Environmentalist: UC Sit-Ins, Class Stoppages Necessary To Divest Oil

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Fossil fuel divestment at the University of California school system will not be possible without massive demonstrations, sit-ins and overall mayhem, according to an op-ed from an environmental attorney based in California.

If the universities’ fossil free group wants UC to purge fossil fuels, Jeff Hoffman wrote in an editorial at The Daily Californian, then it will have to conduct “mass demonstrations that include things such as sit-ins that shut down administration offices and buildings.”

In other words, it’ll take much more than mere protests to get UC to divest.

Hoffman’s piece was targeted at members of Fossil Free UC, the school system’s anti-fossil fuel group — in particular, the op-ed praised one of the group’s members, Tyler Jacobson, for writing an editorial of his own March 8 pleading the schools divest.

UC is a sprawling system, replete with ten campuses, housing 230,000 undergraduate and graduate students, as well as employing 20,000 faculty members. It is one of the largest university systems in the world.

Hoffman noted how he believes the UC’s Board of Regents are chock-full of conservative-type businessmen — all of them appointed by “governors who have been Republicans or corporate Democrats,” he added — who will all but ignore most calls to divest.

To combat the Board of Regents intransigence, anti-fossil activists will have to mobilize students, and make them “care deeply” about divestment issues in order for these demonstrations, sit-ins and class stoppages to take effect, warns Hoffman.

The universities sold more than $200 million worth of oil and coal assets in September 2015, but still left substantial fossil fuel investments from natural gas companies. Fossil Free UC championed the move at the time, calling it a “big deal and an important first step.”

“If the regents are serious about climate solutions that means not just divesting from fossil fuel companies, but investing in a just transition away from fossil fuels and towards the non-extractive economy,” Fossil Free UC member Victoria Fernandez said in a statement.

Fernandez added: “There is no stopping this movement. We have glimpsed a future of dignity, justice and sustainability, and we are determined to make it real.”

Shortly before the move to jettison the coal assets, UC’s president Janet Napolitano, along with Bruce Varner, UC’s chairman of the Board of Regents, created a task force to research the effectiveness of divestment.

The majority of the task force concluded that divestment from fossil fuels would do precious little to impact global warming.

The task force noted its findings in a report to Napolitano and Varner: “The majority of Task Force members believe that the cumulative benefit from the University’s divestment from fossil fuels would not outweigh the total costs incurred from the divestment of fossil fuels from the University’s $91 billion investment portfolio.”

Still, the findings didn’t stop the school system from purging large swaths of its fossil fuels assets, which was made easy by oil’s plummeting value on the market.

And it hasn’t stopped environmentalists such as Hoffman from advocating heavy-handed protestations in order to bring about fossil fuel divestment.

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