If you were anywhere in the vicinity of Low Steps yesterday around 5pm, you probably could probably hear Columbia Divest for Climate Justice’s (CDCJ’s) protest. The protesters spent almost a full hour continuously shouting songs and chants, describing why it is Columbia’s social responsibility to divest from the fossil fuel industry.
Nearby, CDCJ representatives handed out flyers and talked about the group’s mission to anyone willing to listen. The group encouraged bystanders to sign their pledge for fossil fuel divestment, which, at that point, boasted over 1,000 signatures, including over 300 faculty signatures. You can read Bwog’s coverage of the event here.
CDCJ was far from the only group protesting for climate change yesterday, though. Yesterday was a National Day of Climate Action, and a march was planned to start in Harlem at 5pm – the same time as CDCJ’s demonstration. It’s likely that the significant police presence on Broadway and Amsterdam yesterday was in preparation for that march.
Barnard Divest was active yesterday, as well. They both added voices to CDCJ’s protest and did some activism on their own, meeting with Alice Handy, the woman in charge of managing Barnard’s endowment. They also sent a welcome committee to Barnard’s board of trustees meeting, holding up banners reading, “Divest Barnard from fossil fuels.” Barnard students can sign their pledge here.
Today, CDCJ launched a civil disobedience pledge. Over one hundred and fifty students have signed this pledge to participate in escalating non-violent direct action unless Columbia fully divests its endowment from the top 200 fossil fuel companies. They plan to put pressure on the administration in the hopes of influencing the upcoming socially responsible investment committee meeting and trustee meeting.
CDCJ’s full press release:
Columbia Students Pledge Escalatory Action Unless University Divests from Fossil Fuels
NEW YORK, NY — Over one hundred fifty students at Columbia University have pledged to engage in civil disobedience unless the university fully divests its $9.2 billion endowment from the top 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies.
The pledge, initiated by Columbia Divest for Climate Justice (CDCJ), assures students’ commitment to participate in nonviolent direct action – anything from hunger striking to sitting-in. As stated in the pledge, these commitments express intention “to protest Columbia University profiting off of, and therefore condoning, a business model that endangers public health, exacerbates climatic and political instability, and disproportionately harms people of color and low-income communities around the world.”
For nearly four years, CDCJ has been calling on Columbia’s Board of Trustees and president, Lee Bollinger, to stand on the right side of history and divest – but the board and its subcommittee on socially responsible investing have failed to listen to the demands of the student body. CDCJ’s pledge is an effort to break through this administrative deadlock and to demonstrate students’ commitment to escalation if the University does not divest soon. It is inspired by a similar pledge launched last week by Fossil Free Stanford.
CDCJ’s ask – for Columbia to freeze new fossil fuel investments and to fully divest its direct and indirect holdings from the top 200 oil, gas, and coal companies, which hold the majority of the world’s proven fossil fuel reserves – has already been endorsed by over 1,600 student petition signatures and 340 faculty members.
Within the first 48 hours of the pledge’s release, more than 100 students signed on.
“The fact that so many students are willing to participate in civil disobedience is a telling sign that students both care about climate justice and are ready for Columbia to take bold action on climate issues,” said Iliana Salazar-Dodge, a Columbia senior and organizer with CDCJ. “Students realize that Columbia is profiting off of the devastation of vulnerable communities. Responses to this pledge indicate that students are tired of being ignored and silenced. Columbia has the choice to wait and follow in other institutions or be a leader in the climate movement.”
The socially responsible investment committee is scheduled to meet in November, and the Trustees have their next meeting in early December, during the COP-21 climate talk in Paris. CDCJ organizers will continue to put pressure on administrators with the intent of accelerating the decision-making process.
“The risk of civil disobedience is nothing compared to the risk that climate change poses to front-line communities around the globe,” said Charles Harper, a Columbia engineering sophomore and new member of CDCJ. “Unless we take a stand now, we will lock-in irreversible warming and climate chaos for generations to come.”