Early this past Saturday morning, a small group of environmentally-minded students from the University of Michigan decided to see for themselves the ugly side of Detroit. Environmental justice issues are rampant as people and money flow out of the city in torrents. But some people aren’t able to leave and instead must stay where they’ve always stayed, suffering the same horrible conditions they’ve always suffered. My opinion of the City of Detroit, its people, and its problems completely changed after my almost three hours driving around the once magnificent metropolis. We weren’t allowed to get off the bus, but I only imagine that if I were to spend a real amount of time there, my new found opinions and realizations would only be intensified that much more.

Our tour guide for the day was a man named Charles, representing the organization Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, or DWEJ. Charles spent a few minutes at the start of the tour explaining his background with Detroit and environmental justice. Charles grew up on the Lower East Side of Detroit. When he was older, he was unemployed; DWEJ took him in and retrained him, eventually getting him a position as an environmental technician. Charles spoke emphatically as to how much DWEJ changed his life by treating him like a person, teaching him about how the environment works, and how the people of Detroit are affected by environmental problems. For him, his eyes were opened not just to the bigger picture around him, but to the fact that he could do something about it. For the first time in his life, Charles felt like a doer who could make real change in the world.

After receiving such support from the people of DWEJ, he eventually felt that he needed to give back to the community that had picked him up from the bottom. Charles then got involved volunteering in a Detroit environmental justice youth program. Later, this kind of work led him to become a community organizer for DWEJ, providing people who were in positions like his used to be the same opportunity he had received. He also takes the time to provide Toxic Tours of Detroit to inform any interested parties, such as the Divest and Invest Campaign. With that, he took us deep into the heart of Detroit and down into a noxious rabbit hole.

Our first stop was the Detroit Incinerator. The facts concerning this monstrous building are staggering. The Detroit Incinerator has been open for 25 years and has been protested since its planning stages. It consistently emits heavy metals such as Lead and Cadmium, high levels of Carbon Dioxide, and arguably the most toxic pollutant known—Dioxin. The neighborhood in which it’s located consistently has the highest asthma hospitalization and asthma-related death rates of the city. Children are the most acutely affected. Within a half-mile radius of the incinerator are eight public schools, two colleges, and a medical center.

During the heat of the summer, the rank smell that constantly accompanies the burning of the incinerator worsens to an almost unbearable stench. When the smell is bad enough, people can call in and complain, spurring the Department of Environmental Quality to find the incinerator. This is part of the ramifications of the Odor Law Campaign, of which the DWEJ was a large part. So far, the efforts of community calls have blocked approximately $44 million dollars of public funds to the incinerator. However, perhaps the best way to combat the incinerator’s activities is by increasing the rate of recycling with the city. Detroit used to be one of the most outdated cities in terms of its recycling program or lack thereof. However, a citywide curbside recycling plan has been developed but has not yet been fully implemented due to a lack of funds from the recent bankruptcy. Currently, the rate of recycling within the city is between 10% and 12%; DWEJ and others would like to see that number push 80% or more. The more trash that is recycled, the less trash that needs to be incinerated, effectively reducing noxious fumes and cutting off the problem at its head. For more information, check out the Detroit Environmental Agenda (www.detroitenv.org), a document of all of Detroit’s environmental issues, made by various stakeholders and NGOs working together.

Our next stop was the Russell Bazaar, which is a beautifully redeveloped brownfield. A brownfield is a polluted site in a city, often a Superfund site, that had been used for some industrial or chemical purpose—typically either manufacturing or chemical disposal. In the 1990s, the City of Detroit stopped counting its number of brownfields after they passed the 50,000 mark and instead declared the entire city to be one massive brownfield. Because of Superfund liability, many of these sites are abandoned and never redeveloped due to the potential transfer of liability for the pollution to a new owner. However, in the past decade or so, the EPA has revamped its policies concerning this transfer of liability to encourage brownfield redevelopment. The Russell Bazaar was formerly an automotive parts supplier factory built by Albert Kahn. Now, it’s become a weekend flea market and has many residential lofts, meeting spaces, and a theater. There are also many art spaces, encouraged by the students of the local College for Creative Studies. The part that we got to view was a massive mural on the outside of the building depicting a majestic robotic lion—quirky but awesome, like the area itself.

