We’ve spent the past three years organizing for justice, mobilizing students, and escalating our campaign. Last week, Divest Harvard escalated with a 24-hour sit in outside President Drew Faust’s office in Mass Hall. Today, we are announcing Harvard Heat Week. This morning a group of prominent alumni–including Natalie Portman, Cornel West, Bill McKibben, Darren Aronofsky, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and many more–stood with students when they called for others to join us for a week of action happening April 13-18th in Harvard Yard. Read the letter and sign up to join us, then SHARE the news: www.HarvardHeatWeek.org
For the past 24 hours, we–34 students of Divest Harvard–held a sit-in in Massachusetts Hall. We sat outside the office of President Faust, calling on the Harvard administration to divest from fossil fuels. We are leaving at 10 am this morning stronger and more united after a successful demonstration of our power and our goals.
This direct action comes after two and a half years of interactions with an administration that avoids engagement with student activism at all costs. So we began our sit-in in the hopes that we could bring our voices and urgency directly to the doorstop of President Faust. It worked: by mid-morning, she was compelled to respond–a first in our experience with the administration. Yet despite that minor victory, her words made it clear she had no sincere interest in working with us. Instead, she issued an ultimatum that was intended to cut short our direct action, and she called our presence and our passion “coercive”.
To call our tactics coercive is to misrepresent the facts. In the past 24 hours, we were respectful to all who work in Massachusetts Hall, all who entered, and to the space itself. The statements of the University also fundamentally misunderstand the role of all nonviolent direct action. The imbalanced power dynamic of this institution, one that has consistently relegated many student voices to the margins, mandates disruptive action. Climate change that disproportionately affects already-disadvantaged populations and perpetuates existing injustices mandates disruptive action.
Each one of us must employ every tactic at our disposal to address the devastation and injustice that the climate crisis brings. We are confident that our protest over the past 24 hours–tiny in the face of the urgency of the crisis but significant in its content and tone–made this clear. And we are honored to join a wave of other direct actions and protests on college campuses and in cities around the world to call on our institutions to exercise their moral and economic power and divest from the fossil fuel industry.
This protest demonstrated the power of direct action and intentional organizing. Divest Harvard is committed to returning in April to engage in mass civil disobedience, represented by the diversity and range of voices in our movement, to make it clear that we expect our University to do the right thing. We hope that all will join us.
As we sit here peacefully settled into our action with the wellbeing of the planet and people everywhere constantly in mind, we realize the privilege of our situation of protest. In this comfortably carpeted hallway, outside the office of the president of one of the world’s most respected educational institutions, we face little risk of bodily harm from the police and possible disciplinary repercussions pale in comparison to risks other protestors have faced and continue to face on this campus, in this city, in this country, and all over the world. We feel this privilege only heightens the need to leverage our position as best we can.
Today, Divest Harvard and its allies have begun a sit-in in Massachusetts Hall to demand Harvard fully divest its endowment from fossil fuels. We are sitting in, as Harvard students have for living wages and divestment from apartheid, to bring the urgent problem of climate injustice to our President’s doorstep.
Our President has called us coercive and told us we are using the wrong means for combating climate change. We are saddened by her characterization of our action when we are continuing a legacy of civil disobedience that has brought real change to our university. We believe it is necessary for Harvard to use every means in its power to combat climate change. We disrupt business as usual because business as usual permits massive injustice via the extraction and consumption of fossil fuels, which disparately threaten the livelihoods of global citizens.
Last semester, President Faust inspired us when she quoted civil rights leader John Lewis on civil disobedience: “I got into trouble. Good trouble. Necessary trouble.” She went on to praise those in “Harvard’s own imperfect past who were willing to get into necessary trouble” because they have pushed our university forward through history.
We hope to do the same.
By Divest Harvard
Today, over 35 Harvard students are sitting in at Massachusetts Hall, outside President Drew Faust’s office, to demand full divestment from the fossil fuel industry. We sit in because Harvard has a responsibility to do everything in its power to address the climate crisis.
The scientific debate about climate change is over. Global warming threatens livelihoods and cultures in communities around the world with natural disasters, drought, floods, disease, and conflict. Yet Harvard willingly profits from the fossil fuel companies that exacerbate this crisis, even as the true costs of oil, coal, and gas use are borne by our communities. Overwhelmingly, these costs are borne by already marginalized communities, making this not only a climate issue, but a justice issue more broadly.
As we sit in, we call on Harvard to answer these questions. Will Harvard continue to profit from corporations whose extraction methods exacerbate inequality in already marginalized communities? Will this university disregard the effect of exploitative business practices and choose to prioritize corporate profit over communities on the frontlines of climate disasters whose lives and cultures are under siege? Will it choose to ignore commitments to current and future generations, including Harvard’s own students, who are currently being robbed of a livable future?
