On April 22, members of the Harvard community came together to celebrate the lighter side of climate action at Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard’s second virtual Earth Day. The event, which drew attention to the urgency of environmental justice and Harvard’s continued refusal to act, featured a number of comedic performances by students from across the university.
In one of the night’s sketches, news anchors shared the latest headlines from campus in the style of Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update. In another, “Mr. ExxonMobil CEO,” at the invitation of his many friends on the Harvard Corporation, gave a commencement address to the graduating class of 2021. (Among his words of wisdom: “Aristotle once wrote that virtue is one thing. I’m sure he would have agreed that fossil fuels are also a thing.”) A third sketch featured members of the Harvard Corporation’s Committee on Shareholder Responsibility duking it out as contestants on Jeopardy — among the stumpers were prompts like “this industry is the largest contributor to high concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere” and “this school’s team won the 2019 Harvard-Yale Football game.”
The event, which was written and produced virtually entirely by students, also saw a musical parody calling on the Harvard Corporation to fight for climate justice, comedy by members of the Harvard College Stand-Up Comics Society, and more. “When it comes to jokes, it’s hard to top Harvard’s climate policies,” said organizer Joseph Winters ’21. “Nevertheless, we were happy to incorporate some humor into our fight for climate justice, and appreciate how many people came to join us.” Recordings of the event are available on Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard’s Youtube and social media accounts.
The event comes on the heels of growing momentum for the movement for fossil fuel divestment at Harvard. In February, FFDH launched a new website, HarvardCorpLovesFossilFuels.com, to draw attention to the many connections between the fossil fuel industry and Harvard’s top governing board. In April, the campaign joined with faculty, alumni, legal experts, climate scientists, and elected officials to file an official complaint with the Massachusetts attorney general asserting that Harvard’s fossil fuel investments aren’t just immoral, but illegal. Subsequently, the complaint has drawn the support of over 130 faculty, the unanimous Harvard College Undergraduate Council, numerous additional elected officials, climate experts, and environmental groups.
The virtual Earth Day celebration was just one of the many ways in which members of the Harvard community are marking the day. Thursday morning, Winters spoke on behalf of FFDH at We Don’t Have Time and the London School of Economics’ Financing the Race to Zero conference. On the 24th, organizers Ilana Cohen ’23 and Martha Denton ’24 will discuss legal strategies for the divestment movement at a conference organized by the College Climate Coalition. And on the same day as our comedy event, former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres called on Harvard to divest in a speech at the Institute of Politics, saying that while Harvard has the potential to lead as a university at the forefront of academia, the “Harvard Management Company is at the point of breaching its true fiduciary responsibility” by refusing to act on climate.