CAMBRIDGE — While students were moving into their dorms, numerous climate disasters such as Hurricane Ida were wreaking havoc across the world, including in the hometowns of Harvard’s community members. With the ensuing trauma and hardship, many students are increasingly unable to leave disasters behind when they enter Harvard’s gates. Today, members of the Harvard community rallied to demand accountability for the university’s dangerous and immoral fossil fuel investments, sending a loud and clear message to administration that as the community returns to campus, the need for action on climate cannot be ignored.
At the event, entitled “Turning the Tide: Rising up for Divestment & Climate Justice at Harvard,” members of the campaign rallied, chanted, sang songs, and gave speeches on the need to fight for climate progress. Organizers also carried a massive blue banner symbolizing the rising tide coming to Harvard’s door — the Harvard campus itself, according to leading climate scientists, faces massive risk from sea level rise.
“The President and Fellows have chosen to prioritize the fossil fuel industry, above the future of this University,” said alum Melanie Wang (College ’15) in a speech. “We are moving rapidly into a reality where the devastating impacts of climate change will define our lives: where we live, what we eat, what resources we have access to, and the futures we imagine for ourselves. In this reality, how can the failure to act be defensible? In this reality, what credibility could Harvard have? And how could alumni be expected to donate or support a University that has not truly reckoned the world around us?” (The graduates’ wing of the campaign recently confirmed the hiring of an alumni divestment organizer.)
The rally, which comes on the heels of the recent IPCC report laying out the clear need for an end of the era of fossil fuels, indicates that momentum for divestment at Harvard is only growing. This past summer, alumni elected several Board of Overseers members critical of Harvard’s investment policies, campaigners met with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office twice to discuss arguments that Harvard’s fossil fuel investments violate state law, state legislators introduced a bill pushing Harvard to divest, and more. And as the Harvard community returns to campus, the majorities of students, alumni, and faculty who support divestment will only continue to push for environmental justice amid the present age of climate crisis.
“Harvard University has a $42 billion endowment, and they have recently disclosed that they invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the fossil fuel industry, said Jade Woods (College ‘21), a FFDH organizer from New Orleans. “Harvard! President Bacow! Members of the Harvard Corporation! I am calling you, and we are calling you, to stop this school’s investment in the fossil fuel industry. Stop funding the destruction of my home. Stop giving legitimacy to an industry that is destroying the planet.”
The university, Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard continues to believe, has the potential to make a difference in the fight for climate justice. But as countless peer institutions, from Oxford and Cambridge to Brown and Cornell, divest from fossil fuels, Harvard is being left behind. Students, faculty, and alumni want leadership — it’s time for the university to turn the tides and join the right side of climate history.