MIT Divest releases Climate Conscious Pledges – The Tech

mit-divest-releases-climate-conscious-pledges-–-the-tech

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By Mitali Chowdhury and Manuel Morales

Jun. 4, 2021

The Climate Conscious Career Pledge calls on MIT affiliates to devote their labor to sustainable institutions. The Climate Conscious Donation Pledge calls on MIT affiliates to not donate to MIT until it divests.

The recently released MIT Climate Action Plan (CAP) includes updates to the previous plan released five years ago. MIT Divest hopes the plan will spur MIT to reduce its carbon footprint, increase its investment in climate action, and focus its attention on a just transition to a sustainable future. However, Divest remains severely disappointed by MIT’s refusal to fully and publicly divest from the fossil fuel industry. We believe that under the goals outlined in the CAP, MIT cannot be considered a climate action leader as we transition to a sustainable and equitable future. In response to the CAP, we have released a Climate Conscious Career Pledge and Donation Pledge for MIT affiliates to send a powerful message to fossil fuel companies and others, including MIT, who remain complicit in their destructive and deceitful actions that we are committed to working towards a just, carbon-free future.

Despite the plan’s commitment to “go as far as we can, as fast as we can, with the tools and methods we have now,” with regards to their investment portfolio, MIT only plans to “undertake an intensive analysis of how to achieve net-zero carbon by 2050.” This timeline is a step in the right direction, but it suffers from a lack of clarity and urgency compared to those of peer institutions like Brown, the University of Cambridge, and the University of California system, who have all agreed to fully divest from fossil fuels. To reaffirm the need for divestment and disengagement from the fossil fuel industry, MIT Divest has created a Climate Conscious Career Pledge, through which we are calling on MIT affiliates to pledge to divest, or withhold, their labor from the fossil fuel industry. By collectively choosing to devote our careers and labor only to institutions actively working towards a sustainable future, students are taking initiative with climate leadership that addresses the shortcomings of MIT’s investments strategy as outlined in the CAP. 

Although only four percent of MIT undergraduates take jobs after graduation in the energy and utilities sector (disappointingly, top employers include ExxonMobil, Schlumberger, and Shell Oil), this pledge transcends sectors and is a call for all of us to take a principled stance. MIT students enter a variety of industry sectors after graduating, including finance, tech, healthcare, and consulting. Across each of these, opportunity abounds to engage in sustainable work. By pledging today to devote our labor to sustainable institutions, together we can use our leverage as talented scientists, engineers, designers, artists, scholars, and more to redefine the relationships that MIT as an institution has with these industries.

We acknowledge that not all MIT students will be able to pledge their labor towards sustainable institutions. In particular, we are understanding of those who are forced by economic challenges to take on roles they otherwise would not. However, we also recognize that the privilege that comes with an MIT education opens many doors for each of us to pursue climate-conscious careers. Furthermore, we have a great responsibility to devote the knowledge and skills we have obtained in our time at MIT towards a sustainable and ethical future. As such, we ask every MIT student to consider the wealth of sustainable employment opportunities and to take the empowering step of pledging to devote their labor to the institutions hosting these opportunities.

As MIT students, we receive a rigorous technical education that prepares us to solve the eminent technical challenges of our day. However, the challenge of the climate crisis in particular requires us to look beyond the purely technical and consider the long-term implications of our actions. In the past year, the inclusion of sustainability conversations at the 2020 MIT Fall Career Fair demonstrated student ownership over pursuing climate-conscious careers. Extensive student-led efforts across campus like the Climate Action Plan Working Group Reports further demonstrate students’ dedication to improving sustainability at MIT. In fact, these reports and their respective student presentations to the Climate Action Advisory Committee were instrumental in driving the creation of a new structure of organization for climate activities at MIT, several new educational and research opportunities for students, and a focus on policy and community outreach in the recently released CAP. 

Despite taking these important steps, MIT has once again refused to include divestment or any other explicit action against fossil fuel companies in the CAP. By releasing the Climate Conscious Career Pledge, we are reaffirming our student body’s stance that meaningful climate action necessitates direct action against the fossil fuel industry, the companies most responsible for climate change and the perpetuation of climate disinformation. As a further sign of commitment against engagement with fossil fuels, we’ve released the Climate Conscious Donation Pledge, announcing that we will not donate to MIT until it divests its endowment from fossil fuels. Our collective action can deprive fossil fuel companies of MIT’s bright minds and send a message that we will not stand for their continuing damage and deceit.

What makes the MIT community so special is each individual’s experiences and skills. What we students do, here and after we graduate, is a reflection of our unique interests, values, and passions. Whether we conduct research on the ethics and biases in artificial intelligence, engage in community forums for diversity and inclusion, or organize events to advocate for social justice on campus and beyond, we, as MIT students, must consistently stand up for our beliefs and lead the way forward. Our collective student body brings strong ethical values to bear at MIT and beyond, and when the Institute acts against these values, we unite to express our will.

To become a part of a better tomorrow, we must devote our labor to those institutions actively working for a sustainable future today. Sign the Climate Conscious Career Pledge.

Mitali Chowdhury ’24 is a member of MIT Divest.

Manuel Morales ’22 is a member of MIT Divest.

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