A group of about 20 University of Maryland students supporting fossil fuel divestment marched down McKeldin Mall Friday, chanting, “Hey Loh, step off it, put planet over profit.”
The march, hosted by the Student Government Association’s student sustainability committee, went from Stamp Student Union to the Administration building and culminated this university’s “Green Week,” which began with April 22’s Earth Day event, which was also hosted by SGA in the Stamp Student Union where more than 200 students attended. Throughout the march students chanted various slogans to encourage the elimination of fossil fuel energy investments. Fossil fuel divestment means getting rid of monetary ties to unsustainable energy sources such as the burning of fossil fuels like coal.
This year, the SGA sustainability committee, Residence Hall Association and MaryPIRG co-sponsored this week-long campaign to promote climate justice as well as economic and social justice, said Maya Spaur, the committee’s director and a junior government and politics and environmental science and technology double major.
“Climate issues encompass the fight for social and economic justice,” Spaur said. “. . . developing countries are already facing the worst impacts of climate change . . . We can’t ignore that, and that’s important part of the climate justice [initiative].”
In previous years the SGA’s sustainability committee has hosted a Sustainability Pledge campaign, which encompassed the entire month of April. Each week of April had a different theme to encourage sustainable living and behaviors to students, as well as other members of this campus. However, this year, Spaur and Jay Rao, the committee’s director of communications, said the group wanted to do something different.
“We decided this year the pledge wasn’t the best idea because it’s just so long and drawn out,” said Rao, a junior majoring in civil and environmental engineering. “[But] we wanted to keep students engaged between Earth Day and the climate action forum [next Wednesday].”
Sophomore finance major Dana Rodriguez, an RHA sustainability committee member, sparked the idea for Green Week when she approached Spaur about the idea at the beginning of this semester, Spaur added.
Rodriguez said she wanted the committee and its campaign to be “more well-known on campus.”
“RHA has done sustainable issues in the past,” Rodriguez said. “Last year we did a composting carnival and that was the kind of legacy that I wanted to build off of. Green Week was one of those ideas that came from my committee . . . We wanted to look at groups [like MaryPIRG and the SGA] that were big in terms of representing students.”
Green Week events were hosted Monday through Friday, Spaur said. Each day focused on a different sustainable initiative such as conserving water or food waste, as well as learning about the harmful effects of pesticides on food supply and pollinators.
She noted a lot of the events were “a little hurt by the rain.”
But despite Friday’s gloomy weather, students said they were still determined to show their support for the divestment of fossil fuels. Sophomore Isabella Williams, who is also a committee member, said she wants to have a say in where the money goes at this university.
“This is our university and we really have a big say in what we want,” said Williams, a civil and environmental engineering major. “It’s really unreasonable that our university promotes all these sustainability programs … But yet we don’t have a say in where the money really goes. … I think divestment is something that will make a statement, even though it won’t crumble dirty energy plants all over the world.”
The SGA’s sustainability committee has been working on a divestment campaign throughout this semester, Rao said. The group has met with the University System of Maryland Foundation and has been engaging with students to promote clean energy.
Sophomore Emily Starobin, the SGA committee’s outdoor social coordinator and an environmental science and policy and Spanish double major, also said divesting in fossil fuels is the “root of the rest of the environment’s problems.”
“It’s important to come together with different groups . . . that can relate to this theme and to be more active on campus for people to see,” Starobin said.
The Climate Action forum will take place at this university on Wednesday, and “this is a part of a broader climate action summit,” which is happening in Washington on Thursday and Friday, Spaur said. The forum will also include a panel discussion about the importance of the divestment of fossil fuels.