Pages tagged "washingtonuniversity'"


Divestment Movement Escalates

This week, the national fossil fuel divestment movement escalated, as student blockades popped up at Harvard and Washington University in St. Louis. By the end of the week, 8 students had been arrested across the two campuses, the first arrests since the fossil fuel divestment campaign launched nearly two years ago.

Harvard 1The skirmish at Harvard touched off Wednesday, where students organized as Divest Harvard have been pushing the university to get rid of  the oil, gas, and coal holdings in its $33 billion endowment. Harvard’s president, Drew Faust, has dug in against Divest Harvard’s demands, even denying that the fossil fuel industry is blocking meaningful action to address climate change.  Facing an administration that refuses to distance itself from the fossil fuel corporations driving climate crisis, Divest Harvard launched a blockade of President Faust’s office that lasted more than 24 hours. On Thursday morning, Harvard University police arrested undergraduate Brett Roche -- the first arrest in the national divestment movement. Roche’s arrest marks an increasingly hardline response from Harvard’s administrators, as the university demonstrates a willingness to use police force to defend investment in fossil fuel corporations.

Brett Roche may have been the first divestment activist arrested on campus this week, but he certainly wasn’t the last. This morning, Washington University in St. Louis joined Harvard in infamy: seven students were arrested as they attempted to deliver a letter to the university’s board of trustees. Just days before, WashU Students Against Peabody ended a historic 17-day sit-in which demanded that Greg Boyce, notorious CEO of Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private coal company, be removed from the university’s board. During negotiations, Washington University chancellor Mark Wrighton flatly refused to respond to students demands. When asked to exercise leadership, he replied “I can, but I won’t.” Faced with an administration content to cozy up to fossil fuel interests, more than 100 students staged a peaceful sat-in outside Washington University’s board meeting under the watchful eyes of police, some of whom carried shields and riot gear. When a delegation of students attempted to enter the building to deliver a letter to Washington University’s board, they were arrested. All seven were charged with trespassing on their own campus.

wustlThe implications of this week of action are both scary and heartening. Novelist Margaret Atwood spoke to the scary, criticizing the administration's response as she received an award at Harvard yesterday: “Any society where arrest is preferable to open dialogue is a scary place.” Indeed, university administrators at both Harvard and Washington University appear to be so committed to the fossil fuel industry that they'll arrest their own students for speaking out.

On the hopeful side, the student divestment movement is finding its power. After two years of power-building and by-the-book advocacy, campus climate activists are proving that they have the courage to stand up to their administrators and the fossil fuel industry. Earlier in the school year, students at Harvard, Washington University, and dozens of other campuses worked with Rainforest Action Network to disrupt campus recruitment sessions organized by Bank of America and Citi, two of the largest financiers of the U.S. coal industry. Those actions, and the arrests this week, point to a rising tide of resistance that won’t be cowed by police response. A longer, deeper struggle is opening on campuses across the country, and administrators at the more than 300 universities with active divestment campaigns need to know that their chickens are coming home to roost. It's time to divest or expect resistance.

To support the Washington University in St. Louis students arrested this morning, call Chancellor Mark Wrighton at (314) 935-5100.

Tell him universities are for students, not for coal CEOs. Washington University needs to drop Peabody Energy so the school can get back to educating students, not arresting them.