Divest Harvard calls for divestment from the top 200 fossil fuel companies as the first step. Harvard’s divestment would align its financial choices with its purported values. It would also send a powerful message that our society can no longer tolerate the business model and political power of the fossil fuel industry. Harvard is already a global leader in research and education. Alumni, faculty, and administrators enjoy tremendous influence over our economy and political culture. And the university has taken steps to address its own carbon impact through admirable sustainability initiatives. Yet Harvard’s wealth and influence means it has a special responsibility to act in every capacity possible in the face of a crisis this immense. Despite a compelling historical precedent of divestment from tobacco and South African apartheid, Harvard has ignored the facts of the current crisis. Refusing to divest now is an irresponsible and unsustainable abrogation of Harvard’s power.
Divest Harvard began on this campus close to three years ago. In an Undergraduate Council referendum in 2012, 72 percent of participating Harvard College students supported divestment from fossil fuels. Since then, in addition to growing student support, over 200 faculty members, almost 1,100 alumni, and around 65,000 community members signed onto our campaign. Backed by this powerful movement, as well as a movement across the country, we asked the university to meet with us to discuss the possibility of divestment. The university ignored our requests and even arrested a student in the spring of last year who was protesting the lack of transparent dialogue.
Now, Divest Harvard will accept nothing short of full divestment. After three years of conversations that led nowhere, merely requesting further discussion is both insufficient and disrespectful to the communities who bear the direct consequences of the fossil fuel industry’s actions. Harvard’s actions must reflect the urgency of the global need for action.
Today we are sitting in the office of Harvard’s president, to call on her and her fellow decision-makers in the Harvard Corporation to make the ethical, sensible, and necessary decision to divest from fossil fuels. This movement is here to stay. Divest Harvard therefore commits to continue mobilizing, and to come back in the spring – more powerfully and with higher numbers than ever before.
All eyes are on Harvard, and the choice it makes in this moment will be reflected in its legacy for years to come.
Exciting news! We have officially launched a Fossil Free Alumni Fund so that alumni can show their support for divestment through their donations to Harvard! Learn more about the fund and how you can donate here: http://divestharvard.com/fossil-free-alumni-fund/.
Divest Harvard believes that the climate movement can never be just or successful if black lives do not matter as much as white ones in the United States. The unjust status quo in this country that perpetuates institutionalized racism and violence is deeply intertwined with the fossil fuel-based economy. It situates the extraction and refinement of fossil fuels in marginalized communities of color and is in line with a trajectory towards climate catastrophe that will hit communities of color first and hardest.
Yet Divest Harvard recognizes that our beliefs mean nothing without action. We must stand in absolute solidarity with this powerful movement–on our campuses, in the streets of our cities and hometowns, and in our personal relationships. We challenge our supporters and all those in the climate movement to do the same: to hear the Black Lives Matter movement’s call for justice, to recognize that call’s echoes in our own movement, and–above all–to keep disrupting the misguided “peace” that cloaks every kind of injustice.
Today, Harvard students–united under the Harvard Climate Justice Coalition–sued Harvard University for refusing to divest from fossil fuels. While the plaintiffs are members of Divest Harvard, they are acting under the HCJC. We stand with them in this incredible campaign!
PLEASE fill out this form if you are fasting (to help us keep track!).
Official website for the fast: http://www.divestharvardfast.com/
Students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members from around the world will participate in a fast for fossil fuel divestment from October 20-24th, 2014. We approach fasting as an honored tactic to to call attention to the urgent need for divestment in light of the current injustices caused by climate change.
We ask the Harvard community and supporters from around the world to fast with us for up to 3 days (Mon-Wed, Tues-Thurs, or Wed-Fri) throughout the week. We will have a core group that will fast for 3 days (72 hours representing the 72% of Harvard students who support fossil fuel divestment), and many will fast for 1 or 2. We do not encourage or endorse fasting for longer for 5 days—health is our first priority.
You can join from anywhere in the world or come hang out with us on campus. Please fill out this form if you are interested in fasting with us, even for just one day! We will fast from sundown to sundown.
Please follow our Facebook event for updates: https://www.facebook.com/events/648066685309312/
Also read this op-ed on why we are fasting.
Harvard ECHO (Eating Concerns Hotline and Outreach) is not affiliated with this action but hopes to support students for whom this event brings up eating concerns or body image issues. Call echo at 617-495-8200 every night 8pm-8am or visit Lowell M basement Sunday through Wednesday 8pm-11pm.