Colleges & Universities: Stand with Us in the Climate Crisis

ACE Action Fellows at Harvard Heat Week
ACE Action Fellows at Harvard Heat Week

This is a guest blog post written by ACE Action Fellows James Coakley and Maya Greally, who participated in Harvard Heat Week, a week of action urging Harvard University to divest from fossil fuels.

Last week was Harvard Heat Week: a powerful moment in the climate movement, where New England’s Action Fellows joined the passionate student leaders of Divest Harvard, a group of renowned Harvard professors, and scores of Harvard alumni to call on the University to divest from fossil fuels. Harvard has one the largest endowments of any institution in the world at $36.4 billion. Given size of their investments and Harvard’s far-reaching influence, their decision to divest would send a strong message to other institutions to take a moral stand against the fossil fuel companies that are wrecking our climate.

So why do high school students care? Well for starters, today’s youth have grown up with the devastating effects of climate change on their doorstep. With catastrophic storms such as hurricane Katrina and Sandy clouding our childhood and the recent snowmageddon in Boston fresh on our minds, it’s unfortunately clear to us how important bold climate action is.

Moreover, we understand that we are the next people to inherit this earth, with all of its problems and challenges, and we want a livable planet! Harvard Heat week is a perfect demonstration of how youth are stepping up to the challenge of the climate crisis and how we are demanding adults act as though our future matters.

Finally, my generation is committed to the principles of climate justice. To quote ACE Action Fellow Jasmyn Mitchell, “The burning of fossil fuels is the number one cause of air pollution and carbon pollution in the world.” That air pollution leads to an overwhelmingly high rate of asthma in communities of color who are disproportionately affected by environmental and climate impacts. This is unacceptable. If institutions like Harvard want to live by their stated values, they need to stop investing in the destruction of frontline communities by divesting from fossil fuels. Plain and simple.

ACE Action Fellow Kerry Brock Speaks at Harvard Heat Week

While we recognize that divesting from fossil fuels may only be a first step to solving the climate crisis, it is an essential one, as it loosens the vice grip the fossil fuel industry currently has on our political system. By revoking the social license of these companies to act, divestment opens up real opportunities for near-term climate action.

And so we invite Harvard and other institutions of Higher Education to make a choice. As Action Fellow Kerry Brock stated during a rally last week: Right now Harvard is acting like a school “so stuck in old ways, in institutional inertia, that unless pushed, it will choose the fossil fuel industry up until it’s own campus is a foot under water.” So what side will you be on? The side that stands with my generation for climate justice or the side that stands with the planet wrecking business model of the fossil fuel industry? To all colleges and universities out there: we invite you to stand with us.

To view photos of the ACE Action Fellows in action during Harvard Heat week, click here for pictures.