Last night, students from American University, George Washington University, and the city of DC gathered on AUs campus to kick-off the new school year in a big way. About 70 of us came together on a gorgeous late-summer evening to get ready for a year of fighting for fossil freedom. After an opening performance from Blends with Benefits, a great AU a cappella group, we heard from Rachel Mandelbaum, an AU alum currently working to organize Power Shift 2013. Rachel gave us some important insights into the national divestment movement and spoke about the work that students around the country are doing to build a just and sustainable future. Next, we heard from Reverend Mark Schaefer, AUs Methodist Chaplain. Reverend Schaefer eloquently explained how AU and other institutions can draw on religious principles as justification for divesting from fossil fuels and climate destruction.
Professors Paul Wapner and Simon Nicholson, who both teach in the Global Environmental Politics program, spoke next, putting our push for divestment within the context of the global climate crisis. Professors Wapner and Nicholson have been great allies during our campaign, and it’s clear that students and faculty will need to work together to achieve fossil freedom on our campuses.
After a short break for some yummy vegetarian and vegan pizza, we heard from GW students Kyla and Anthony. Fossil Free GW, along with Georgetown Fossil Free, is doing some amazing work on their campus. Our campaigns will surely complement each other because, as Professor Wapner put it, “If GW said it was going to divest on Thursday, AU would divest on Wednesday”. We also got the chance to hear from John Noel, an AU graduate student working with DC Divest, a city-wide divestment campaign which just got legislation introduced to the city council which would divest the city’s retirement accounts from fossil fuel companies.
All of the organizing being done on divestment in DC is cumulative. Most of the district’s universities have sign sustainability agreements with DC Mayor Vincent Gray, and are always competing to beat each other in national rankings of green-ness and political activity. If one thing was made clear last night, it was that our individual successes will be mutually beneficial, and that working together, we can make our vision of a just and sustainable future a reality.