Last week, Divest Tulane and Fossil Free teamed up to host an empowering and energizing event entitled “Building a Bold Student Resistance: Taking Meaningful Action on Fossil Fuel Divestment.” This panel of inspiring speakers offered a diversity of perspectives on the growing divestment movement at a critical time for campaigns across the entire country. At this point, many campaigns have made incredible strides in pushing our universities to remove their money from fossil fuel companies. We have gained overwhelming support from our student bodies, passed faculty senate resolutions, met with administrators, and much more. A growing number of campaigns have evoked responses from their administrations and have met dead end promises, such as exploratory committees intended to stall them and dissolve the power they have built. While it is easy to give in to complacency and work with the administration as they attempt to appease us, this is exactly the moment that we must build an even stronger resistance. We must think creatively and act boldly to push our universities to be leaders in the struggle against climate change.
This message was beautifully and powerfully delivered to students across the country last Thursday by speakers Naomi Klein, Prexy Nesbitt, Cherri Foytlin, Allie Welton, Zeph Repollo, and Bob Massie. As I listened to their passionate words, I was reminded not only of the urgency of climate change and the need to take fearless action, but also of the thousands of students across the country working towards the same goal as my friends and me at Divest Tulane. I think that there is real power in our movement of young people, as it is our future that is at stake, and I believe that if we continue to push our institutions to align their values with their practices, we will win.
I was very pleased that this panel was hosted in a city that is on the frontlines of climate change and environmental injustice. While much of the news we hear regarding divestment campaign successes has thus far come from the northeast, we are excited to be making waves in a place that has such high stakes in the climate crisis. Tulane University is located in the amazing city of New Orleans, Louisiana, a place brimming with unique and irreplaceable cultures. Unfortunately, we have the worst sea-level rise projections in this hemisphere – New Orleans is predicted to be completely under water by 2100 – and communities across the region suffer from the deadly pollution of fossil fuel companies. Grassroots climate organizing in oil country warrants bold action, as the political and corporate forces working against meaningful climate progress are so great. Having this speaker panel at Tulane highlighted the injustices of frontline communities in the south, while also energizing students on the Tulane campus. After attending the panel, one of our friends who had previously been uninvolved in climate activism told us that he now plans to risk arrest at the XL Dissent action on March 2nd, feeling impassioned by the panel and ready to take action. Later today, I will walk confidently into our second meeting with Tulane’s president, knowing that climate change is too urgent of an issue to get caught up in meaningless administrative processes. We need to boldly take this issue into our own hands and not let President Cowen stall us yet again, because like Cherri Foytlin so passionately said, we are fighting for our lives, so we can’t take no for an answer.
Co-President, Divest Tulane
P.S. Let’s continue to use the #BoldAction to share our thoughts as well as pictures and videos of how we’re building a bold student resistance on our campus.