New Orleans ranges for 20 feet above sea level to 6.5 feet below sea level. To the north of the city sits a massive body of water called Lake Pontchatrain. Coiling around the city enveloping New Orleans like a snake is the powerful Mississippi river. New Orleans is surrounded by water, all roads lead to it—water is inescapable in this city. Indeed in this week of heavy rains, it seemed like the sea was coming for us, inundating our sidewalks and drenching all those brave enough to leave the comforts of inside. Sitting inside Gibson Hall watching people enter soaked, yet excited to join the sit-in at Tulane University, I couldn't help but note that we were being treated to a preview of the inundated future facing New Orleans.
Just like the rains that have dampened spirits across the Tulane University campus, President Fitts came to address our group, dosing us with equal portions of evasion and ambiguous promises to be met in the future, offering no relief from the torrential downpour of negative action taken in the face of the crisis of climate change. As we listened to President Fitts calculatingly dismiss and avoid our clear questioning of “Whose side are you on, ours or the fossil fuel industry?” “Can we address the board and deliver our message, instead of acting through intermediaries that dilute and misrepresent what we are asking for? and “Will you publicly endorse divestment at Tulane?” It became clear that this man, President Michael Fitts, has clear difficulty articulating his relationship with students. More than some were left wondering; does President Fitts represent the students of Tulane University?
Left with this realization, we have come to an important juncture in the divest campaign at Tulane: where do we go from here? As I write this blog, we are drawing parallels between the escalation campaigns going on with Harvard University, Bowdoin College, University of California Berkeley, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Mary Washington, Yale University, Swarthmore College, and Reed College, along with all other divestment campaigns large and small that are beginning to dot the nation, escalating and building power together.
Instead of being disempowered by this lack of leadership from our university President, we have become emboldened and more set in our belief that this push towards divestment will not be easy, but it is worth it and needed to begin to push the scales towards coordinated climate action. As the conversation has shifted to how to retool our campaign to address the wall, covered with red tape, that President Fitts is building between ourselves and the board, the conviction in Gibson Hall is solidifying. We are discussing how to utilize the momentum that has been built up during this week to push the divestment campaign at Tulane towards our goal. Discussion topics ranged in subject and matter, but all revolved around getting more serious, more committed, and more organized about our goal of divesting Tulane University’s endowment from fossil fuels. In no way has President Fitts’s lack of support translated to a deflation of our will or conviction.
Climate change is the defining issue of our generation. The decision to act against ecological collapse, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, mounting environmental injustice, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, and the greed of fossil fuel corporations, is the easiest choice myself and everyone else surrounding me has ever made. No longer is it an option to sit on the sidelines and hope that our broken political system will make the changes necessary to create a just, sustainable, and equitable future for all. We, as students, as citizens of this country and this world have the choice to create a future that will benefit all and can be enjoyed by all for future generations to come. This is why we are sitting in the cramped, slightly damp hallway of Gibson. Sitting next to friends and strangers alike, I see this conviction in everyone’s face, hear it in their voices as we chant, and feel it in the energy that has been building in this hallway since Tuesday. As a group we are strong. As a group we can instigate change that has the potential to sweep across the country and the globe and begin to build the world that we have always known is possible, but denied to us by those with power, those with resources, and those with narrow-minds that can only imagine the world working in one, disproportionate way. This future is what we are working towards and what will keep us moving. We know a better future is possible.