Last month Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline. This had been a moment years in the making. A moment many believed we would never get to. But here we are standing in the glory of Keystone’s rejection. This a win, and a big one. But there are many more battles to be fought.
At the University of New Hampshire, where I am a student, that battle is divestment from fossil fuels. UNH needs to divest for the same reasons we needed to stop KXL: because climate change is hurting people all over our world right now. From the native people of Alberta where TransCanada’s extraction of tar sands has polluted the waters and sickened the people, to the disappearing shores of Bangladesh where sea level rise is causing mass migration. We simply can’t ignore the moral implications that go along with silent approval of fossil fuel extraction.
Divest UNH exists to hold our administration accountable for profiting from climate change. But being a divestment campaign during the NH primary means we have the opportunity to hold our politicians accountable too. The fossil fuel industry is John Kasich’s tenth largest contributor. So when he came to UNH last month, Divest UNH interrupted his event. We made it clear to him that we need a candidate who agrees with the science and isn’t bought out by fossil fuel money and isn’t placing the profits of a few over my generation’s future.
Earlier last week Divest UNH received endorsement from Martin O’Malley. When asked if he would urge Morgan Rutman, the chair of the UNH foundation, to divest UNH’s funds from fossil fuels, O’Malley responded “Sure…Look this planet needs a crowd sourced healing of the deepest kind. I think that the movement that is going on on college campuses is a very positive thing”.
As students we have a voice that gives us say in what our university does with its money but as citizens we have a voice that gives us say in the policy of our country. The divestment movement has recognized the power we have to change policies at our universities and has used that power to create real change.
Around the world we have shown institutions that investing in fossil fuels and benefiting from climate change is immoral. We need to deliver this same message to our politicians. We need to tell our elected leaders to keep fossil fuels in the ground and start working towards a just transition. It is not okay to push the agenda of the fossil fuel industry and unless they are willing to stop taking fossil fuel money we can’t take them seriously as a candidate.
As students we raised our collective voice to fight for climate justice. Now, let’s seize the power we have as citizens. Whether that means taking action at a national event like people’s Climate March or Our Generation Our Choice, birddogging a presidential candidate when they stop near you, or fighting a pipeline in your hometown this work is critical and needs to be done. Let’s not forget the differences we’ve made, let’s not forget the difference we need to make. Onward.
Griffin Sinclair-Wingate is a member of the 350 Action Field Team in New Hampshire.