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Fossil fuel divestment to meet with Board of Governors, need student support to push for change

After months of navigating our University’s administration, Rutgers Fossil Fuel Divestment has at last secured a place on the agenda of the Board of Governors and Board of Trustees Joint Committee on Investments.

We have chosen to run our campaign outside of the traditional means of confrontational student activism, but rather by following the procedures laid out for us by the University administration. We firmly believed that divestment is not only the morally correct and fiscally prudent move in the long term, but that the argument behind it is intuitive and one that the University administration would agree with if we were given a fair hearing. However it has become clear that this is not the case. The University will not divest because of a well delivered presentation by a handful of suited students. They will divest if the entire community supports fossil fuel divestment.

We need your help to show the administration that climate change is the defining challenge of our society and it is impermissible to co-profit with an industry with a business plan that necessitates the exploitation of as much of our fossil fuel resources as possible, dooming the students who attend and will attend our University.

On Earth Day, April 22, at 4 p.m. we will begin a march from College Hall on Douglass campus to Voorhees Mall on the College Avenue campus, where a post-march rally will be held. We hope to channel the spirit of last September’s People’s Climate March, when an incredibly diverse group of 450,000 people, including over 150 Rutgers students, marched through the streets of New York City to show our political leaders that climate action is direly needed. We hope the march and rally will exemplify the impacts climate injustice will have on the diverse communities represented at our University.

Our international and local societies are at a pivotal crossroad. We can continue along the path that we are on now and allow our climate to warm past the internationally agreed upon 2 degrees Celsius upper-limit, projected to unlock the worst effects of climate change. Alternatively, we can work to politically delegitimize the fossil fuel industry, which has influenced Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to tell every governor to ignore the Environmental Protection Agency’s coal plant emission regulations as well as Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) to bring a snowball to the Capitol in February in order to refute the overwhelming evidence that supports the theory of climate change. We can work to delegitimize the industry that promises to turn Super Storm Sandy from a once-in-a-millennia phenomenon to a once-a-decade phenomenon and promises to gravely widen global inequality. We can work to delegitimize the industry that grossly puts its profits over the well-being of our entire planet.

The University holds a unique position in the academic community in that it marries its status as a research university with its long held commitment to the ideal of social justice. The University was on the right side of history when it was among the first universities to divest its endowment from companies conducting business in South Africa during apartheid, a movement which Nelson Mandela touted as pivotal in changing the social climate surrounding the issue. Climate change is the social justice issue of our time. Our administration has endorsed this perspective with its three-part “Experience Rutgers: Climate Change” events, where the alumni, students and faculty had the opportunity to learn about our University’s world-class climate research. In addition, as a part of our strategic plan, the administration funded the 100 Days Symposium “Climate Change and Inequality,” held on April 10.

At last year’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Climate Symposium, hosted by the Rutgers Climate Institute, Dr. Richard Edwards, the chancellor of the New Brunswick campus, poignantly closed his opening address by challenging the academic community to not only publish significant climate research, but to fight for the social changes needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Fossil fuel divestment is the most effective way for our community to wrestle political power held in the coffers of the fossil fuel industry and return it to its rightful place: the hands of the people.

We’ll see you in the streets. 

Shane Patel is a School of Engineering senior double majoring in materials science and engineering planning and public policy. He is the president of Rutgers Fossil Fuel Divestment.

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