The Push to Divest NWU

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Photo from Carissa Englert

The Greenhouse Project, a club advocating for sustainability on campus, is petitioning to get the university to divest from the fossil fuel industry. Created in 2015, the club plays a significant role in environmental awareness. According to Carissa Englert, co-president of the club alongside Payton Fallick, the Greenhouse Project has been focusing on bringing “as many people into environmental conversations as possible since its inception.”

If you have never heard about divestment before, this would consist of removing the university’s investments from stocks, bonds, or funds with ties with oil, gas, or coal companies. The Greenhouse Project is advocating for the university to divest because it considers it to be morally wrong to associate with industries that are the primary cause of climate change. We all

Co-President of the Greenhouse Project Carissa Englert stands against a background of plants and a brick wall.
Carissa Englert, Co-President of The Greenhouse Project

know the consequences of it: rising sea levels, droughts, and rising diseases. Last year, a study from Harvard University, the University of Birmingham, the University of Leicester, and University College London proved that the pollution caused by the fossil fuel industry is resulting in almost one in five deaths each year around the world.

This movement proved its strength last year when Harvard University announced that it would not make any more investments in fossil fuels. However, action is not limited to Ivy League universities. Small universities in Nebraska have already committed to divest from fossil fuels. In May 2019, Doane University in Crete promised to stop investing in fossil fuels. Similarly, Creighton University in Omaha announced in January 2021 its plan to repeal all its investments from these industries.

At NWU, the Greenhouse Project is entering the movement and asking the university to be environmentally responsible by divesting from fossil fuels. Englert believes that there is “no match for the environmental destruction that the fossil fuel industry continues to cause.” According to a study by the Climate Accountability Institute published in 2017, 100 companies are the source of more than 71% of the world greenhouse gas emissions since 1988. This small number of fossil fuel producers and their investors are crucial in tackling climate change.

For Englert, as an investor, NWU is responsible for its students: “As a university that cares about students’ futures but has significant investments in the fossil fuel industry, we have an ethical and economic responsibility to students and the planet to divest.”

Divesting from fossil fuels is both an ethical and economic issue for NWU. If international agreements on climate change succeed, all investments in fossil fuel industries will become worthless. Englert considers that divestment will affect all of us: “If you care about the ongoing extinction event that has been happening, the rate at which we are losing biodiversity, rising sea levels, frequent extreme weather events, displacement of people, access to water and food, etc., you have reasons to support divestment. If you understand that rising global temperatures are in line with rising greenhouse gas emissions since the Industrial Revolution, you have reason to support divestment. If you care about being invested in companies that can sustain their profits in order to get the best return on your investment, you have reason to support divestment.”

The Greenhouse Project created a petition for NWU students to show their support for the resolution that will be presented to the NWU Board of Governors. The club is also hosting a Divestment Dialogue on Thursday, February 24th at 7 pm in Prairie Wolf A&B. Englert encourages everyone to join since this is “a serious issue that affects all students, staff, and faculty. We want to make sure that everyone is able to engage in dialogue about divestment.”