Archive | May, 2015

300 University Alumni withhold donations over fossil fuel investments

26 May

Global Divestment Day, 13 February 2015, at the University of Edinburgh (Source).


Over 300 graduates including physicists, linguists, PhDs, MAs, lawyers, doctors, nurses, and many others have signed an open letter to the university objecting to their investments in fossil fuels.

Graduates from 42 years of alumni signed the letter from the class of 1968 to those graduating less than a month from today.

Friends of the Earth Scotland Director, Dr. Richard Dixon, is among the signatories of the letter which concludes “destroying communities and trashing the planet is not deserving of alumni donations.”

The majority of the University’s £298 million endowment fund was raised from alumni donations so their threat to withhold funds could have a serious financial impact on the university.

One signatory, J. Daniel Pacey, cancelled his direct debit to the University and wrote to the Principal saying “other organisations, including universities, have divested their assets which were tied up with fossil fuels so why not Edinburgh?”

Letter from alumni to the University of Edinburgh

To the University of Edinburgh,

c/o Sir Timothy Michael Martin O’Shea, FRSE, Principal

Climate change is an immediate global crisis, caused by fossil fuels, and affecting the poorest most.

Tackling climate change requires clear and swift action.

The University of Edinburgh has announced vague and lumbering action.

The University’s £298 million endowment was gifted to support the University’s aim to benefit “society as a whole” and “to make a significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to Scotland, the UK and the world.”

However the most recent data shows that the University invested in companies like BHP Billiton (£3.4 million), who are cutting down virgin rainforest in Borneo to mine for coal, and Shell (£3.8 million) who announced this week they are drilling for oil in the fragile Arctic ocean.

Destroying communities and trashing the planet is not deserving of alumni donations.  We refuse to support the University until it adopts an investment policy with a clear, transparent and timed commitment to quit fossil fuels.

Yours sincerely,

Class of 1968

Paul Robert Warner Ramsay, Social Anthropology

Class of 1969

Marjorie Shackleton, BSc Diploma in Social Administration (1969 and 1970)

Class of 1973

Dr Nigel L Shore, BSc(Hons) Engineering Science

Class of 1974

Graham Shore, BSc Mathematical Physics

Patricia Marie James , MA German

Class of 1975

Christian MacLean, MA(Hons) English Language and Literature

Pamela Robinson Baillie, BSc Ordinary

Class of 1976

Margaret Gordon, Zoology

Class of 1977

Christine Sime, BSc BD (1977 and 1993)

Class of 1981

Matthew Aitken, Microbiology

Class of 1982

Caroline McManus, BSc Nursing Studies and Social Science

Tom Orr, MA General Arts

Class of 1983

Gordon Wilson, Ecological Sciences

Stephen Alexander Mackay Burgess, Biological Sciences

Class of 1984

Andrew Anderson, MA(Hons) Modern History & Politics

Jonathan Pullman, English and History

Miesbeth, MA(Hons) Social Anthropology

Tom Ballantine, Law

Class of 1985

Lucy Kelvin, MA(Hons) French and Spanish

Adrienne Terris, BSc General

Class of 1986

Nigel Bagshaw, Russian and German

Class of 1987

Alan Fleming, PhD Artificial Intelligence

Class of 1988

Ben Simms, History

James Simon Spence, MA(Hons) Philosophy & English Literature

Class of 1989

Juliet Wilson , BSc Biological Science

Max Carcas, Electrical and Electronic Engineering

Class of 1991

Aleksander Wito, Electrical Engineering

Eliza Maltsberger, General Arts

Kenneth MacDonald, Geophysics

Class of 1992

Almuth Ernsting, MA(Hons) Generals

Hannah Williams , French and Spanish

Richard Dixon, PhD Astronomy

Class of 1993

Barnaby Dellar, BSc Mathematics (1993) and MSc Theoretical Computer Science (1995)

