University of Maryland students gathered at Hornbake Plaza Monday to rally this university to take action against the climate crisis.

17 for Peace and Justice hosted the Reclaim Earth Day rally. Other organizations, including this university’s Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines and Students for Justice in Palestine chapters, supported the event. The rally was part of a national movement where groups on more than 100 college campuses declared a climate emergency on Earth Day.

“We demand divestment from both fossil fuel and from companies that are implicated in human rights violations,” Sophie Bose, a sophomore environmental science and policy and Spanish major, said in a speech at the rally.

The Reclaim Earth Day rallies across the country delivered colleges several demands, including divesting from fossil fuels, investing in environmental justice initiatives and disassociating from big oil, according to a 17 for Peace and Justice news release.

“Fossil fuels not only hurt our climate, but hurt people, because oftentimes extraction and transportation are positioned in indigenous communities and communities of color,” Bose, 17 for Peace and Justice’s social media director, told The Diamondback.

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The military industrial complex is a “huge contributor” to climate change because many carbon emissions are associated with it, Bose added.

The University System of Maryland Foundation — which oversees the system’s financial assets — declared in 2016 that it would stop directly investing in coal, oil and natural gas companies.

In a statement to The Diamondback, this university said it is “proud” of its progress towards its sustainability goals, which are “some of the most aggressive” in the University System of Maryland and the Big Ten Alliance.

“The University of Maryland recognizes the critical importance of addressing the climate crisis and we are proud to support and collaborate with the students, faculty and staff who are tackling this issue,” the statement said.

This university is on track to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025 and become a fully fossil-free central energy plant by 2035, the statement said. It has reduced net carbon emissions by 55 percent since 2005 and purchased all of its electricity from renewable sources since 2020, according to the statement.

The 17 for Peace and Justice news release said this university “continues to be influenced by fossil fuels and imperialism,” such as ExxonMobil information events for engineering students and a partnership with aerospace and defense company Northrop Grumman. The Monday rally’s organizers also urged this university to be more transparent about its investments.

Some students chalked messages on Hornbake Plaza, including “students support divestment” and “decarbonize campus.” Several organizers at the event highlighted the intersectionality between climate injustice and human rights.

17 for Peace and Justice co-president Elena Rangelov said in her speech that the biofuel and carbon-related solutions operated by government corporations and colleges disregard those most impacted by environmental harm. The fight against fossil fuels is a fight against cycles of injustice, the sophomore computer science major added.

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“The climate crisis is rooted in and perpetuated by the profit-driven exploitation of Black and brown communities,” Rangelov said in her speech.

Divestment is a powerful tool and the university should recognize that its investments hold weight, event attendee Emma Gray said. The university needs to put “people over profits,” Gray said.

“We can be doing so much better,” Gray, an environmental science and technology graduate student, said. “These companies profit off of so much hurt and injustice in the world.”

The Reclaim Earth Day idea was formed at a November 2023 conference at Brown University, Leah Zahnsier, 17 for Peace and Justice’s outreach coordinator, said.

Zahniser, a sophomore environmental science and policy major, said the event will create unity across the nation and show that students care about environmental justice.

“This started as a little idea at a conference, but it’s turned into something that’s across the nation with a hundred plus campuses participating,” she said. “It’s just really awesome what students can do and it shows that people care.”