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Students push for fossil fuel divestment on National Day of Climate Action

Just as the sun set on the College Avenue campus on Wednesday afternoon, the wind picked up and the Rutgers Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign began to assemble tables, flyers and banners in front of Brower Commons to demonstrate the need for action from the University and government on climate change for National Day of Climate Action.

Students and activists from the Rutgers community were encouraged to come out to "Rutgers' First Annual Climate Fest" and make connections with campaigns they care about. Supporting representatives from many organizations included the Students for Environmental Awareness, GlobeMed, Take Back the Tap, Veg Society, United Students Against Sweatshops, Students for Shared Governance, Corporate Accountability Campaign and the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Alex Tohe, president of Rutgers Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign, said the event stood in solidarity with the National Day of Climate Action.

“This action today is simply for bringing out different organizations from around campus that obviously make up very different parts of society and what climate action means to different parts of our Rutgers community,” said Tohe, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior.

Apart from tabling in front of Brower Commons, the Rutgers Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign has also been petitioning the University to divest the Rutgers endowment from the fossil fuel industry, which involves removing investments from it and discontinuing any future investment, he said.

The discussions the campaign has with University administration have been rather successful, and the conversations are at the point where they have begun formulating a task force to then work with the endowments, Tohe said. Soon, the Rutgers Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign will be working closely with the Board of Governors and Board of Trustees.

Rachel DiSciullo, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and campaign treasurer, said the Rutgers Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign is at the very beginning stages of developing a plan regarding how the University can divest as well as look into how other schools have done it.

“It seems like the administration really wants to do it, but they’re looking into how exactly we’re going to do it. They just formally established that its going to happen and we’re going to have talks with them concerning all the different aspects of it (like) what’s going to be on it, what kinds of things are they going to talk about,” she said.

During tabling, the campaign was trying to build allies with other organizations and also bring people in who are interested in climate activism, environmental activism or sustainability on campus.

DiSciullo thinks the campaign can have an incredibly large impact when they can get everybody together.

Ariel Schwalb, the Veg Society event coordinator and a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences Major junior, said Rutgers' First Annual Climate Fest includes different organizations not to only show solidarity, but also to show students how different focuses are making a difference in climate change.

"Veg Society is here today because animal agriculture is a number one cause of climate change, species extinction, water consumption, deforestation ... all these environmental issues that no one is really talking about," she said. "We want to give people another option so that they can help the environment, they can animals and they can be healthier by eating a more plant-based diet."

Nicholas Quinn, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said the Bernie Sanders Campaign tabled in solidarity with an event about climate change because Bernie Sanders is the one 2016 presidential candidate fighting the most passionately against climate change.

“It’s only fitting that as an organization that represents Sen. Sanders, that we’re here also trying to preach his message to students on campus,” he said. “(Sanders has) always been fighting against climate change, and we’re at an event that believes in the action against climate change.”

DiSciullo hoped students would see that what they do, or could do, matters. If students have a large concern, whether it is with the environment or not, DiSciullo said they are fully able to have a say and make a change at Rutgers.

“I have always really been interested in the concerns of the environment, but being a college student, you kind of realize that for the first time you can have a really big important say,” she said. “You go from being in high school, not being able to vote, not having your own independent life, and then you come here and there’s all these initiatives on campus that you can take part in. You can vote in every election, you can petition the University. You can make change in this institution that in turn will make change on the national level.”

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