David Osborne, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence

Class of 1994

David Eyre, MA General Honours

Elspeth Murray, Social Anthropology

Simon Morris, BSc Physics (1994) and MSc Sustainable Energy (2007)

Class of 1995

Gillian Mackie, BCom(Hons)

Jean Blaylock, English Language & Literature

Mari Louise Todd, MA Psychology

Sean Robert Doak, BSc Physics (1995) and MSc Environmental Sustainability (2001)

Class of 1996

Bruce Stenning, Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science

Chas Booth, MA(Hons) Social Policy and Politics

Daniel Mittler, MA(Hons) Politics

Wilson McLeod, MSc

Class of 1997

Andrew McNaughton, MA General

Claire Jane Hall, MA Social Policy with Gender Studies

Stephen Matthew, Physics

Class of 1998

Helen Blackburn, BD(Hons)

Kim Harding, Ecological Science

Class of 1999

Andrew Lamberton, Biological Sciences

Jenifer MacCaluim, MSv

Class of 2000

Daniel Pacey, Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science

Laura Moodie, MA(Hons) History

Lydia Grove, Agricultural Science

Rabbi Dr Rebekah Gronowski, BD(Hons) (2000) and PG Dip Div (2006)

Class of 2001

Bruce McAdam, PhD Informatics

Daniel Gorman, Environmental Archaeology

Emma Mayes , Biological Sciences

Ms Haf Elgar, MSc International and European Politics

Stephan Matthiesen, Physical Oceanography

Class of 2002

Alasdair MacCaluim, PhD (Scottish Gaelic)

Anna Price, BSc Animal Science

Christopher Jack, BSc(Hons) Geology

Jane Herbstritt, Non-Western Christianity

Matthew Hall, BSc(Hons) Biological Sciences (Plant Sciences)

Class of 2003

Eileen Veitch-Clark, MA Linguistics

Kathleen Lambie, Celtic & Scottish Ethnology

Sarah Hill, MA English Literature

Theo Andrew, Geology

Valla Moodie, MA American Studies (2003) and MSc Community Education (2015)

Class of 2004

Jamie Auld Smith, MA Mental Philosophy

Kathryn Pearson, History

Mairi Ferris, MA(Hons) Social Policy

Susan Jennifer Evans, MA Chinese

Wiebke Herding, MSc Informatics

Class of 2005

Cara Flowers, MSc Biodiversity and plant taxonomy

Daniel Navon, Philosophy

Fraser May, Civil Engineering

Julia Morrison, English Literature

Lexi Parfitt, MA(Hons) English Literature

Madalein Simpson, English Literature and History

Ruth Dawkins, MA(Hons) History of Art and English Literature

Tobias Kellner, BSc Artificial Intelligence & Psychology

Class of 2006

Catriona Mackie, PhD (Scottish History)

Chris Hellawell, Forest Ecology and Management

Dr Mhairi Coyle, PhD Meteorology

Eilidh Macpherson, MA Social Policy and Law

Iain Thom, Environmental Geoscience

Kara Filbey, BSc Biological Sciences (2006) and PhD (Immunology) (2013)

Vijay Kolinjivadi, BSc(Hons) Ecology (Conservation and Ecological Management)

Class of 2007

Alastair Brayne, BSc Artificial Intelligence with Psychology

Andrew Tovey, BSc Geography

Anne O’Donnell, MSc Community Education

Clare McKeown, MSc Social Anthropology

Dimitrios Sferopoulos, MSc Artificial Intelligence

Jonathan Cameron, Philosophy

Juliette Daigre, MA French

Marcela de Leon Perez, MSc Sustainable Energy Systems

Mary Madeleine Church, MSc Environment and Development

Murray Worthy, Politics

Richard Shore, MA History

Rosalind Cook, LLB(Hons) Law

Vincenzo Fiore, MSc Philosophy

Class of 2008

Alice Lakra, MSc Environment and Development

Christopher Nater, BSc Computer Science

Gaurav Sharma, LLM

Joseph Francis Edmund Payne, MSc Environment and Development

Lianna Muller, Nursing

Mark de Vries, PhD (Physical Chemistry)

