My name is Sonny Lawrence D. Alea, I am an alumni of San Francisco State University (SFSU), class of 2014. I began my organizing journey helping with the Fossil Free SFSU campaign, which is part of the growing movement calling for institutions around the world to divest from the fossil fuel industry and stop profiting from climate change. The fossil fuel industry and many of our schools’ administrators are hoping that the movement loses momentum as student organizers graduate from college, move on, and eventually forget about the campaign. I however, will not graduate from this movement; I pledge to only grow as an organizer and do what I can to help strengthen this movement towards victory.
I consider myself very fortunate and grateful for the education I was able to receive from my alma mater. Not only was I able to gain the knowledge that I sought, but -- with the encouragement of professors and fellow students -- I was also able to find the courage to question systems of power and injustice. This critical thinking navigated me through many interpersonal struggles and frustrations that were difficult to ignore. Each day, I learned and thought more and more about the crisis that our planet is in; how the conditions that have sustained the diversity of life that we depend on is being thrown out of balance. From New Orleans to the Philippines, New York to Bangladesh, California to Kiribati -- and many more communities around the world -- the negative effects of climate change are being felt. Some areas are experiencing heavier rains and floods, some are dealing with longer-lasting droughts, while others are quickly sinking under rising sea levels.
Climate change ultimately affects everyone, but the destruction that it brings is disproportionately affecting those of us who do not have the means to adapt swiftly; killing and destroying the lives of marginalized people who are contributing the least to the problem. We are beginning to see who is being prioritized as those worth saving from disasters. When typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) hit the Philippines in 2013, the world got a glimpse of what could become the norm if we allow the climate to warm even more. As people of Filipino heritage, my family and I followed the stories out of the Philippines closely, feeling helpless and powerless as we watched and read about the destruction that the storm caused. Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest typhoon ever recorded, making it the deadliest storm in Philippine history. With all the scientific evidence and proof that burning fossil fuels is warming up the planet, climate change is an injustice that I cannot ignore, and the chaos it that could ensue is a future that I will not accept. I refuse to remain neutral in the face of climate catastrophe and oppression.
As a recent graduate of San Francisco State University, an institution that introduced me to the power of people for justice, I want to make sure that the school, itself, will be able to graduate from fossil fuels. While SFSU was the first public university to partially divest from fossil fuels, I will continue to pressure the administration to commit to fully divesting, because I refuse to allow them to teach and promote sustainability while profiting from an unsustainable industry that is fueling climate change and injustice.
Though I am no longer in college, I will continue to support students organizing for a just transition. With the privileges I have, I will continue to help build a more inclusive and intersectional movement. I pledge to commit myself to the movement for fossil fuel divestment and organize for climate justice beyond leaving college. I also pledge to withhold donations from San Francisco State University until administrators commit to divest from the top 200 fossil fuel companies with the largest oil, coal, and gas reserves.
I am taking this commitment seriously because I believe that is wrong to profit from injustice. I am taking this commitment seriously because I know that a better future is possible. I hope that you will also take this pledge and fight for a just and sustainable future for all.
Will you join me?
With Love and Strength,
Sonny Lawrence D. Alea