Why Washington University in St. Louis Should Ditch Peabody Coal

This article first appeared in Washington University in St. Louis' Student Life on April 10, 2014.  On April 30, the UN’s International Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the best available scientific report on global warming and the likely consequences of continued carbon pollution. Based on 12,000 peer-reviewed studies, the IPCC’s report describes a terrifying future where dramatic climatic warming brings about “breakdown of food systems,” severe shortages in drinking and irrigation water, massive flooding, and social violence. Most importantly, the IPCC’s report stressed that decisions being made now will have a massive impact on the severity of climate change’s impacts. Without immediate and dramatic action to curb emissions, the report warns, the harms of global warming could spiral “out of control,” past the point where human action could avert catastrophe.  In order to prevent such a scenario, the top UN climate official warned, “three quarters of the fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground.” washUoccupation Greg Boyce, a member the board at Washington University in St. Louis, disagrees with the global scientific community; he thinks what the world needs to burn much, much more coal. As CEO of Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private coal company, Boyce may have the largest carbon footprint of any living private citizen (coal-fired power is the single largest source of global climate changing emissions). According to Boyce, climate change isn’t a problem. “For too long,” says Boyce, “we’ve been focused on the wrong priorities…the greatest crisis we confront is not an environmental crisis.”  Instead, Peabody Energy has determined that inadequate access to energy is "the world's number one human and environmental crisis," and Boyce has hired the world’s largest PR company to cast Peabody Energy as a kind of international aid organization that trots around the globe benevolently building coal plants for the world’s poor (according to the Guardian, Peabody’s PR consultant is infamous for serving “governments with poor human rights records and corporations in trouble;” its former clients include the tobacco industry.) We are asked to presume that Peabody’s huge advertising budget reflects primarily Boyce’s zeal for serving the global poor and ignore the fact that a “more coal ASAP” policy is enormously for Peabody. Never mind that, according to the IPCC, building more coal infrastructure will cook the planet, create new “hotspots” of poverty and hunger, and increase the gaps between rich and poor. Boyce and his mouthpieces, like Washington University’s Chancellor Mark Wrighton, are hoping that we will choke down their inevitability argument about global coal expansion if they slather it with phony smarm about caring for vulnerable populations (you should be able to watch Wrighton recite his lines this week). Do you really believe that Greg Boyce’s coal expansion dreams are motivated by empathy instead of a desire to lock in profitable coal infrastructure before carbon regulations set in? Speaking of carbon regulations, Greg Boyce and Peabody Energy are explicitly against them. On Peabody’s website, you can find a toolkit replete with anti-EPA talking points alleging that carbon regulations will have “no impact” on climate change and brilliantly observing that that U.S. coal contributes “only a fraction” of global emissions (in 2010, coal-fired power contributed 28.3% of U.S. carbon emissions in a country with the highest per-capita carbon totals). Under Greg Boyce, Peabody is not only pushing for suicidal investments in new coal infrastructure, the company is actively campaigning against any government action that would begin to constrain carbon pollution. Shamefully, Boyce has been able to purchase Washington University’s academic integrity in order to advance his deadly farce. For $5 million from Peabody Energy (with matching grants from Arch Coal and Ameren), Washington University has been willing to lend its academic credibility to the misleading advertising slogan “clean coal,” a misnomer for carbon capture and sequestration technologies that don’t exist. In a September 2013 press release, Peabody Energy obliquely referred to Washington University’s research into carbon capture technology as a justification for opposing common-sense carbon regulations. Peabody Energy argued coal’s carbon emissions should not be regulated until pie-in-the-sky carbon capture technologies are available, even while admitting that these options are “simply not commercially available and not able to satisfy America's need.” With this cynical ploy, Greg Boyce’s exploitation of our university reached a new, shameful low. Simply put, Peabody Energy is a rogue corporation bent on undermining science, damaging the climate past the point of no return, and blocking meaningful action that could avert climate catastrophe. Maintaining Gregory Boyce as a member of the University’s board is beyond the pale, and continuing to associate with Peabody Energy is unconscionable for Washington University. Clearly, Peabody Energy is beyond reform, but Washington University in St. Louis may not be. Boyce has only been member of our board since 2009 (back when Peabody successfully conspired to defeat an early climate bill). Students at the Brookings sit-in understand that their action won’t solve climate change, but they are telling the truth: Greg Boyce is undeserving of reward or recognition for his criminal behavior. Through their action, students are taking a stand against what amounts to a university-sanctioned war on ecology and society by Greg Boyce and Peabody Energy. The students have drawn a bright moral line, which means neutrality is no longer an option at Washington University. Do you stand with the students, or with the CEO of Peabody Energy, Greg Boyce?

Why We're Sitting in at WashU (And We're Not Leaving)

By Caroline Burney, Senior at Washington University. Crossposted from We Are Powershift. I’ve learned many things in my four years at Washington University in St. Louis--not all of them in the classroom. For example, before I became a student at Wash U, I had never heard of Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private sector coal corporation. In St. Louis, Peabody ingratiates itself to the local community by posing as a benefactor of the arts, charitable corporate ‘citizen,’ and hero tackling “energy poverty.” It all sounds pretty good until you realize that Peabody Energy is the world’s largest private sector coal corporation whose business model propagates climate change and destroys communities. Peabody’s list of crimes is a veritable laundry list of social and environmental injustices: the destruction of mountains in West Virginia, the forced relocation of Navajo and Hopi Indian tribes in Black Mesa, Arizona, being a major supporter of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which have been strong advocates of controversial legislation like “Stand Your Ground” laws, the destruction of Rocky Branch, Illinois through aggressive mining and logging, and the distortion of democracy here in St. Louis by striking down a city-wide ballot initiative. [caption id="attachment_23613" align="alignnone" width="500"]First night of sit-in demanding Washington University cut ties with Peabody Energy First night of sit-in demanding Washington University cut ties with Peabody Energy.[/caption] Peabody CEO Greg Boyce also holds one more distinction: member of the Washington University Board of Trustees. Since Boyce was placed on the board in 2009, students have been actively organizing against Peabody Energy’s presence on campus. We have demanded that Boyce be removed from the Board of Trustees and that the University change the name of the “Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization,” a research entity to which Peabody and Arch Coal donated $5,000,000. We have met with the Chancellor -- multiple times. We have dropped banners at coal events, peacefully disrupted speeches by Greg Boyce on campus, marched through campus and taken our demands to Peabody’s headquarters. We have protested with residents from Black Mesa, collected signatures for the Take Back St. Louis ballot initiative and rallied with the United Mine Workers in their fight against Peabody. But, five years later, Boyce is still on the board, the name of the Clean Coal Consortium remains unchanged, and Chancellor Wrighton continues to stand behind Peabody Energy. Indeed, just this week he emailed us saying, “your opinion that peabody energy behaves in an ‘irresponsible and unjust manner’ is not one that I share.” The Administration has successfully used a “deny by delay” process by holding town hall meetings and developing task forces around renewable energy and energy efficiency while ignoring the role that coal plays on the campus. Thus, like many campus divestment campaigns across the country, we are at a crossroads. We’ve decided that it’s time to escalate to let Chancellor Wrighton and Greg Boyce know that we’re running out of time and we’re not going to back down. We are engaging in a sit-in of our admissions office to tell Chancellor Wrighton that our university can no longer legitimize destructive fossil fuel corporations. By having Greg Boyce on the Board of Trustees and hosting the “Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization,” the University is propagating the lie that coal is clean. But people who live in the communities where Peabody mines, including Black Mesa and Rocky Branch, know that coal is never clean. Escalating on campus is scary. We know it is going to be divisive. We know our Chancellor fundamentally disagrees with us. But not escalating is even scarier. Not escalating means Peabody continues to destroy communities and our climate. And that’s a risk we cannot take. Let Wash U know that you stand with us by signing our petition here.