Michael Snyder, MSc Environmental Sustainability

Natalie Czaban, History

Oliver Munnion, Environmental Geoscience

Richard Lander, MSc Environment and Development

Sidonie Ecochard, English studies

Suzy Goodsir, MSc Ecological Economics

Tara Quinn, Environmental Sustainability

Unica Peters, Divinity

William Ainslie Nimmo, Honours in Philosophy and English Literature

Class of 2009

Adam Offler, Ancient Civilizations of the Mediterranean and Middle East

Alistair Marshall, Chemical Engineering

Amanda Larsson, MSc Ecological Economics

Andrew Moles, English Literature

Ben Miller, Politics

Christopher Silver, English Literature

Daniel Milligan, BSc Biological Sciences

Darius Bazazi, BSc Environmental Geoscience

David Coates, MSc Creative Writing

Edwin Vollans, MSc

Fiona Ranford, Geography and Politics

Francis Hepburne Scott, Physics

Jacob Butcher, Ecology with Conservation and Management

Jeffrey Sheldon, MA(Hons) Chinese and French

Katherine Sellar, Biological Sciences (Infectious Diseases) BSc

Kathryn MacDougall, PGDE (Primary)

Larissa Powollik, MSc Ecological Economics

Lena Pokorny, BSc Biological Sciences (Plant Science)

Lindsay Walker, BSc Biosciences (Zoology)

Lucy Mason, English Literature

Melissa Fedrigo, MSc GIS

Nick Ward, History and Classics

Oliver Cooper, Architectural Design MA

Rachel Telling, MSc Environmental Sustainability

Robert William Smith, MA Mind and Language

Class of 2010

Alanna Petrie, English literature and philosophy

Alice O’Rourke, Social Anthropology and Development

Ally Hurcikova, MA International Relations

Alva Katharina Traebert, MSc Gender History

Charlie King, History

Denise Nicole (Wood) Marshall, Master of Arts Linguistics

Emily Nicholl, MA French and Politics

Evelyn Capelin, BSc Biological Sciences (Hons) Zoology

Eystein Thanisch, Celtic Studies

Hannah Rastall, Geography and Archaeology

Hiran Balasuriya, Philosophy

Jamie Sparkes, Mechanical Engineering

John Paul Jennings, PGDE

Lee Bunce, MA Philosophy and Mathematics

Liz Elt, English Literature and History

Martin McHugh, BSc Biological Sciences (Infectious Diseases)

Oliver smith, BSc(Hons) Physics

Sarah Anne Clark, English Literature and Classics

Sarah Jane Stapleton, MSc Social Science

Scott Becker, BA Economics

Shona Rawlings, Biological Sciences (Zoology)

Sophie Papke, BA Classics

Thomas M Fenton, Biological Sciences with Honours in Immunology

Vangelis Makriyannakis, PhD (Film Studies)

Class of 2011

Amanda Grimm, Linguistics and English Language

Calum Eadie, Business Studies and Accounting

Caroline Overy, MSc Environment, Culture and Society

Charlotte Hayes, MA Divinity

David French, MPhys Physics

Deirdre Butterly, MA(Hons) Social Anthropology with Development

Elsbeth Helfer, MA French & Linguistics

Emma Pattinson, MSc Community Education

Helena Porrelli, Politics and Spanish

Hertha Taverner-wood, Mechanical Engineering with Renewable Energy

Holly Clark, Biological Science (Medical Biology Honours)

