Cambridge University students participated in a protest on Friday morning in an effort to encourage the University to fight against climate change and divest from fossil fuels.
As part of the demonstration, students tied red ribbon to bridges, railings and trees at sites around Cambridge, and attached labels bearing environmental messages.
Among the slogans were "Divest, or we'll all die, I do not jest", "Cambridge threatens wildlife", and "Let Cambridge lead the way #divestcambridge".
Organised by Cambridge Zero Carbon Society, the protest also drew support from the CUSU Women’s Campaign and Student Action for Refugees (STAR). It was apparently inspired by the work of the environmental campaign group 'People and Planet', which according to it’s website is “the UK's largest student campaigning organisation campaigning to end world poverty, defend human rights and protect the environment.”
The protest was arranged to mark the end of 'Go Green Week', a week of climate activism events at universities across the UK with the aim of raising awareness of and encouraging action on climate change issues, particularly that of divestment.
Emma Bryan, President of the Cambridge Zero Carbon Society, said: “Fossil fuel companies continue to extract and burn, raising temperatures above conservative targets, and governments abstain from serious action. We need change and it’s going to come from a grassroots level.
“We hope putting red ribbon across the city will make people think about the urgency of climate action, and consider its links to issues like inequality, environmental degradation and human rights. Climate justice isn’t just an issue for environmentalists – it’s an issue for everyone.”
Issy Houston, Co-President of STAR Cambridge, said: “In the last six years, 140 million people - or roughly one person every second - were displaced by a climate or weather-related natural disaster. STAR Cambridge support Zero Carbon Society’s Red Lines Campaign in recognizing the human cost of climate change, as we believe that human rights should be at the heart of international action towards a sustainable future.”
Safieh Kabir, a first-year student at King's College who participated in the protest, explained to Varsity why students needed to be made aware of this "intersectional crisis of justice": "As an institution Cambridge is very very powerful, in terms of the kind of knowledge it produces. People do tend to follow Cambridge’s example and so I think it’s vital for Cambridge to take responsibility, to look at historically in what ways have we maybe been complicit in this process and in what ways to we need to start taking a different track now.
"A strong way to give a message but also to directly take action is to remove all our funds from the fossil fuel industry."
Cambridge Zero Carbon Society has long been campaigning for the University to divest from fossil fuels. A petition launched by Cambridge Zero Carbon Society attracted more than 2,300 signatures and in January, Regent House approved a Grace to put into effect full divestment. However, the decision to divest ultimately lies with the University Council, which controls the University’s investments and has previously shown ambivalence towards the idea of divestment.
The University of Cambridge's investments in coal and tar sands have been terminated but full divestment from oil and gas companies has not been guaranteed.
Earlier this month, the University of St Andrews joined almost half of all Scottish universities by announcing its divestment from the fossil fuel industry. Across the UK, 45 institutions have taken the decision to divest from fossil fuels
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