Students Celebrate Links Between Jesuit Values and Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement

BY ISN STAFFOctober 6, 2016

As Pope Francis’s Season of Creation comes to a close on October 4, 2016, a coalition of students at Jesuit universities has joined many members of the global Catholic community, engaging in a series of coordinated celebrations and actions designed to illustrate the link between Jesuit values and socially responsible responses to climate change, including ethical investments. The student coalition is named the Jesuit Divestment Network (JDN), however, the effort is not a formal project of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits).

screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-10-56-58-amLoyola University New Orleans 

Members of DIVEST Loyola gathered on Tuesday, October 4, with other campus community members supportive of the group’s divestment advocacy goals. The group is hoping to engage with university administration regarding divestment from a local private prison and plans to continue efforts through the coming weeks, with an upcoming fundraiser featuring student art highlighting climate issues in relation to the city of New Orleans, with proceeds benefiting local organizations and ongoing work by DIVEST Loyola.  

College of the Holy Cross
Students at College of the Holy Cross kicked off their new divestment campaign,
HC Fossil Free, on October 4 with a mobilization in the campus chapel plaza at 3:50 p.m., a time chosen to highlight the number 350 ppm, the maximum amount of carbon in the atmosphere that is hospitable to human life.

Remarks highlighted the significance of climate crisis, with personal testimony from students, and included a call for a unified social justice movement on campus, advocating for an economy that prioritizes the health of humans and the environment. The gathering concluded with a moment of silence, poetry, and the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.

screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-10-49-36-amLoyola Marymount University

Fossil Free LMU hosted “Toast to the Pope,” a campus celebration recognizing Pope Francis’s Season of Creation. The group provided a toaster designed to imprint Pope Francis’s face on slices of toast, and various jams and other spreads, encouraging students to “spread the love.” The event also featured a photo campaign asking the question: “Why should our Jesuit universities divest from fossil fuels?” raising awareness of issues related to climate change.  

Joining these schools in a show of support through social media publicity, photography projects, and public demonstrations were Loyola University Chicago Student Environmental Alliance, Georgetown University Fossil Free, and University of Scranton Divest From Fossil Fuels.

The Jesuit Divestment Network began their work in 2015 with a letter requesting support for fossil fuel divestment, delivered to Pope Francis at World Youth Day, garnering support from over 140 youth groups spanning 21 countries, including eight signatories from the Jesuit network (Climate Justice at Boston College, Boston College Alumni for Divestment, Fossil Free LMU, ECO Students LMU, Green Jays at Creighton University, Student Environmental Alliance at Loyola University Chicago, Fossil Free Georgetown University, and Fossil Free Loyola University New Orleans).  “Recently, Cardinal Turkson provided the first public, official acknowledgment of the fossil fuel divestment campaign from the Vatican,” shares Anthony Rizzi, JDN spokesperson and Loyola University New Orleans Environmental Program representative, “signaling that our work thus far has reached the ears within the Holy See.”

JDN was officially formed as a forum for resource-sharing, mentoring, publicity, growth, and general support for leaders of campaigns on various Jesuit university campuses. Additionally, JDN has engaged in conversation with the Advocacy Office of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States to understand the stance of the Society of Jesus on the topic of divestment and to discuss constructive collaboration for climate justice.

Student efforts have been met with success at Georgetown University, where an end to endowment investments in coal mining companies was announced in June of 2015. The Jesuit Province of English Canada also committed to fossil fuel divestment on October 4, 2016.  

The network is primarily focused on fossil fuel divestment, and is working to incorporate other aspects of climate justice. Currently, the network is comprised of students representing 9 schools:

  • College of the Holy Cross
  • Loyola University New Orleans
  • University of Scranton
  • Loyola Marymount University
  • Boston College
  • Georgetown University
  • Loyola University Chicago
  • Canisius College
  • Santa Clara University
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