Iain Longstaff, MPhys

Isabel Urquhart , Linguistics

Isabelle, MSc Global Health and Public Policy

Jonathon Black, MSc Social Research

Joseph Ritchie, Law

Karl Finn Graham, MSc American Literature

Katherine McMahon, MA(Hons) Social Anthropology

Katie Revell, German and Politics

Maddie Appleton, Linguistics

Martin Reavy, BEng Electrical and Mechanical Engineering

Michael Beaton, Zoology

Mike Williamson, MA Spanish and Portuguese

Nicholas Sanderson, BSc Geography

Rhiannon Sims, Social Anthropology

Richard Littauer, MA(Hons) Linguistics

Robert Hay, Masters in History

Ryan Elfman, Ecological Science

Sara Marsden, Research MSc Public health policy research

Tashya Abhayaratna, MBChB

William Norman, Ancient History and Latin

Class of 2012

Alexandra Young, MSc International Development

Atsushi Muramatsu, MMus Composition

Benjamin Garlick, MScR Human Geography

Camilla Born, BSc Geography

Charlie Goodwin, MA Social Anthropology

Daniel Abrahams, Mechanical Engineering with Renewable Energy

Emma Saunders, BSc Geography

Eoin Vondy Smith, Ecological Science

Francesco Benvenuti, BSc(Hons) Ecology (Conservation and Ecological Management)

Giulia Sagliardi, Classics

Innes MacLeod, History

Jack Montgomery Smith, Philosophy

James McAsh, MA Economics and Politics

Joel Sharples, History and Politics

John Fitzgerald, MSc Philosophy

Julika Blüthgen, LLB Law

Karen Tostee, MA French and Politics

Kate Brazier Tope, MA(Hons) Geography

Katherine Harris, MA Sociology

Laura Jean shepherd , Geography

Laura Tomson, MSc Social Research

Lauren Pyott, MA(Hons) Arabic

Lewis Macdonald, MA English Literature and History

Lysimachos Zografos, PhD (Neuroinformatics and Computational Neurobiology)

Maria Giulia Franzoni, Classics

Martine Stoll, Environmental Science

Matthew Dekenah, MSc Global Health and Public Policy

Matthew Dumont , Environmental Geoscience

Milena Lasheras-Maas, Politics

Nick Chapman, MSc Sustainable Energy Systems

Olivia Carina Damm, MA Arabic and Politics

Philippa Roddis, English Literature

Shamiso Lewis, MA(Hons) International Relations

Sophie Cartwright, PhD (Divinity)

Stephen Devlin, MA(Hons) Economics

Thomas Martin, Geography

Zoe Langford, Geography

Zurab Azmaiparashvili, MSc Global Health and Public Policy

Class of 2013

Alice Ennaks Sumner, Cognitive Science

Andrew Ashe , LLB(Hons) Law

Anna Margot Faber , Environmental Sustainability

Bregje van Veelen, MSc Environmental Sustainability

Claire Crofton, Social Anthropology

Felicity Monk, International Relations

Georgina Massouraki, MSc Science Communication & Public Engagement

Hsin-An Chen, MSc Environmental Sustainability

Jonathan Coward, MSc Environment, Culture and Society

Justine Taylor, Social Anthropology

Kirsty McConnell, Biological Sciences

Kristina Jonutyte, MA(Hons) Social Anthropology

Kristina Simonaityte, BSc Ecological Science

Louisa Casson, MA French and English Literature

Maisie Lemon Smith, MSc Geographical Information Science

Mike Shaw, Mathematical Physics

Neus Giner-Garcia, Community Education

Olga Bloemen, MA Social Anthropology

Oliver Benton, BA(Hons) Intermedia Art

Rebecca Chan , Social Anthropology

Reem Abu-Hayyeh, MSc Middle Eastern Diasporas

Richard Atkinson, German and Linguistics

Rurigdh McMeddes, MA Philosophy and Psychology

Svenja Timmins, MRes Human Geography and MA(Hons) Geography

Telche Hanley-Moyle, Arabic and Social Anthropology

Thomas Davison, MPhys Astrophysics

Tim Thorpe, MSc Environment, Culture and Society

Victoria Rothwell, MEng Mechanical Engineering with Management

Wilhelm E. J. Klein, MSc Environment, Culture & Society

William Golding, MSc Community Education

Class of 2014

Ailsa Skuodas, MEng Mechanical Engineering with Renewable Energy

Amabel Crowe, History

Amna Hayat, MA(Hons) Social Anthropology and Politics

Archie Crofton, Ecology

Beth Lehem, Nursing

Charlotte Flechet, MSc Environmental Sustainability

Christian Kaufmann, MSc Ecological Economics

Cristina Moreno, Biomedical Sciences (Infectious Disease)