Then we moved on to the Detroit/Hamtramck Assembly plant, owned by GM. The highlight of this stop was the massive solar panel field in front of the plant. The array is part of a partnership between GM and DTE to investigate the efficiency of photovoltaic cells within the context of Michigan weather. (We all hope that their findings are fruitful.) This factory, which is where Chevy Volts are assembled, saves around $15,000 dollars a year from the panels. Not a huge number comparatively, but also not insignificant. Detroit abounds with the possibility for clean energy; with all of its space, Detroit could fit the city limits of Boston, Manhattan, or San Francisco within its borders. Therefore, many more fields of solar panels or rows of wind turbines could easily be incorporated into the city’s energy portfolio.

Afterward, we went to the infamous Packard Automotive Plant, another massive relic built by Albert Kahn. Originally, the building manufactured luxury Packard cars but was bought out by GM in the fifties, who never really did anything with it. Various small companies, including a shopping center, have tried and failed to revitalize the gargantuan building. The plant, another brownfield, has been effectively abandoned for the last twenty years and is considered the world’s largest abandoned building. This fact alone attracts many people there just for the novelty of seeing the largest abandoned building; however, there are many other illicit activities that go on there as well: graffiti, drug use, raves (it was part of the start of the rave scene in the nineties), even parts of some of the Transformers movies were shot there for its desolate and ravaged look. Detroiters want people coming into their city, of course, but for the right reasons. The allure of the derelict Packard plant is not such a reason.

Like other brownfields, redevelopment has been very difficult. According to Superfund retroactive liability, former owners and current owners are both supposed to be liable to some extent for site remediation. Most brownfield buildings can’t simply be torn down because of the reactive chemicals within, such as asbestos. The owner of the Packard Plant has supposedly been in hiding for some time, creating dummy companies to cover his tracks. Charles said that rumor had it he had been tracked down and development might commence—condominiums and/or a museum are two of the proposed possibilities. There are many likely stories though, and these are after all just rumors. Truthfully, no one will know for sure whether anything will be done at the Packard Plant until shovels actually break ground. One thing is certain, though: the site is absolutely massive. I didn’t have full appreciation until we were driving away and I looked out the back of the bus. The building sprawled far into the distance on either side of the road, certainly living up to its 3,500,000 square feet.

The next destination was a humble and unexpected one. We pulled up alongside an unassuming grove of trees on the east side and stopped. Charles explained that these trees had been planted a year ago as a phytoremediation project. “Phytoremediation” is a type of pollutant removal that uses trees to absorb heavy metals present in the top layers of soil. The project, administered by the program Greening of Detroit, spans a ten-year period, with soil testing before and after. Since before the seventies, when lead was outlawed in gasoline, there have been lead poisoning issues in Detroit. Splashes of gas from pumps would run off onto the pavement and settle in green swales, as would lead particles from the fumes. Eventually, almost all of the top layers of soil in the city were contaminated; it takes 30 years for the lead to move one inch farther down in the soil. However, studies have shown that trees can be effective in taking up the lead and other pollutants. Native trees of all kinds are used in the experiment, which is attempting to determine which species absorb the metals the best.  Such native species are selected in an effort to bring back the greenness of Detroit that, though once widespread, has now been for the most part lost. Charles mentioned an interesting fact that the greener the neighborhood, the lower the crime rate—another incentive for continued planting in the city limits.

