Ban Ki-moon, Spring Escalation, and $10 Million Divested

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It’s been a crazy whirlwind of a day. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon came to campus and spoke in support of FFY, Yale announced new steps toward partial divestment, and other divestment campaigns took powerful action across the country. There’s a lot to be pumped about and a lot of work left to do.

Here’s a brief summary of what went down:

1. The Yale Investment Office sent a letter to the Yale community saying that two of Yale’s external fund managers have chosen to divest $10 million from fossil fuel companies. It’s a victory, but a limited one.

Just two hours before Fossil Free Yale’s planned action during Ban Ki-Moon’s keynote address, David Swensen released a statement implying that the university was taking active steps to divest its endowment from the fossil fuel industry. The Yale Daily News followed up with the headline “Yale begins divestment from fossil fuels.” Our initial excitement was followed by intense confusion.

In fact, this letter didn’t reflect any commitment to divestment on the part of the university, just the individual actions of two outside fund managers. This partial divestment was done not because of concerns about racial justice or climate justice, but because Yale investors, as usual, are most concerned with their bottom line. We remain committed to winning binding, comprehensive, and morally unambiguous divestment from the fossil fuel industry, and the Yale Corporation remains committed to being opaque, inaccessible, and putting profit over people.

Still, this is a very exciting win for our campaign. This progress is the result of strong organizing all across this campus (and country!), and opens more space for the change we need. The Corporation has heard students and shown that they feel our pressure, and we must fight harder than ever to hold them accountable for the injustices they fund.

2. Fossil Free Yale and Association of Native Americans at Yale partnered for direct action at Ban Ki-Moon’s keynote address. Ban Ki-Moon said he’s “grateful” for our work and urged Yale and other universities to fully divest!

Tuesday afternoon, 120 people attended a rally put on by FFY and ANAAY immediately following UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s keynote address at this year’s Global Colloquium of University Presidents. The rally followed leafleting before the keynote and disruption by FFY members inside the keynote.

The theme of this year’s colloquium is cultural heritage, and the purpose of the actions was to put pressure on the dozens of elite university presidents in attendance. They cannot claim to preserve cultural heritage while actively profiting from extractive industry, racial injustice, and climate crisis. Before the keynote, we were outside, handing out leaflets and having conversations with those attending about our mission and the hypocrisy of supporting “cultural heritage,” while investing in an industry that actively destroys it and exploits indigenous communities while extracting their resources.

During the keynote, FFY members stood in somber silence at the first mention of climate change. They held large banners reading: “The UN supports divestment. Universities, when will you?” Ban Ki-Moon interrupted his speech to thank them and call for divestment! Later in the speech, he directly addressed divestment again, and urged all universities, not just Yale, to fully divest.

After the event, over 100 undergrads, grad students, reporters, and other community members joined at a rally to hear incredible speeches from Prison Divestment, FFY, and ANAAY. We chanted “Divest the Rest!” and ended with a song, both celebrating our victories and committing to further action. Campaigns worldwide stood in solidarity with our action through pictures and statements of support — check out the pictures on our Facebook page.

3. UMass Amherst and Harvard took bold action

This is a spring of badass student organizing across the country. Today 115 students with UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign occupied Whitmore Administrative Building, resulting in 15 arrests. They will be back tomorrow with even more students, for hours more of negotiations. Four student organizers with Divest Harvard were also arrested. We stand in solidarity with these campaigns, and are so excited to see that STUDENT POWER CREATES CHANGE. Sending so much love to those organizing for justice everywhere, and everyone that supported us today! Another world is possible, and it gets closer with every act of collective resistance.

In solidarity,

Fossil Free Yale

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