EcoPAX hosted a potluck on Saturday, February 14 in honor of Divestment Day.
According to Cecilia Lapp Stoltzfus, a sophomore and one of the coordinators of the event, the potluck was created as an attempt to engage the larger campus and community in the divestment discussion. Everyone on Goshen’s campus and members of the surrounding community were invited to eat, discuss and learn more about divesting from fossil fuel companies.
Global Divestment Day is a day devoted to education about fossil fuels and how they affect our global climate. On this day, people and institutions are encouraged to divest their stakes in fossil fuel companies.
According to Ryan Sensenig, associate professor of biological and environmental sciences, it’s difficult to know exactly how many of these companies Goshen College invests in because the college’s investments are constantly changing.
Goshen College, along with many other Mennonite institutions, is a part of the Mennonite Education Agency’s endowment fund. According to Sensenig these endowments are handled by companies like Everence who invest the money into whatever company looks like it will have the highest return. Everence has filters already that it uses to avoid investing money in companies that ethically violate Goshen’s values, such as companies that deal in pornography or making machinery for war.
EcoPAX’s goal is to move money currently invested in fossil fuels and invest it in something else. Lapp Stoltzfus, Mimi Salvador, a sophomore, and Jacob Penner, a sophomore, were introduced to the issue by Karina Kreider ‘14 and Carina Zehr ’14 last year. They continued the movement this year by hosting the potluck to make more people aware of the issue. According to Lapp Stoltzfus and Salvador, they have been talking to other groups on campus such as Black Student Union and Latino Student Union to try to get them involved because “divestment affects minorities around the world,” said Salvador.
Lapp Stoltzfus first heard about the divestment issue in high school.
“I was excited to become involved when I got to college. [Mimi and I] attended Power Shift and that helped connect us with more resources on how to go about advocating for divestment in a college setting,” said Lapp Stoltzfus.
Salvador hadn’t heard about the divestment movement before she came to college, but once she did she was interested in being involved.
“I’m from Ecuador where Chevron is responsible for one of the largest oil spills in history,” said Salvador. “For me, this issue goes beyond numbers and money. It goes beyond claiming responsibility for issues which are affecting hundreds of indigenous communities around the world.”
Rather than invest the money in oil companies, Salvador would rather see it invested back into the local community where it can help the community and businesses grow.
Salvador and Lapp Stoltzfus plan to continue the discussion on campus and raise awareness. They plan to continue meeting with student groups and are looking for students interested in joining the movement who would be willing to do outreach and planning for future events. They are trying to get other schools on board as well.
“We want to send a mission statement to the Mennonite Education Agency to get them involved. Goshen College can advocate for a lot of institutions that have their money invested [in fossil fuels] as well,” stated Lapp Stoltzfus.
As for the potluck, Sensenig thinks it was a success.
“Everyone left inspired. This is a group of students that deeply care and are looking for collaborative ways to change these systems. We can’t completely disentangle from endowments, but we can control where we invest and steer society towards something more sustainable,” commented Sensenig.