Nearby, we stopped at the Earthworks urban farm, operated in conjunction with the Capuchin Monastery and Soup Kitchen. Charles informed us that Detroit has the urbanest farms in a single city in the U.S. The soup kitchen uses the farm’s produce in its meals and the farm tries to make the community a part of the process. There are many opportunities for community and youth education, such as the farm’s youth beekeeping program. At its core, the mission of the farm and Earthworks is bringing people together to teach and disseminate the tenets of sustainability. In Detroit, the multigenerational communities may not look like much, but Charles urged us to look past that and discover their strength and potential.

Just after that, however, we saw something to shift the serious mood. We got to see something that is the stuff of legend: an actual chicken halting traffic as it crossed the road. You can imagine the comments that were made, but Charles pointed out that farm animals weren’t legal in the city and that the chicken had no formal association with the farm. However, in many of the more sparsely populated regions of Detroit, animals such as chickens and goats are widespread and roam the streets. This, along with several other reasons, is influencing the city to let large swaths of land in the city borders be rezoned to rural and agricultural districts, a possibility we discussed in detail at our next stop.

The east side of Detroit is a notoriously run down part of the city, and also Charles’ former neighborhood as a kid. So, that’s why he’s very excited about LEAP—the Lower Eastside Action Plan (http://ecn-detroit.org/?page_id=3230). The goal of LEAP is to counter the huge population, housing, and business losses suffered in the area. Many areas of the east side are densely populated, while others appear very sparse. This stems from land use and zoning issues that have been problems for years: light industrial is zoned next to dense neighborhoods. The total area of Detroit is 138 square miles. The lower east side of Detroit composes 60 square miles. Though this large area has been egregiously mismanaged, LEAP has a plan to redefine the neighborhood. Part of this is a proposal to let whole blocks of the city be rezoned as rural to support more large-scale urban farming. What’s even more surprising is that other large portions of the east side are proposed to go “back to nature”—almost nothing would be done with them. A slight compromise to this is the Hans Tree Farm, a 140-acre section of Detroit that will start planting soon. In other locations, mixed-use would replace the erratic zoning of the past and include mixed income housing and shopping complexes. Mixed-use zoning is attractive to developers, but, like the recycling, efforts to push zoning changes and redevelopment forward have stagnated after the bankruptcy declaration.
A dirty truth of city planning and living that doesn’t get talked about as much as it should is the sewer systems. Detroit operates an outdated combined sewer system, meaning that rain runoff from roads flows into the same sewer mains as does plumbing from buildings. This system, though effective in that it treats road runoff as well as typical sewage, can become overwhelmed during heavy rains. Overflow lands directly in the already badly polluted Detroit River. One way to mitigate this is Combined Sewage Overflow storage facilities: huge buildings that can capture and treat some of the overflows. Several of these have been installed in the Detroit sewage system. In 2009, Detroit experienced 400 overflows; last year, that number decreased to less than 50, according to the Detroit Environmental Agenda, with the help of the storage facilities. However, CSO storage facilities aren’t cheap, and residents want to drive that number all the way down to zero.
Greenway projects are a way to do just that. The impermeable ground cover of asphalt roads and parking lots diverts water directly to sewers—the main cause of sewer overflows. Greenways eliminate that problem by giving water another place to go that doesn’t lead to any sewer. We stopped at the Bloody Run Creek Greenway. Though we couldn’t see anything but an empty field, Charles assured us that there was a creek running directly below, under the street. Many of the streets have creeks and other streams running under them that the public doesn’t know about or have access to. The Detroit Greenways Coalition (www.detroitgreenways.org) has already funded a billion-dollar project to take the cap off Bloody Run Creek and convert it into the start of a canal system to run through much of the city. These canals would give run off another destination and effectively reduce or eliminate overflow—a huge win for the city.
At this point, the sun was shining at its peak and the day was absolutely beautiful. There was no better time to check out the lovely and scenic Dequindre Cut. The Dequindre Cut is a former railroad track-turned-walkway and bikeway. Charles took a moment to explain to us the emergent bike culture of Detroit—massive bike rallies are becoming a common occurrence within the city. As such, the bike path of the Dequindre Cut is very beloved not only for its beauty but for its utility as well. The current part of the path, Phase One, has begun and runs to the Detroit River and the soon-to-be-completed Detroit Discovery Center (http://www.imaginositydetroit.org/). Phase Two, soon to be initiated, will be 26.8 miles long and be called the Inner City Circle. Soon, Detroiters will be able to run a full marathon within a single loop and be able to access virtually any part of the city via walking or biking, an exciting prospect.
The next location was, however, less encouraging. Our bus slowed and idled under the shadow of the massive Ambassador Bridge, running from Detroit to Canada. The bridge is the U.S.’s number one vessel of trade with Canada; over 25% of all U.S. trade with Canada gets trucked over that bridge. Charles explained to us that Southwest Detroit is the most polluted region in all of Michigan, and much of this is due to the trucker traffic on the bridge. The plaza on the American side of the bridge allows trucks to idle and spew diesel fumes into the air for long periods, contributing, even more, air pollution to the already heavily navigated area.

