On Sept. 21, I was floored by a moment I experienced at the People’s Climate March. As we started moving, a chant rose up: “Bulldog, Bulldog, Bow Wow Wow! We want climate justice and we want it now!” As a member of Fossil Free Yale, seeing countless familiar faces from my college community uniting around this issue was immensely powerful.
More than 300 Yalies joined 400,000 others from across the country and the globe in the historic march to demand climate action from our world leaders. This march reflected a major turning point for the climate movement. People across the country have been connecting the dots between climate change and social justice, sparking the surge of energy and people power displayed clearly in last week’s march.
This movement is not yesterday’s environmentalism, as proven by the physical organization of the march. At the head of the march were the communities already facing the effects of climate change. These predominantly poor communities of color have often done very little to cause the problem and yet are disproportionately affected. Their strong voices gave a human perspective to climate injustice.
Behind them, organizing in solidarity and for our collective stake in this issue, were people from a remarkable diversity of backgrounds, from faith to labor and more. As it becomes apparent that climate change affects the lives of real people, often in an unequal and unjust manner, folks are starting to realize that we need to stand up for what we believe in.
The march was a beautiful show of this movement’s inclusiveness and strength, but the work must continue. The momentum we’ve built should be used to bolster the strength of the countless groups around the world already fighting for climate justice.
For Yalies concerned with this injustice, there is no battle more significant on our campus than the one against our university’s morally reprehensible investments in the fossil fuel industry. The climate violence gradually affecting more of the world’s population demands an almost immediate stop to the use of fossil fuels, but these companies have blocked efforts to find solutions. This makes sense; their business model relies on wrecking our climate, and they won’t give that up without resisting.
The increasing abuses these companies inflict on communities through fossil fuel extraction should not be understated either. This abuse takes many forms: from the trampling of indigenous lands in the pursuit of Canadian tar sands, to the surge of fracking and its epidemic water contamination, to even the not-so-far-away fight against coal and air pollution in Bridgeport. These problems that hurt real people are all the inevitable result of an abusive, extractive industry — and our university is profiting from them.
Coming to Yale as a freshman this fall, my first day of college classes was marred by the announcement that our university had decided to ignore the voices of its students. Our administration looked past divestment, instead implementing sustainability initiatives that, while necessary, completely sidestep the moral imperative to address climate injustice. I joined Fossil Free Yale because I personally abhorred our school’s choice to ignore the 83 percent of students who were in favor of divestment while legitimizing an unprecedentedly destructive industry.
As students, we have a personal stake in our school’s engagement with this issue, but divestment is also part of a movement that is much bigger than Yale. There are more than 400 active campus divestment campaigns and an uncountable number of people who are fighting for climate justice all around the world. It is imperative that we lead the way in this rising tide of action, or else we risk being on the wrong side of history. We’re at a tipping point where the consequences of our actions now will have resounding effects for generations to come. Through divestment, we must leverage our collective power and the weight of our institution to help radically shift the course of our society toward a world that is more just and livable.
But to change everything, we need everyone. I know that joining this movement has likely been the most empowering thing I have ever done. At the march, the solidarity I felt extended beyond just my fellow Yalies to a community across the planet. It put into perspective just how much this fight matters. We all have a stake in climate change — it presents a unique opportunity to unite all of humanity to mobilize against the biggest threat we’ve ever faced.
And we can start here with making a Fossil Free Yale.
Tristan Glowa is a freshman in Morse College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.