Opinion guest column

On Fossil Fuel Divestment Day, MIT still refuses to act

When does the Institute join the party?

On Feb. 13, we celebrate Global Divestment Day, a day intended to draw attention to the growing movement to divest holdings, ranging from pensions to university endowments, from fossil fuels. 

It’s a day to commemorate those who have already committed to this ambitious goal, and to remind those who have not that joining the movement brings the world one step closer to solving the climate crisis.

MIT, unfortunately, is not delivering on its promises to promote large scale political action on climate change. MIT has not divested its $17 billion endowment from its fossil fuel holdings, which MIT Divest is fighting for.

MIT has refused to join numerous institutions worldwide in a clear next step in the fight against climate change. Our administration has failed to support a morally necessary and financially secure pathway to presenting our school as one that stands in solidarity with those fighting against fossil fuel companies, specifically their disinformation campaigns and lobbying activities, which have continuously proved to halt constructive political action to mitigate the effects of climate change. Must we, as an institution, continue to lag behind our peers? 

Over the last few months, we have seen immense progress on the divestment front. The New York state pension plan has chosen to divest from coal companies in an attempt to continue their work in climate change resilience and mitigation. 

Just last week, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard voted in a landslide to divest Harvard’s $40 billion endowment from fossil fuels. Two weeks ago, the student governments at the Big Ten schools collectively wrote a letter demanding their schools divest from fossil fuel companies. They represent the largest conference of universities in the United States, consisting of universities such as Northwestern, University of Michigan, Purdue, and Indiana University. This symbol of solidarity from schools that are not traditionally associated with climate activism perfectly displays the breadth of the divestment campaign. 

Georgetown University, with its endowment of $1.8 billion, just divested, after eight years of student activism on their campus. Overall, over 1,180 institutions have committed to divesting, representing assets totaling to over $14 trillion. This movement is global. It’s advancing. It’s gaining momentum. Divestment has continued to gain progress all over the country and around the world. 

And it is time for MIT to play its part. 

Where does MIT stand on Fossil Fuel Divestment Day? Behind everyone else. And that is unacceptable. We know the science, we’ve seen the projections, and we all know what has to be done. If MIT truly has pride in its ability to produce leaders, expand knowledge of science and fact, and drive the world to a better place, divestment must happen as soon as possible. It’s ironic that a school that is so dedicated to the search for truth refuses to disavow the very companies that continue to spread lies about the threat of climate change. It’s ironic that an institution so dedicated to research refuses to let go of the very companies that don’t listen to proven fact. 

Where is the MIT that is at the forefront of science and technology leadership? Where is the MIT that everyone looks up to? Where is the MIT that drove its students, its professors, its faculty to come here?

An answer is needed. We owe it to the world to take the next step. 

MIT, join the movement. Divest from fossil fuels.

Arnav Patel and Darya Guettler are both juniors studying mechanical engineering. They are the Publications Co-Directors for MIT Divest. Sign the petition for MIT to divest from fossil fuels.