Much of the problem with the bridge can be assigned to the reckless actions of its sole owner, Manny Moroun. Because he singularly owned the holding company of the bridge, he made all of the decisions concerning it, which wasn’t in the best interests of the surrounding community. Mismanaging state funds, he started construction of an illegal second bridge directly next to the first one; he also decided to build the plaza. However, the community banded together and prevented the complete construction of the second bridge, moving it a mile farther south and thus spacing out the air pollution. The community also managed to pass an anti-idling ordinance to address the issues stemming from the truck plaza. Trucks are now only allowed to idle for five minutes out of every hour. But, like many of the other problems plaguing Detroit, this ordinance proves almost impossible to enforce due to the insufficient funds in the wake of the bankruptcy. However, Charles and the rest of the community still view the ordinance and the injunction on the second bridge as two major wins for the community.

Our penultimate stop was perhaps the most dismaying of the day: the Marathon Oil Refinery, located on Zug Island. This refinery processes the tar sands from Alberta, Canada. Tar sands require the destruction of beautiful Canadian old-growth boreal forests, the consumption of astronomical amounts of water, and the creation of toxic sludge by-products. Thus, the Keystone XL pipeline, a polarizing issue of the day, will affect Detroit by providing the Marathon Refinery, even more, business, and thus more discharge. The refinery, which looked like some dystopian fortress, recently underwent a $2.1 billion dollar expansion and is the heaviest polluter in town—its fumes span the entire city.

Also on the island is the US Steel Plant, the largest Carbon Dioxide emitter in the city at 4.1 million tons annually. A satellite plant next door is the second highest emitter at two million tons, followed by the Detroit Incinerator third (according to EPA). The island also has several housing developments as well. There are supposed to be three bridges off the island, but currently only one is operational, a glaring safety hazard that infuriates and worries the residents. Last summer saw two explosions related to industrial activity on the island. Even though one suburb was evacuated, their pleas concerning the safety of the island in proximity to these plants was ignored by homeland security. The area is considered an “Enterprise Zone,” meaning that industry has only been increasing and exacerbating the already systemic problems.

But explosions aren’t the worst concern for the residents. The entire island and surrounding neighborhoods are hotbeds of sickness. The plants combine and foment a revolting stench on hot days. Charles said that after one tour, in particular, he was bedridden for two days from the exposure. And that was without even getting off the bus. People are living there with no option to drive away, let alone pick up stakes and move. The area is called “Cancer Alley” due not only to its appallingly high rates of cancer but also to the fact that there are no nearby hospitals or clinics to provide residents with any treatment. The Sierra Club started a picket fence campaign that put a cross in the lawn of every home that had fallen victim to a cancer death—every other house ended up with at least one cross.

