By Dan Jubelirer, Tufts University
“If you look at the science that describes what is happening on earth today and aren’t hopeless, you don’t have the correct data. If you meet the people in this unnamed movement and aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a heart” – Paul Hawken in Blessed Unrest
The science is in on climate change, and things aren’t good. We don’t have much time. By conservative estimates, to avoid a massive climate disaster in our lifetimes, we must drastically reduce our fossil fuel consumption in the next 5-10 years. Unfortunately, many people remain in an emotional state of denial, and are not taking action on this dire issue. What’s more, our government could not be more inept at regulating fossil fuel use. Our politicians are too afraid of taking in the major oil, coal, and gas companies, since the fossil fuel industry is such a power special interest group. That leaves us heading to the edge of the cliff at a break-neck speed, with no one grabbing the wheel and steering us to safety.
But I am not hopeless. I am part of a new movement of young people all across the country, taking on the root of the climate crisis: the fossil fuel companies. I am part of a divestment campaign at Tufts, demanding that our university sell off its stocks and bonds in the fossil fuel industry. The oil, coal, and gas companies want to alter the physics and chemistry of the planet, just to make a profit. Young people today aren’t going to stand for it. We are urging Tufts to reinvest in new emerging green technologies, improving campus infrastructure and making it more energy efficient (which leads to a LOT of savings for the University,) and other socially responsible investments.
Here is the plan: build student power, meet with administrators, and eventually pressure them into divesting. We are gathering petitions and writing Op-Eds, planning panels with experts, movie screenings, protests, email blasts, all of it. We are meeting and coordinating with students from half a dozen other schools in Boston, sharing best practices and encouraging each other. We are forming partnerships with local community groups such as Better Future Project and 350.org, getting resources and training on student organizing tactics. Last week we met with Bill McKibben, author of the viral Rolling Stone article this past summer, and got some inspiration and guidance on how to push for divestment.
Meeting with Climate Activist and founder of 350.org Bill McKibben in Cambridge, MA
Mitigating climate change through personal lifestyle changes hasn’t worked, and neither has political action. We are taking the fight to the people pulling the strings, by taking capital out of the extraction, production, and distribution of fossil fuels. I think we are going to be successful. In the past, universities have divested their endowments for human rights issues, such as the South Africa apartheid divestmentcampaigns in the 80’s and 90’s, and tobacco and firearms divestment campaigns in the mid-2000’s. Financial experts have shown that socially responsible investing does not harm returns; there are plenty of profitable investments besides fossil fuels. We are a national movement, with at least 30 other colleges and universities starting divestment campaigns in the past few months. But most of all, we have passion and creativity, intelligence and heart.
Working on divestment so far has been fun. I’ve laughed a lot, been enraged, felt excited, and met many amazing new people. We are just taking off, but, if we stick with it and keep pressuring our school to do the right thing, I think we will be successful.
A brilliant poet and GenUp friend, Drew Dellinger, has a call to action that inspires me to keep going:
It’s 3:23 in the morning and I’m awake
because my great great, grandchildren won’t let me sleep.
My great great grandchildren ask me in dreams
what did you do, while the planet was plundered?
what did you do, when the earth was unraveling?
surely you did something when the seasons started failing?
as the mammals, reptiles, and birds were all dying?
did you fill the streets with protest when democracy was stolen?
what did you do
We need change, and we need it now. As college students, we have so much power and leverage to make this a national issue, and put real pressure on the oil and coal companies to act responsibly, and only sell as much carbon as is safe to burn.
Update: Today 15 of us met with Tufts Vice President Patricia Campbell and Director of the Office of Sustainability Tina Woolston to deliver over 850 petition signatures calling for divestment, and to make our case to the administration. While we didn’t get many concrete answers, are going to keep at it, and next take our case to the board of trustees!
follow us on FB for updates!
Cross-posted on divestforourfuture.org and Generation Waking Up