divestment Day is a really good move for the divestment movement as a whole because it starts to bring together communities that are working on this isolated … we show these conglomerate companies that hundreds of thousands of people around the world care about divestment and the future of our environment,” said Faye Christoforo, a campus coordinator from Post-Landfill Action Network.

The informational meeting ended and attendants with signs and posters made their way up the stairs of the MUB and out the front doors of Holloway Commons over to Thompson Hall while chanting, “We are unstoppable, a better world is possible!” and the “I believe in UNH” chant. The weather was in the single digits, but that didn’t deter them from standing outside of Thompson Hall and continuing chants while members of SEAC brought the petition of almost 600 signatures to President Huddleston’s office. The petition called for an end to investing in environmentally dangerous companies and sought to build a relationship with the administration.

“We are eager to work with them,” Demaine said. “We now are open to work with them, instead of before in 2012, when we were demanding. We realize that we are their constituents. I came to this university because I knew it was an environmentally sound university. But then hearing that they are investing over $3 million in fossil fuel extraction … that makes me go, ‘why is that happening?’ We know students can facilitate this change and get the word out about divestment.”

Kaity Thomson, a graduate of UNH, has recently joined 350NH, which is an affiliate of 350.org., an organization that has helped lead the Global Divestment Day movement and is proud to help communities all around the world come together in support of sustainability.

“350 New Hampshire is excited to support divestment across the state. We are here with resources and to support the students,” Thompson said.

“I’m feeling excited. I’m really happy that we’re back and super excited to be working with the administration about fossil fuel investment,” said Griffin Sinclair-Wingate.