CAMBRIDGE, MA — On Saturday, members of the Harvard community took to the Yard in a socially-distanced manner to call on Harvard to disclose, divest, and reinvest its fossil fuel holdings. The rally, which was organized entirely by first-year students, sent a loud and clear message to administration that in the wake of historic global crises, Harvard’s obligation to the world cannot be ignored.
During the event, the crowd called for change through song, chant, speeches, and more. The participants also wrote their personal reasons for supporting divestment on signs, and observed seven minutes of silence to mark the remaining time in which humanity can meet IPCC climate goals. Finally, representatives of Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard read a statement which was later delivered to administrators.
“Harvard has an endowment of $42 billion dollars. That’s over 200 times the annual GDP of Kiribati, which will be one of the first nations to go underwater,” said Jett Zhang, Class of ’24. “Each ecosystem destroyed, each life lost matters. There is a story behind every monkey left behind in the fires. There is a story behind every family teared apart from the Floods. Each and every thing lost from this crisis that you have not done enough to stop — no, you have enabled — is beautiful — and a tragedy.
The event comes after almost a decade of divestment activism at Harvard, during which time the students, faculty, and alumni who make up the Harvard community have resoundingly called for change. And yet, even as the climate crisis has intensified by the day, Harvard administration has continued to defend its embrace of the fossil fuel industry — the same industry which attacks Harvard’s own academics, perpetuates racial and social injustice around the world, and fights to undermine scientific truth. Meanwhile, as peer institutions like Oxford, Cambridge, Brown, Cornell, and the University of California divest, Harvard is surrendering its chance to lead.
“Despite Harvard’s continued inaction, I hope this year’s recordbreaking natural disasters and the energy of us first-years can make a difference,” said Isha Sangani, Class of ’24. “Participating in this rally was an empowering experience, and I’m hopeful about what we can accomplish.”
Even as many freshmen leave campus in the coming weeks, the rally makes it clear that the Class of 2024 is committed to holding Harvard accountable for its responsibility to the planet and to the future. Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard continues to hope that the administration will be willing to engage in a meaningful dialogue, because with the next few years being absolutely critical to prospects of a just and stable future, Harvard must decide if it will stand on the right side of history — or if it will continue to fall behind.
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