Two members of ECO Students, a club dedicated to making LMU more sustainable and environmentally conscious, have recently created a petition for LMU to divest from companies that participate in the extraction of fossil fuels, specifically tar sands.
The two students, Emilee Smith, a sophomore environmental science major, and Alice Tiffany, a sophomore environmental studies major, were inspired to create the petition by the efforts of past members of ECO Students.
“Years ago, ECO Students was trying to get LMU to divest from [companies that participate in the extraction of] fossil fuels altogether and it wasn’t passed,” Smith said. “So we narrowed it down to companies that participate in tar sand extraction, which is a method of extracting oil. It’s a narrower focus.”
Smith said the extraction of tar sands is a particularly important issue to focus on because of its social justice-related implications. She pointed out that the people who live in areas where tar sand extraction happens experience rising cancer rates due to residue leaking into their water sources, contaminating the water along with the animals that live there.
“I don’t think any Jesuit value could possibly support something like that,” she said.
Along with the petition, Smith and Tiffany worked with their fellow club members to craft a proposal that they presented to the Responsible Investing Advisory Committee (RIAC), an advisory board that works with the Board of Trustees.
The proposal calls for divesting from five companies that participate in tar sand extraction (ConocoPhillips, Devon Energy, ExxonMobil, Marathon Oil and Chevron) and reinvesting that money into more sustainable companies.
Given that these investments go towards scholarships, Smith and Tiffany did some research when creating their proposal to assuage any hesitation people may feel towards divestment.
“We found a study through our research that compared portfolios with S&P 500 stocks, including those that use fossil fuels, with another portfolio that didn’t,” Tiffany said. “They were tracked over a five year period, and it was found that the portfolio without investment in the S&P 500 stocks actually did better. It’s not guaranteed that just because you invest in fossil fuels you’ll make more money.”
Currently, the two students are waiting for a response from the RIAC that will tell them when they can meet next. In the meantime, ECO Students has been tabling on Palm Walk to spread awareness about the issue and to secure petition signatures.
Smith said that student response has been extremely positive, and many people have visited the ECO Students table and expressed interest in signing the petition.
Going forward, the two students said they are excited to see where their initiative goes from here. Whether or not their proposal is accepted, they said that they hope to at least bring attention to the issues surrounding tar sand extraction and LMU’s relationship to it.
“No matter what, more people will know about what LMU invests in which is a good step forward,” said Tiffany.