DivestNU is a coalition of more than 30 student organizations at Northeastern who support divesting the university’s endowment from fossil fuel companies. After 75 percent of students who participated in a 2014 Student Government Association referendum on divestment voted “yes,” Northeastern set up a body of students, faculty and administrators called the Social Impact Council (SIC). In spring 2016, the SIC recommended that Northeastern gradually divest from fossil fuels over five years.
Despite this, Northeastern announced in July that it would invest $25 million in sustainable initiatives – but not divest from the industry causing climate change. DivestNU’s occupation of Centennial Common comes in response to the administration’s refusal to honor the decision of the body Northeastern itself created to address divestment. As coalition members, we will continue our support until the university agrees to full divestment. The following are some of our reasons for doing so:
Progressive Student Alliance
The Progressive Student Alliance, a labor solidarity group, proudly supports DivestNU in the fight for fossil fuel divestment. Despite frequent attempts to drive wedges between climate activism and labor activism – for example, with the argument that divestment would kill jobs in resource extraction – we know that we will never achieve climate justice without labor justice, and vice versa. Our support for divestment stems from a desire to see our university function like the nonprofit organization it is, rather than a for-profit enterprise.
We regret the way Northeastern balks at paying fair wages to its janitors, dining hall workers and adjunct professors, yet has no problem forking millions of dollars over to the fossil fuel industry. We are tired of Northeastern covering up inaction with buzzwords – using the empty rhetoric of sustainability and environmentalism to distract from its ongoing complicity in climate change. Our university’s support for the fossil fuel industry, evidenced by Ed Galante, the former vice president of ExxonMobil who co-chairs our Board of Trustees, is a slight to all of us, especially marginalized people who, due to environmental racism, are most at risk from the now-inevitable consequences of climate change. The longer Northeastern waits to divest, the more complicit we become in the climate crisis.
Latin American Student Organization
On behalf of the Latin American Student Organization (LASO) at Northeastern University, we would like to publicly support DivestNU’s campaign against the university’s continued investment in the fossil fuel industry. We find the organization’s zealous crusade against environmental injustice both commendable and reminiscent of the passion that LASO feels toward the advancement of our culture and the preservation of our identity.
Furthermore, though climate change is a global concern that requires the attentions of all the Earth’s peoples, the fact that communities of color are most susceptible to natural crises related to climate change is especially troubling to our organization. As the primary group on campus for the representation of the Latinx community, we agree entirely with DivestNU’s call to divestment. We, LASO, agree that Northeastern University has a prime opportunity to lead the fight for social change. Climate change in its entirety is an issue that no one group can handle alone and, as such, the Latin American Student Organization is gladly willing to support the efforts of DivestNU in its endeavor toward environmental sustainability.
Feminist Student Organization
We are Northeastern University Feminist Student Organization, and we stand with DivestNU. Climate justice is a feminist issue because, among other reasons, girls are 14 times more likely to die in a natural disaster, Syrian refugees are classified as climate refugees and the residents of Flint, Michigan still do not have access to clean drinking water. Northeastern’s refusal to divest from fossil fuels reflects not only on their disregard for the safety of the planet, but its apathy toward minority issues. The Divest coalition has unified under the spirit of activism to give voice to these issues. It is time for Northeastern to listen to our voices.
Protesting climate change and encouraging divestment from fossil fuels is a form of advocacy rooted in scientific fact, but it also comes from a place of compassion. When international news reports show that islands in Bangladesh are sinking, or cities in India are flooding, or crops in Pakistan are failing, or the sea is rising around Sri Lanka, South Asian and South Asian-American students don’t just see weather reports. We see family, friends and people that look like us and share our heritage stuck in third-floor apartments for weeks, wading through submerged streets and suffering hunger from poor crop yields. The lower-income, oppressed and underserved communities of the region are left to feel the impact of the decisions of western companies and local wealthy corporations who choose to continue polluting our planet.
As a cultural group with the responsibility of promoting South Asian culture and advocating for the South Asian and South Asian-American community, we believe it is necessary for us to align ourselves with the DivestNU coalition in calling for accountability and transparency on the part of our administration. We stand in solidarity with people from South Asia, the United States and at-risk communities everywhere in asking our university to commit itself to being a real, influential “global campus.”
Students for Justice in Palestine
Climate change and environmental destruction are issues that, almost by definition, affect everyone on the globe, yet they affect some more drastically than others. We know that as the seas rise and intense storms become all the more frequent, it will be the poor and oppressed who suffer disproportionately. This is no different in Palestine than anywhere else; it does not take much to realize that, should famine and drought continue to occur from climate change, Palestinians will thirst and starve before the Israelis (indeed, they already are already thirsting and starving disproportionately more than the Israelis).
At the same time, Israeli policies against Palestine harm the environment. Israel has a long history of using environmental destruction against Palestinians; the destruction of homes coincides with the destruction of olive groves, according to the Washington Post. Israeli dumping of waste, including toxic and nuclear waste, has contaminated Palestinian water supplies, according to Mondoweiss. The UN reports that Gaza could be uninhabitable by 2020 due to economic “de-development.” In a very real sense, the oppression of Palestine is not limited to the people but includes the land itself.
Northeastern Debate Society
Climate change is one of the most pressing and potentially devastating problems facing our generation. In order to effectively combat climate change, we must not only identify solutions; we must also be able to effectively rally support and persuade key actors in order to have these solutions implemented. The Northeastern Debate Society is committed to using public speaking as a way of learning about the world and translating facts and analytical reasoning into effective advocacy. We strive to promote self-confidence and the ability to express one’s opinions in a way that is both self-empowering as well as convincing, and we stand in solidarity with DivestNU for embodying these principles. We applaud DivestNU for promoting discourse and refusing to allow the campus community to ignore the problems of climate change, which cannot afford to be ignored.
Socialist Alternative is a national working class organization that fights for a world of economic and political democracy. This goal is impossible if capitalism, due to its never-ending hunt for profit, leaves us without a habitable world. Socialist Alternative supports DivestNU’s struggle to hold Northeastern accountable to its proclaimed environmentalist principles. The science is clear: Continued fossil fuel extraction is a leading cause of climate change and its many disastrous consequences. Fortunately, activists from groups like DivestNU recognize this inconvenient truth. Northeastern University should respect the overwhelming science and public opinion on campus in favor of divestment. We deserve a university that puts people over profit!
As the Marine and Environmental Science Department’s student group, Terra Society represents students who study and appreciate the Earth, the processes that occur upon it and all of its resources. Many academic studies have shown that if the world continues to rely on fossil fuels, the consequences will be intense and severe, including rising temperatures, ocean acidification, sea level rise and increases in the severity of natural disasters. Northeastern already funds a wonderful amount of atmospheric, oceanic and environmentally focused research, it is time to back up the results of this research with action. One of the easiest and most effective ways to do this is by divesting from fossil fuels. Fossil fuel divestment is a crucial step towards a greener and cleaner world. As such, Terra Society stands in solidarity with DivestNU in their goal of full fossil fuel divestment of Northeastern University.
Photo by Alex Melagrano