By students of Divest Harvard:
Tonight Harvard students, faculty, and alumni assembled in peaceful, civil disobedience around Massachusetts Hall to launch Harvard Heat Week – a week of action for fossil fuel divestment. As climate change threatens to become the worst humanitarian crisis that humans have ever faced, we ask all students to join us this week in the movement for climate justice.
Divest Harvard calls on Harvard to immediately divest from major fossil fuel companies. In this historic moment, Harvard confronts a choice that will influence its legacy for hundreds of years. Will it continue to endorse the fossil fuel industry’s destructive practices? Or will it act to ensure a livable future for young people, future generations, already-marginalized communities, and all those on the frontlines of climate chaos?
Why escalated action and civil disobedience?
For three years, Divest Harvard has worked to build a movement on campus using a wide range of tactics. Over 230 faculty members, 1100 alumni, and 65,000 community members have signed on to our campaign, and in 2012, 72 percent of college students and 67 percent of law students voted in support of divestment. Our university has met this powerful movement with refusals and silence, and even an order to arrest one of its own students for standing up for his beliefs.
In a sermon last month, President Faust described the need to confront racism and violence in 1954 as “unambiguous”. Eloquently summarizing the urgency of action, she stated that “the compelling nature of what was right appeared both unquestionable and unavoidable.” Today, the fossil fuel industry is undeniably at the root of climate change and of the exploitation of the planet and its people. Prioritizing the future of our Earth over the interests of fossil fuel corporations is equally unquestionable and unavoidable.
Harvard wields immense social influence. As one of the most well-respected and well-resourced universities in the world, Harvard’s decision to divest would signal that institutions and governments must act boldly and swiftly to address the climate crisis. And as students at Harvard, our voices carry great privilege in this crucial moment. Harvard will not divest if students do not demonstrate our commitment.
That is why we need to act. Hundreds of alumni are joining us in Harvard Yard to lend their voices, support, and bodies to this cause, but it is students’ futures that are at stake. We must be the driving force of this movement, just as we have been in countless movements for social justice in the past.
We escalate now because the urgency of the climate crisis demands that Harvard use every tool at its disposal to confront climate change. Divest Harvard has campaigned for years with direct actions, rallies, teach-ins, forums, conversations with the administration. Students, faculty, and alumni, have all joined the cause. But even this movement has yet to push Harvard into action. As the world prepares for international climate talks in December and the United States readies for the 2016 presidential election, divestment only grows more critical. Student divestment campaigns across the country have escalated and mobilized this spring out of a shared understanding that business-as-usual is simply untenable for the planet and its people.
As Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney wrote:
Once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.
Tidal waves of justice do not happen on their own. We create those waves together, and we must demand justice from Harvard. Join us in doing so this spring. There will be many ways to engage with Harvard Heat Week: rallies, teach-ins, artistic expressions, media campaigns, and civil disobedience. Join us and the hundreds who have already committed to take action by signing up at http://harvardheatweek.org/join/.