“An important goal of the conversion to oil,” political theorist Timothy Mitchell writes, “was to permanently weaken the coal miners, whose ability to interrupt the flow of energy had given organized labor the power to demand the improvements to collective life that had democratized Europe.” In his seminal work “Carbon Democracy," Mitchell provocatively argues that transitions in global energy regimes are based less on inherent needs than transnational capital’s assault on democratic pressures from below. For a school that prides itself on its civic education and vast alumni network in public and international service, Tufts University has yet to take a committed stance on fossil fuels, whose contribution to climate change poses the gravest threat not only to liberal democracy but also to our very survival. With the conviction that Tufts should and is able to become a leading institution in shaping a greener future, we as Tufts Climate Action have teamed up with climate activist groups across Massachusetts to organize a climate strike on Friday, March 3, on Tufts campus at 10:15 a.m. at the Mayer Campus Center’s lower patio. We will then travel together to downtown Boston at 11:15 a.m. to join the city-wide rally.
Despite TCA’s over-a-decade-long campaign for Tufts to fully divest from fossil fuels, it is no secret that Tufts maintains a large holding of fossil energy in its financial portfolio. As, in 2022, 3.8% of Tufts’ $2.4 billion endowmentwas invested in “broad energy sectors,” TCA estimates that Tufts still holds a $90 million investment in fossil fuel industries. Even though the Board of Trustees announced in 2021 its intent to ban direct holdings in coal and tar sands companies, $26 million, or 1.1% of Tufts’ endowment, is still devoted to them via indirect holdings. Our efforts in this regard pale in comparison to what we deem as ‘peer institutions’: Amherst College, Wesleyan University, Smith College, Brandeis University and Boston University have all committed to full divestment from fossil fuels in the foreseeable future. In fact, the worldwide campaign for institutional divestment has accumulated an astonishing $40 trillion that will abstain from coal, gas and oil stocks — close to the GDP of the United States and China combined.
Without a doubt, the corrosive impact of climate change is already and will be felt disproportionally by marginalized communities both in the United States and in the global south. The U.S. Gulf Coast — which stretches from Texas and Louisiana to Mississippi, Alabama and Florida — has recently been devastated by Hurricane Harvey, which displaced 30,000 people, and by Winter Storm Uri which caused $300 billion in damages. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has projected that water levels along the Gulf Coast will be up to 18 inches higher by 2050. In Pakistan, a nation that produces only 0.6% of global carbon emissions, the deadly floods in 2022 sent 15 million people in need of emergency food assistance while the 2010 floods left 20% of Pakistan’s population homeless. A think tank report recently predicted that 1.2 billion people could be displaced by climate change by 2050. How will Tufts, with its traditionally international outlook and an increasing dedication to science and engineering, respond to the most daunting crisis of our lifetime?
On Friday, Tufts Climate Action will be joining Fridays for Future, an international network of youth climate activists, to demand climate justice at Tufts, in Massachusetts and beyond. The international narrative for the March 3 Global Climate Strike is to end fossil finance. This is only possible if educational and governmental institutions prioritize people over profit. We view divestment as the first step towards climate reparations for Indigenous, Black and diverse marginalized communities worldwide. Thus, TCA demands that Tufts:
- Take a fearless stance on climate and be a climate leader. Prioritize the use of their resources to reduce the university’s impact on the climate and support communities most vulnerable to climate change.
- Divest from fossil fuels and invest in sustainable causes. Tufts should establish a plan for full divestment with clear benchmarks for accountability.
- Commit that Tufts University research exists and operates independently of the influence of the fossil fuel industry. Follow the standards established by the international Fossil Free Research campaign.
- Officially commit to carbon neutrality by 2030. We ask for the transparent commencement of a realistic, comprehensive and actionable carbon neutrality plan that prioritizes carbon neutrality by 2030.
To the Massachusetts legislature and Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, TCA demands that they:
- Commit to 100% carbon-free energy statewide by 2030. Our state is already being affected by the climate crisis and the sooner we achieve zero emissions, the better chance we have to mitigate the effects.
- No new fossil fuel infrastructure. To build any new fossil fuel infrastructure at this point in time is to invest in technologies that are actively destroying our planet and must be shut down within a few years at most to mitigate their effects on the climate.
The full list of demands can be found in the bio of our Instagram page, @tuftsclimateaction.
Tufts Climate Action would like to invite all to join the rallies on the Hill and in Boston in our collective struggle for climate justice. If we don’t want to wait another decade for further inaction from the powers that be, we must use our privilege as Tufts students to make our demands heard. In addition to speeches, there will be musical performances, chanting and singing and marching at the rallies. It’ll be a blast.