To their credit, Marathon has bought out around 300 surrounding homes, worth only about $10,000 dollars each, for an average of $80,000 dollars in an effort to make a half-mile wide green buffer around the area. The price boost is necessary to give these people, many of whom have lived in these homes for generations, the ability to relocate to areas with property values that aren’t worth next to nothing. Buick has done something similar, buying out Oakland Heights in order to erect a green buffer zone around its plant. However, these efforts are not enough. Many families still live under the shadow of these noxious plants and have no other option. Charles and DWEJ are fighting to make the entire area of Zug Island and the surrounding neighborhoods a solely industrial zone. Only then will the unchecked ignorance of environmental justice begin to cease.
The tour ended, however, on a positive note. We had returned back toward the heart of the city, stopping at the Green Garage (www.greengaragedetroit.com). The Green Garage is a sustainability innovation collaborative and green business incubator, focusing on supporting businesses dedicated to the triple bottom line, a style of business that grants equal importance to people, profit, and the planet. The garage also happens to be the former home of the first Model T showroom of the city. The folks at Green Garage give tours every Friday at 1:00 to talk to people about various sustainability measures that they can incorporate into their homes and daily lives. Unsurprisingly, Charles praised the Green Garage as an example of the people and businesses of Detroit doing the right thing, here and now.

And so, the tour ended on a note that clearly rang throughout the entire tour—one of optimism and of communities pulling together. During his closing speech, Charles exhorted us that we could all be true change agents and make real, tangible differences in the world. That by simply being there with him, we were already starting something. And we all believed him. I certainly did.

But it doesn’t end there. We left Detroit incredibly informed about not only its problems but its opportunities. Yet just because those opportunities exist, sitting latent within one of the country’s oldest metropolises, doesn’t mean that they will simply come to be. In the wake of another Earth Day, we all must remember that, whether it’s reading about the many endangered species that may become extinct within the decade on BuzzFeed or whether it’s taking a tour of the environmental justice plights of Detroit, simply being informed is an important first step but is ultimately not enough. Yes, we journeyed through the dilapidated neighborhoods and empty streets with our eyes wide open. But it will take the work of our hands if we want to rebuild a city like Detroit and raise up its proud, resilient people to lead the lives that they deserve.

Why does divestment from fossil fuels matter?

It’s a question that deserves, even more, attention now that other divestment campaigns such as the Israeli military divestment campaign have made their presences felt on campus. The foremost reason is, of course, the fossil fuel industry’s exorbitant production of greenhouse gases and the resulting effects of these gases creating climate change. This unsustainable method of generating energy stands in stark conflict with the University’s avowed commitment to sustainability. Another reason would be the blatant misinformation spread by the fossil fuel industry surrounding their practices; such misinformation is antithetical to the University’s mission of education and pursuit of truth. But these issues are relatively well known and understood by the public. A general familiarity with the more common repercussions of fossil fuels does not mean, however, that there aren’t a host of other, lesser-known problems also caused by the burning of fossil fuels. One such problem happens to be a big one: public health.

The dangers posed by the fossil fuel industry to public health may not seem as apparent to us as those of climate change or misleading ad campaigns. Here in Ann Arbor, we are fortunate to live in a clean and beautiful environment; who would argue that the picturesque Huron or the skies over the diag are polluted eyesores? The air and water quality in our tree-covered city is a far cry from other cities, such as say Cleveland.

But that doesn’t mean that the issue of air and water pollution fails to hit us close to home. Just a few short miles away, along with the banks of the Detroit and Rouge Rivers, are a host of environmental abominations. Refineries such as the Detroit Waste Incinerator, Marathon Oil Refinery, and the Budd Thyssen Plant, to name a few, clog the skies and waters with smog and effluent. The problem with the burning of fossil fuels doesn’t stop with Carbon Dioxide and greenhouse gases. These fossil fuel-burning plants can emit trace amounts of toxic chemicals such as Arsenic, Mercury, Nitrogen Oxides, Ozone, and particulate matter in addition to greenhouse gases. Such releases create public health plights in poorer, inner-city areas of urban Detroit. Thus, the issue of burning fossil fuels runs the gamut from climate change to environmental justice.