Daisy Martinez, Environmental Sciences (Ecology)

David William McGinlay, Classical Studies

Dominic Aitken, Law

Edward Lewis, Ecological Science (Forestry)

Emma Fairlie, BSc Geology

Ernesto Vladimir Gálvez Fournier, PgD Sustainable Energy Systems

Esmond Sage, MA History

Franziska Klara Schmidt, MSc Environment, Culture and Society

Gabija Sotvaraite, Ecological and Environmental Science

Jan Savinc, MA Cognitive Science

Jethro Gauld, MSc Ecosystem Services

Jimena Villar de Onis, LLB

Joel White, Social Anthropology

John Jaeger, Soils and Sustainability

Joseph Thompson, MA(Hons) Ancient Mediterranean Civilizations

Katerina Michailidou, MSc Ecological Economics

Katie Jane Callin, Ancient History

Katie Roberts, Geography and Politics

Lewis White, MSc History and Theory of Psychology

Luciana Miu, Ecological and Environmental Science

Lyubomira Derelieva, LLM European Law

Madeleine Lundholm, MSc Urban Strategies & Design

Mark Baldwin-Smith, MSc Environment, Culture and Society

Mathew wilkie, Mechanical Engineering

Matthew sellar, LLM Global Environment and Climate Change Law

Max Crema, MA Economics

Megan Brevig, English Literature

Nicholas Murrell-Dowson, MA(Hons) Politics

Philip Anthony Jennings, MEng Mechanical Engineering with Renewable Energy

Rachael Barton, MSc Ecosystem Services

Rory Scothorne, History and Politics

Sarah Lang, MA Sustainable Development

Shana Hirsch, MSc Global Environment, Politics and Society

Silas McGilvray, International Relations

Silvia Perini, Archaeology

Class of 2015

Brenna Aston, Sociology

Charlotte Wrigley, Environment, Culture and Society

David M. T. Arnold, BA(HSS) Linguistics

Ellinor Borjesson, Religious Studies

Emily Freeman, Diploma in Professional Legal Practice

Fabian Schastok, Nationalism Studies

Filippa Sofia Braarud, MA International Relations and Law

Jiazhen Birella, MSc EPM

Olof Nord, Computing Science

Write to your MSP!

22 May

Alison Johnstone MSP, who visited our occupation to offer her support last week, has tabled a motion in Parliament supporting the campaign. You can read it here.

So far, 6 MSPs have added their name to it in support. We have drafted a template e-mail that you can send to your MSPs to ask them to do the same.

You can find the contact details of your MSPs here.
And you can download the letter here: MSP-letter You can also copy and paste the text from below.

Please feel free to copy us in to any e-mail you send, and please forward us on any useful responses! Our e-mail address is

Dear MSP,

I’m asking for your support in signing this motion:

11 days ago, the University of Edinburgh announced that, despite a 3-year long campaign and a worldwide movement, it would not move its millions of pounds of investments out of fossil fuels. I don’t need to tell you that climate change is the biggest threat we’ve ever faced, or that the fossil fuel industry are the biggest barrier to tackling it – but it would seem that Edinburgh University disagree.

10 days ago, students of the University occupied Charles Stewart House, demanding that the University reverse its decision and take meaningful action; demanding that the University take its responsibilities seriously and stop funding climate change.

