New network wants to divest
The Climate Workshop – that’s what a new, informal network for LiU employees interested in a little more operative work on the climate issue calls itself. First on the ‘to do’ list is divestment.
In the Department of Thematic Studies Building sit Björn Wallsten, postdoc in Technology and Social Change, and Anna Kaijser, postdoc in Environmental Change – two of five people who form the core of the newly-founded “Climate Workshop” informal network.
The initiative was taken by Mr Hultman, lecturer in Technology and Social Change, and Anna Lundberg, lecturer in Gender Studies, who contacted a few people they thought would be interested in more concrete work for change in LiU and climate issues and who in their research and instruction, or privately, were strongly involved in these issues.
“This is a way of channeling involvement in climate issues at LiU,” Ms Kaijser says. “We want to pursue concrete work for change within LiU, and see what we can achieve.”
“The University is our main arena,” says Mr Wallsten. “Here, we can make things better, pursue issues no one else is. The idea is not to replace what’s already being done, but to supplement, powerfully, what already exists. We can ask the tough questions, call things into question, and – for example – look at the university’s travel habits.
“The word ‘operative’ recurs a lot in our conversations. The Climate Workshop is an issue-based group who want to do concrete things for the climate. The first thing they want to take up is divestment, roughly the opposite of investment: selling shares, funds, or other investments in fossil-fuel energy.”
“Today, LiU has approximately 50 million SEK in funds,” Ms Kaijser says. “That’s certainly quite a small amount compared with many other higher education institutions, but it’s what we have the opportunity to influence. And we’re not alone – Stockholm University will be divesting, and Chalmers has already done it.”
“Divestment is a movement, not only at universities but also in places like municipalities,” Mr Wallsten says. “There is a network called Fossil Free Sweden. They monitor events, rank organisations, and keep an eye on which institutions have started initiatives like this and which haven’t. The last time I looked, LiU wasn’t on that list.”
The Climate Workshop wants to focus on the right things, and concentrate on issues where real benefit is possible.
“Divesting is a really simple thing,” Ms Kaijser says. “Perhaps a little bureaucratic hassle, but a one-time thing; an individual person doesn’t need to do much.”
“Over the long term there is also a branding dimension here,” Mr Wallsten says. LiU has several environmentally profiled programmes. Having investments that don’t tally with that strikes a discordant note.
There are also divestment networks among the students, both at LiU and at other universities – involvement that the Climate Workshop appreciates.
“A double blow,” Mr Wallsten says. “If the pressure comes from several directions, it has a greater effect.”
But the issue is actually already on the University’s agenda. This week, the heads of finance of the country’s higher educational institutions are having a network meeting in which divestment will be an item on the agenda.
As noted, the Climate Workshop is a newly-founded network in which a group at the Department of Thematic Studies forms a core. But more people who are interested in the climate are welcome, of course.
“You only need to get in touch with us,” say Ms Kaijser and Mr Wallsten.
Do you want to join the Climate Workshop? You can contact:
Björn Wallsten, postdoc, Technology and Social Change
Anna Kaijser, postdoc, Technology and Social Change
Martin Hultman, lecturer, Technology and Social Change
Anna Lundberg, lecturer, Gender Studies
Dag Balkmar, postdoc, Örebro University
Last updated: 2016-03-24