To respond to this, the Divest and Invest Campaign has organized a Toxics Tour of these sites and several more in Detroit to better understand and raise awareness about the myriad and sometimes overlooked effects of fossil fuel use. This tour will take place on Saturday, April 5th, from 10:30 to about 2. Buses will leave from CC Little promptly at 10:30.

The University of Michigan claims not only a devotion to excellence in sustainability but also a flourishing relationship with the City of Detroit as well. By going on the Toxics Tour, we will all be able to experience firsthand how the University’s investments render such statements hollow. Divestment concerns more than just climate change. Sometimes it can be easy to forget that. But public health threats will always be a pernicious side effect of fossil fuel burning, even if we’re the lucky ones living on the right side of the river.

Thursday in the beautiful Anderson Room of the Michigan Union, the Divest and Invest Campaign made its presence felt at the University of Michigan’s Regent’s Meeting. After passing through security that could have passed for the TSA and almost two hours of waiting, University of Michigan law students Scott Bloomberg and Aaron Schaer, representing the Law Students for Responsible Divestment from Fossil Fuels (LSRD), as well as our very own founder Laura Hobbs, took the microphone in front of a less than enthused Board of Regents during public comment. Scott and Aaron began the public comment with poise, handing out a polished brief to the Regents. Laura concluded the discussion by tying the issue back to the students and reminding the Regents of the University’s commitment to sustainability. With only five minutes each, they all made their convincing arguments in favor of fossil fuel divestment clearly and professionally.

Scott started things off by clearly setting forth what he and Aaron consider the precedent for divestment. Only two divestment campaigns have succeeded in the past: tobacco and apartheid. The administration has made it clear that the University will consider only divestment campaigns that clearly follow these two precedents to the standard they set (discussed below). So, Scott made it clear that the LSRD’s request rested comfortably within that scope. Their ask? To have the University create a divestment committee to explore divestment of coal and oil equities and bonds since an exploratory committee has been determined by the administration to be a necessary first step for any potential divestment. The proposed divestment would represent only about 1% of the University’s endowment, including only coal and oil equities and debts.

In the wake of the previous Apartheid and Tobacco divestments, the University’s CFO interpreted and articulated a standard that all subsequent divestment proposals should follow. This standard manifests as a three-pronged approach: the request must be representative of the general sentiment of the campus, the actions of the companies must be antithetical to the University’s mission statement, and the offending companies must be uniquely responsible for the perceived harm. Very deftly, Scott navigated these three stipulations, clearly explicating the support for the movement; how the creation of greenhouse gases and misinformation concerning them by top coal and oil companies is antithetical to the University’s mission; and finally that science shows that the burning of coal and oil for fuel is the primary driver of climate change. As Scott put it, “This standard aptly articulates the precedent set by the Apartheid and Tobacco Divestment Committees, and a committee on coal and oil equities and debts is required by this precedent.”

Then Aaron stepped up, spending his time discussing three misconceptions about divestment that need to be dispelled. First, he explained that divestment is not just an empty gesture. Previous divestments of tobacco and apartheid have generated huge impact and change. Further, because the world and the University itself consider U of M to be a global leader, proactive divestment from coal and oil would certainly inspire other similar institutions to do the same. Second, Aaron made the point that divestment is not hypocritical even though we as a school consume fossil fuels for energy. His point was incisive—the University has the sole ability to choose its investments, but it doesn’t have as much control over the prevailing methods of energy generation in the State of Michigan or the nation. (Though, the University of Michigan falls far short compared to the amount of clean and renewable energy used by other schools in the Big Ten, something they do have complete control over.)  In Aaron’s words: “…regardless of any change [divestment] may cause in the coal and oil industries, there is a value in being true to our values. And currently, we are not living up to them.”

