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Fossil Free ND presents divestment, renewable energy petition to University President’s office

| Friday, December 2, 2016

A month after their last demonstration, more than 20 students involved with Fossil Free ND presented a petition with 1,183 signatures to University President Fr. John Jenkins’ office Thursday afternoon.

“We’re asking that Notre Dame live up to the mandates of our Catholic faith and fully divest from the top 200 fossil fuel companies and set a target of 100 percent renewable energy on campus by 2050, which we think are reasonable goals and goals that other universities have done. We’re asking Notre Dame to step up to the plate as well,” fifth-year student Bryan Ricketts said.

Jenkins was not in his office, but the petition was delivered to his chief of staff, Ann Firth.

Led by sophomore Adam Wiechman, students in Fossil Free ND march in a protest in October.Katie Galioto | The Observer
Led by sophomore Adam Wiechman, students in Fossil Free ND march in a protest in October of this year.

Currently, 4 percent of the University’s endowment funds are invested in fossil fuel companies. Jenkins has said there are no plans to change that number in the near future.

On Sept. 20, Jenkins announced the University’s five-year sustainability plan, which included eliminating coal usage on campus by 2020 and providing at least 25 percent of the University’s energy from renewable resources by 2050.  

“A few weeks ago, 47 developing countries committed to going 100 percent renewable,” senior Sophia Chau said. “I feel like if they’re able to do that, we — as the world’s leading Catholic university — should be able to set a more ambitious goal than just 25 percent renewable by 2050.

“I hope this will bring attention to the disappointment regarding Notre Dame’s sustainability goals on campus, and I hope that the administration will be more willing to engage in meaningful and fruitful dialogue with students and faculty.”

Before the petition was delivered, the students gathered in front of the steps of Main Building for a brief prayer service. Senior Luke Hamel said the prayer was written in seven sections, one for each Catholic social teaching.

“Each section starts off with a description of that Catholic social teaching and then a personal story of someone around the world who’s been affected personally by climate change,” he said. “Climate change is affecting real people; it’s affecting them now, and we want to share that through prayer and make sure the whole message that Catholics have to protect the most poor and vulnerable is clear.”

During the service, students held up painted cardboard signs, reading statements like “planet over profit,” “climate justice is social justice” and “the climate is a common good.”

The signatures for the petition were gathered in the last month since Fossil Free ND’s last rally Oct. 27, former student body president Ricketts said. He said the administration’s response to the earlier rally was promising.

“We were able — the week after — to sit down with [University executive vice president] John Affleck-Graves and talked through some of the concerns that students have expressed and tried to find some common ground on the technical issues we were facing,” he said. “ … We’re looking forward to seeing the recommendations [the sustainability committee] puts forward in the coming semester or year.”

Weekly meetings for Fossil Free ND are held Mondays at 9 p.m. in the basement of Geddes Hall and are open to the public. The planning session for next semester, however, will start at 8 p.m. this Monday, Ricketts said.

While the student-led organization will be planning for the near future, Ricketts said the long term goals of progress in sustainability and increased student awareness never change.

“We, as students, know the world we want to grow up in and want to create — and it’s one that’s a just place and a sustainable place,” he said. “I think we feel those are more under threat than they have been before, but that’s not going to stop us from trying to have an impact where we can — in the place we call home.”

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About Megan Valley

Megan Valley was Assistant Managing Editor for The Observer. She majored in English and the Program of Liberal Studies and hailed from Flushing, Michigan.

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