Student activists at UEA marked the escalation of their “Fossil Free” campaign with a protest last Monday, calling on the university to end its £180,000 investment in fossil fuels.
The protest on Monday 20th October saw activists gather in the square and stage a ‘die in’ while covering the ground with a mocked-up oil spill to symbolise fossil fuel pollution. The action was repeated outside the Registry. Activists handed out leaflets and asked fellow students to sign a petition urging UEA to ‘divest’ from fossil fuels. A meeting was also held on Friday 24th October with community activists from Colombia and Indonesia who have been affected by fossil fuel extraction.
Fossil Free activists have been encouraged by the recent decision at Glasgow University, where the university decided to reallocate £18m worth of investments that had previously been invested in the fossil fuel industry. Although UEA have resisted the proposal for divestment – arguing that “the university is not a campaigning organisation” and does not take positions on such issues – campaigners are hopeful that an upcoming meeting between Fossil Free and the university will yield positive results.
Emma Silk, co-President of UEA People & Planet – which runs the Fossil Free campaign at UEA – said: “Creating a visual stunt is a great way to draw attention to the Fossil Fuel Free campaign and the Dirty Coal Tour. For those that we spoke to, it hopefully got people questioning whether investments in fossil fuel industries are moral given their poor ethical track record and the effects of climate change that they are thriving. Especially given that UEA already has an ethical investment policy which prevents investments in arms.”
Fossil Free is a student-led campaign which calls on large institutions such as universities to end their investment in fossil fuel companies, and to support renewable energy instead.
The campaign began in the United States, where 12 universities have already agreed to divest, and is supported by the UK’s National Union of Students.