The GC Divest movement, whose mission is “to lead the Goshen College community’s divestment movement through values grounded in ecojustice and Indigenous rights,” grew out of EcoPAX, an environmental justice organization on the campus of Goshen College.
The goal of divestment movements is to stop investments in companies that are believed to be acting unethically, particularly in regards to environmental issues.
Looking to build partnerships beyond the college, GC Divest recently began to partner with Divest EMU, a similar student-led organization at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, VA.
Divest EMU student leader Alicia Poplett is grateful for the chance to “coordinate with Goshen to work towards a more inclusive future for Mother Earth.”
Cecilia Lapp Stoltzfus, a junior and leader of GC Divest, is also excited to collaborate and notes the similarities between GC and EMU. “It has been exciting to discover the many ways our movements complement each other,” she said.
The two groups plan to take their first joint action this week by sending a letter to the Mennonite Education Agency demanding divestment. Since MEA controls the endowments for both Goshen and EMU, the students hope to “amplify [the] divestment call through collaborative work,” according to Lapp Stoltzfus.
The groups are also looking for Mennonite church members and pastors to sign a petition regarding divestment.
The full text of the letter reads:
“Open Letter from GC Divest and Divest EMU
For the Divestment from Fossil Fuels and Mineral Extraction
To whom it may concern:
As students of Mennonite colleges, we write to you with deeply rooted concerns regarding climate change and the corporations most responsible for its perpetuation.
By investing in fossil fuel and mineral extraction companies, Goshen College and Eastern Mennonite University are perpetuating climate change, infringing on the rights of Indigenous people, and destroying God’s creation: Mother Earth. These attacks and violations of human rights are wrong, and are a direct contradiction to our stated values and beliefs. The endowments of GC and EMU are part of the Mennonite Education Agency (MEA) Investment Fund and, as of September 2015, total $135 million. As individuals and Mennonite institutions, we need to respond to this reality through divestment: removing fossil fuel and mineral extraction companies from our investment portfolio. We believe the conversations regarding divestment from fossil fuel and mineral extraction are best approached through collaboration. As students of GC and EMU, we insist that the administrations of our colleges and the MEA investment committee commit to full divestment of our schools’ endowments from fossil fuel and mineral extraction companies.
Indigenous communities across the world are protecting their cultures, conserving highly biodiverse regions such as the Amazon Rainforest, and countering climate change. Many, such as the Kichwa of Sarayaku, are bodily resisting the expansion of multinational corporations extracting oil and minerals from their homelands. However, through financial investments in these corporations, GC and EMU are giving license to violence against these very groups.
We are complicit in this system of exploitative development every time a pipeline crosses Indigenous territories or natural resources are extracted. Corporations treat Indigenous communities as disposable, directly contradicting the efforts of organization such as Suriname Indigenous Health Fund, which work to recognize threatened groups as full members of our global community.
MEA currently applies stewardship investing screens to the fund, avoiding sectors such as weapons manufacturing, tobacco, and adult entertainment. As a rule, MEA screens out these so-called “sin stocks.” However, MEA prefers to deal with fossil fuel and mineral extraction companies through shareholder advocacy, whereby shareholders use the leverage that comes with owning stock to work for social and environmental objectives within the company. While shareholder advocacy has been effective in some contexts, it is not an ethically appropriate model for challenging fossil fuel or mineral extraction companies.
The practices of mineral and fossil fuel extraction companies are violent and harmful, especially in developing economies. Their business models derive profit from the active destruction of ecosystems, continuous violation of human rights, and ongoing release of climate-change-inducing greenhouse gases. All institutions generating revenue from their investments in fossil fuel and mineral extraction companies will continue perpetuating this violence until full divestment takes place. Furthermore, the simple economic liability of fossil fuel investments will continue to increase, as proposed climate legislation will force companies to abandon up to 80 percent of their reserves.
We are passionate about combating climate change, not only because it will affect us personally, but because it will disproportionately impact those who have the fewest resources and are already most geographically vulnerable to climate change. As part of communities and institutions committed to the pursuit of justice and peace in the world, GC Divest and Divest EMU ask for your support. We believe that when many voices make this call, we can make change happen.
Thank you for your support,
GC Divest and Divest EMU”
For more information, visit the Mennonite Divestment Network page on Facebook.