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In September, Harvard University announced that it will no longer invest in fossil fuels.

“I think we do have to chalk up this win to a huge win for activism,” says John Verghese, a master of public policy student at the Harvard Kennedy School. “And I’ve been so inspired by the undergrads that are leading this movement.”

Verghese is part of a student-led activist group that for 10 years has been pushing the university to divest its endowment from the fossil fuel industry.

Student activists have led demonstrations on campus, including sit-ins, marches, and speeches. On one parents weekend, they even poured molasses on each other to simulate an oil spill.

And in 2021, students filed a complaint with the attorney general of Massachusetts. They argued that Harvard’s investment in fossil fuels violates the university’s legal responsibilities.

Verghese says institutions must stop investing money in the companies driving global warming: “On a moral level, you know, if your house is on fire, why would you stand with the arsonists?”

With an endowment valued at more than $50 billion, Harvard is the richest university in the world, and its financial decisions carry enormous influence.

So even though Verghese is frustrated by how long it took to get to this step,“I don’t think that we can understate the importance of this victory,” he says.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media