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Irish fighting for climate justice

| Thursday, October 27, 2016

Have you seen orange felt squares pinned to any backpacks lately? Has anybody come to your class recently to speak about a climate justice campaign? Or maybe you heard about us from the recent Observer article, “Dear Father Jenkins.” Fossil Free ND, a student-led divestment campaign, is responsible for all of these things. Their belief is simply this — if it is wrong to wreck the climate, it is wrong to profit from that wreckage. Specifically, this wreckage is a direct consequence of the burning of fossil fuels, which is rapidly altering the climate. Sadly, our Lady’s University is profiting from this wreckage by investing a $400 million of the University’s endowment in fossil fuel industries. So, why orange? Orange is the chosen color of divestment — a purposeful departure from the green representative of environmentalism — to highlight the fact that the issue of divestment, specifically from fossil fuels, is not merely an environmental issue, but a social and political justice issue as well.

Firstly, it is important to define divestment. Divestment is removing all University investments, vis-a-vis the endowment, from fossil fuel companies. It is a campaign, dependent on the will and commitment of its members and active allies. Without student and faculty allies, the campaign would not exist. Only through solidarity with these allies can Fossil Free ND inspire change on campus and in South Bend.

All students at Notre Dame should be invested in encouraging divestment, for many reasons. Firstly, Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ calls us to respect and care for our common home. He calls the climate a common good and laments how climate change, chiefly driven by the burning of coal and fossil fuels, is and will continue to contribute to water scarcity and toxicity, the loss of biodiversity and a “decline in the quality of human life,” which is leading to global inequality. Pope Francis has called on humanity, not Catholics alone, to address this moral issue. As a Catholic institution, we are morally obligated to divest from fossil fuels. Notre Dame does not invest in firearms, stem cell research or abortion due to highly esteemed religious beliefs. Why have we not yet divested from fossil fuels? To not do so is to outrightly rebel against the call to action of Pope Francis to preserve our planet. To not divest is not only to discount our morality, but to leave our children and grandchildren to suffer the consequences of our inaction.

Divestment is the movement of this generation. Fossil Free ND has the power to transform Notre Dame and the larger South Bend community, and if other colleges around the globe carried the flame of climate justice, we would all be moving toward a brighter future. Divestment is not a new concept. It was utilized during the South African apartheid by companies that boycotted South African products to send a message. It worked. Fossil fuel divestment is the justice issue of our time, and, as college students, we have the potential to revolutionize energy solutions and ideas of justice world wide. When our kids ask us what we did during the Climate Crisis, what will you say to them? Will you sit idly by, or be on the right side of history? If you can no longer remain silent on this moral issue, Fossil Free ND invites you to join their ranks. They are seeking inspired individuals to join their campaign. Varying levels of commitment to the movement are available to Notre Dame students. Here are a few ways to get involved: like the Fossil Free ND Facebook page to receive updates; attend weekly meetings at 9 p.m. in Geddes B036; but most importantly, come out on Thursday to show your support. We will begin gathering around 4:30 p.m. outside O’Shaughnessy Hall, and then we will hear a message from the Climate Justice League around 4:45 p.m. to mobilize us for our march to Main Building. This is our chance to demonstrate student support for climate justice. Be there — wear orange.

Ashtin Ballard


Oct. 27

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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