CAMBRIDGE, MA: Harvard’s recent commitment to fossil fuel divestment, after ten years of protest, was a historic victory for activists and for the planet. And now, fresh off this win, activists are continuing to hold the university accountable for its fossil fuel entanglements. Earlier this week, a report revealed that Harvard’s climate research is awash in fossil fuel money — thereby putting the university’s academic freedom and scholarly mission at risk. On Friday, the campus community took action, rallying at several locations around campus to call for an end to dirty money in the academic process.
Harvard’s Climate Research is Awash in Fossil Fuel Conflicts of Interest: Read the Report Here.
The action was part of an international day of action for divestment, organized by the College Climate Coalition and campus campaigns worldwide.
“This industry has devastated our planet and murdered its people, and then turned around and told us that it is progress,” said John Verghese (HKS ’23) in a speech. “But all the while, they knew that their business was slowly bringing us to the brink of armageddon. They offered money, to help them lie, or confuse, or peddle miracle cures — and Harvard took plenty of that money.”
The report found a number of concerning examples of fossil fuel ties on campus, including Chevron and Shell funding climate economics research, BP funding oil politics scholarship, Exxon funding the study of corporate social responsibility, a board member of ConocoPhillips also chairing the university sustainability committee and directing environmental programming at the law school, a top Exxon lawyer serving as a university trustee, and fossil fuel fortunes endowing the university’s two major centers for climate policy. The report also identified several instances of the university covering up this funding, such as scrubbing references to BP from a website upon learning of FFDH’s research for a report.
As part of the action, demonstrations occurred at the Kennedy School, Science Center, and Harvard Law School, calling for true transparency of industry donations in research and an end to fossil fuel funding of climate scholarship. Participants also called for an end to other examples of dirty money on campus, including Harvard’s ties to the Prison-Industrial Complex and ruinous land theft and misuse, with the Prison Divestment Campaign and Stop Harvard Land Grabs jointly sponsoring the action.
After the demonstrations on Harvard’s campus, members of Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard joined peers from Boston College, Boston University, Tufts University, and Northeastern University for a joint rally at the Boston Common. FFDH organizers Ilana Cohen (College ’23) and Mai Hoang (College ’25) spoke at the rally about the power of our campaign’s recent victory for divestment activists everywhere and the need to double down on institutional divestment amid a lack of sufficiently strong climate action from world leaders.