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Maryland schools must divest

With President Donald Trump's recent announcement that he will pull the United States from the Paris climate agreement, it is more important now than ever that academic institutions demonstrate their commitment to climate action through investments in clean renewable energy and divestment from fossil fuels. In a recent letter to The Baltimore Sun, Robert C. Orr, the dean of the School of Public Policy at University of Maryland, questions whether the American economy can survive with President Trump's decision ("If the president won't move the U.S. forward, we will," June 2). He writes, "the president is turning away as everyone else aggressively leans in. … By walking away from Paris, the U.S. dealmaker-in-chief has essentially guaranteed that a greater percentage of these investments will be made by non-American companies using non-American workers." So, the logical remedy would be to do all we can to reverse this prediction by expanding American investment in renewable energy markets at all levels — and the University of Maryland is no exception.

Despite the University of Maryland's commitments to carbon neutral emissions and renewable energy power, the system is profiting from the major emitters of greenhouse gases and is even making a profit from companies that help dirty energy companies evade environmental compliance regulations. The University System of Maryland makes money from the continued pillage of our planet and its people. The USM profits from environmental racism and environmental degradation. We cannot forget that the fossil fuel industry disproportionately adversely affects low income and minority communities.

The USM is betting against its students. It is betting against their future ability to solve the challenges posed by climate change. It is betting against their lives and those of their progeny. The threats of climate change are varied, well-studied and widely known. Potential and rapidly emerging effects range from sea level rise (goodbye Eastern Shore and Annapolis) to more intense droughts and severe storms, to the proliferation of infectious diseases. To deny the responsibility we have to do all that we can to prevent the worst effects is dangerously careless, immoral and violates the very mission of academic research institutions. This must be said again and again until the administration, the system's foundation, its boards of trustees and the regents start listening. And to get them to listen, we must speak in their language: donation dollars.

The University of Maryland calls upon its students and graduates to think and act fearlessly yet refuses to unchain itself from the well-oiled machine of the fossil fuel industry due to fears of financial underperformance, untested risk and a loss in competitive ability. These fears have validity, but they have not been proven to the public. The University System of Maryland Foundation has refused to publish data on progress it has made in regards to socially responsible investing and fossil fuel divestment since its statement released last May. The university has made incredible progress towards its commitment to carbon neutral emissions by 2050, but power generation and consumption are only part of a holistic climate action approach. To be truly carbon neutral, we must also reduce and eliminate carbon emissions from fossil fuels in our investments.

This is why, as a spring 2017 graduate from University of Maryland, I will withhold my donation until the USM commits to fossil fuel divestment and reinvestment in renewable energy. I encourage all other alumni and their families who believe in providing for the future humankind and a just, sustainable world, to do the same.

Maya Spaur, Mount Airy

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