Dear fellow organizers for climate justice,
My name is Emily Kirkland, and I am an alumna of Brown University, Class of 2013. As a student, I organized with Fossil Free Brown, and I continue to support the campaign as much as I can. The fossil fuel industry and college administrators are waiting for student organizing to subside as we graduate, but I am writing to pledge my commitment to this movement for the long haul.
What initially drew me to the fossil fuel divestment movement was the promise of winning. I’d never been involved in organizing or activism before, and I found each milestone thrilling: our first rally, our first media hit, our first meeting with trustees. I spent my senior year dreaming of victory, making phone calls and collecting petition signatures like a madwoman.
Two days before I graduated, our president and board of trustees told us that they would not be voting on divestment that year. (This “maybe later” was followed by a “no” a few months later). I spent much of graduation weekend in tears. Like most of my friends, I’d given everything I had to the campaign, and we hadn’t won. Did our work even matter? Why had we bothered?
A year and a half later, I now approach my work in an entirely different way. Since graduating, I’ve continued organizing for climate justice in a variety of roles, first as a volunteer at the short-lived but wonderful Climate Justice Hub in Somerville, MA, then as a staff member with Environment California in Los Angeles, and now as Communications Coordinator for Better Future Project in Cambridge, MA. For me, organizing for climate justice isn’t about winning anymore. It’s about building the skills and the relationships that I’ll need to keep fighting for justice for the rest of my life. The work I do now is important – but so is the work I hope to do as a grey-haired grandmother in fifty years.
Climate change isn't a thing we can stop. Like it or not, we'll face it for the rest of our lives, and it will manifest itself in a million different ways: floods, fires, vicious fights over immigration and refugee policies, arguments about geoengineering, heatwaves, strange new birds in our backyards. It will be a long haul, and I want to be still fighting and yelling at the top of my lungs in the weird and terrible world of 2050.
For me, part of what that means is that there is no “right” way to organize after graduation. The only thing that matters is that I stay engaged, in some way, and that I find the rituals and rhythms and communities that will allow me to do this work for a lifetime. I imagine that sometimes I’ll be paid for my organizing work, and sometimes I won’t. Sometimes I’ll fight under the banner of “climate justice”, and sometimes I won’t. But it will all be part of the same movement, and the same struggle for a more just and beautiful world.
I pledge to remain committed to the movement for fossil fuel divestment and continue to organize for climate justice far beyond college graduation. I am dedicated to building the power of our movement over the long-term because injustice is not an investment. I will not graduate out of this movement.
In addition to continuing to organize, I also pledge to withhold donations from Brown University until it commits to divestment from the top 200 fossil fuel companies with the largest reserves.
I take this commitment seriously, and I hope that you will also pledge to fight for the future of current students and of generations to come. Will you join me?
Brown University, Class of 2013