Aaron stated next that support for this divestment in oil and coal would not be a “slippery slope” and incite other, frivolous divestments because no other divestments besides tobacco and apartheid had made such a convincing and reasonable case, starting with a request for an exploratory committee. His three points successfully addressed the largest potential counter arguments for divestment, adding credibility and legitimacy to their line of reasoning.

Laura concluded the public comments surrounding divestment, relating her experiences starting the Divest and Invest Campaign. She spoke to how committed to sustainability the University claims to be. As she said, “Sustainability is a core value of the University of Michigan. According to the University’s official vision statement, ‘We seek to lead in the global quest for a sustainable future.’ Former President Mary Sue Coleman went as far as to say that ‘sustainability defines the University of Michigan.’” Laura went on to point out how the University’s investments fly in the face of such statements. She further impressed upon the Regents the student body’s unity on the issue. Linking everyone from undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and alumni, the Divest and Invest Campaign, as well as the Law Students for Responsible Divestment,  give all of these disparate groups a single, unequivocal voice on climate change.

Laura, and the rest of us at the Divest and Invest Campaign feel that the eloquent efforts of Scott, Aaron, and the Law Students for Responsible Divestment of Fossil Fuels are a necessary and prudent first step toward a more ethical and more sustainable campus. Hopefully, the Regents will recognize the merit of their efforts and the logic of their reasoning by beginning the process of making the University of Michigan a leading institution that not only talks the talk but walks the walk as well.…

Hi! I’m C.J. Biggs and I’m going to be one of the two writers of the Divest and Invest Campaign’s blog, along with my friend Andrea Paine (who will introduce herself shortly).  I’m a sophomore here at the University of Michigan studying English and environmental policy in the Program in the Environment. Eventually, I plan to go to law school and practice environmental law. My interest in the environment goes all the way back to fifth grade when I stayed after lacrosse practice to pick up plastic water bottles and recycle them. Now that I’m older, I want to make an even bigger impact to help the environment. Naturally, my interest has shifted to the elephant in the room: climate change.

I joined the Divest and Invest Campaign this year because I want to make a real, tangible difference to help end climate change. Our timeframe to put a stop to global climate change grows shorter each day. We’re still using carbon-based fossil fuels to power our homes, our cars- our lives. Until that starts to change, real progress can’t be made.

That’s where Divestment comes in. The Divest and Invest Campaign started in December of 2012, represents a coalition of students, faculty and alumni and the University of Michigan working toward divesting financial assets from the fossil fuel industry. Our mission is to appeal to and convince the University’s Board of Regents to reduce U of M’s investments in the fossil fuel industry, specifically coal and oil.   In the long-term, the Campaign hopes to reach this goal using a three-pronged approach. First, in order to be up-front and transparent, we ask the University to disclose all current its investments in the fossil fuel industry. Second, we request them to divest from directly owned and commingled funds that include fossil fuel industry public and private financial securities within five years. And finally, we ask U of M to take that divested money and invest a substantial portion in socially, environmentally, and economically responsible companies, specifically renewable energy startups such as wind farms and solar cell arrays. Currently, we are working collectively to target and address the top key contributors to climate change while also informing students and giving their attitudes about climate change and the fossil fuel industry a much-needed voice.

So, if you’re reading this while nodding to yourself and thinking it’s high time we did something like this, first of all I’d like to say thank you. We need more people, especially students at our universities, to be informed about the issues and feel passionately enough about them to take action. If you believe this issue might be something you’re interested in, stay tuned to this blog to find out more ways to get involved in the coming weeks and sign up for our newsletter. Also, be sure to read Andrea’s post, which will give you all the info you need concerning our upcoming Social Campaign!

That’s all for now; thanks for reading and remember: Request to Divest!

-C.J.…