Over the course of the occupation, the students have been endorsed and visited by the director of the World Wildlife Fund Scotland, Friends of the Earth Scotland, several MSPs, and the Nobel Laureate author of the 2007 IPCC report on climate change. Richard Dixon, director of FoE Scotland, described the occupation as “on the frontline of the fight for climate justice.” Dozens of events, talks, protests, die-ins, gigs and pickets outside the occupation have attracted thousands of students, staff and members of the community to support the campaign.

Unfortunately, the response from the University could hardly have been worse. They have commissioned private security guards to block access to the building, and to threaten and intimidate the student protesters. On Thursday, a guard was arrested after being filmed slamming a protester to the ground and strangling them.

A motion has been tabled in Parliament to support the campaign, urging the University of Edinburgh to recognise the urgency and seriousness of climate change by divesting from fossil fuels, and support the students putting their bodies on the line to fight for it. I’m asking you to add your name to it:

Please also e-mail the University to raise your concerns:
Gavin Douglas,, is the University Vice-Principal who is dealing with the security posted to the protest.
Charlie Jeffery,, is the Senior Vice-Principal, who is in charge of the decision over divestment.
Tim o’Shea,, is the University Principal and Vice-Chancellor.


7 days.

21 May

The last 7 days I have been sitting, dancing, and sleeping inside a university management building at Edinburgh University. After a three year long campaign which revealed the majority of students and staff were in support of fossil fuel divestment, the university refused to commit to divesting from any fossil fuel extraction companies. Instead they chose an ‘engagement’ approach, proposing a commitment to divest from coal and tar sands if certain vague conditions were met. I am not going to go through the flaws of this approach, but the report completely missed the point of the divestment movement. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.

Our immediate and sincere reaction was to occupy; to show the university that we would not let it continue to profit from the destruction of our future. Climate change is the greatest threat to global health of the 21st century. It has already claimed hundreds of thousands of lives around the world and will continue to threaten the integrity of the very Earth we live on.  Furthermore, fossil fuel extraction, the main driver of rising carbon emissions, is responsible for human rights abuses and ill-health of some of the world’s poorest communities, with fossil fuel combustion causing lethal levels of air pollution. As a medical student I am compelled by a similar duty of care towards our ecosystem, on which our health depends, and am called to respond to its current symptoms of distress. The time to act in the interests of a sustainable future was yesterday, and the university’s decision stands at the wrong side of history.

The last 7 days has proved that there is a real hunger for radical action in tackling the global injustice of climate change. We have held events, often planned merely hours before, which have attracted hundreds. From die- ins, to music festivals, sit-ins and pickets, the support from around the city and beyond has been overwhelming. On Friday we had a visit from Nobel Peace Laureate and lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr Graciela Chichilnisky. She sent messages of support and encouragement for direct action from students which held public institutions accountable for inaction on climate change. On that same day, we used our numbers to gain back control of the main doors (which had been blocked by security guards hired by the university to protect our ‘health and safety’). This allowed crowds of people from outside to join us for an evening of talks from Green MSP, Alison Johnstone, Scottish Greens Co-Convener, Maggie Chapman and former University of Edinburgh rector, Peter McColl. It was a day of positive spirits and reinforced hope, and despite now being denied free access, I continue to be inspired by the dedicated people surrounding me in this occupation.

Our demands are simple: for the university to make a public commitment to divest unconditionally from coal and tar sands, with the campaign continuing until full divestment from fossil fuel extraction companies is achieved. Divestment addresses one of the major barriers to climate action – the political, economic and social clout of the fossil fuel industry. It is a powerful tool to take a moral stand against injustice and has been used to overcome the Apartheid regime and to remove the social licence of the tobacco industry. The fossil fuel industry has used sophisticated strategies to maintain its structural power for decades, using tactics similar to the tobacco industry to undermine action on climate change. By funding think tanks to spread doubt on climate science, lobbying against international climate policy, and donating heavily to major political parties it has maintained a stranglehold on our democracy. Recent evidence by the IMF has revealed fossil fuels are subsidised by $10 million a minute, greater than the total health spending of all the world’s governments. If we continue to bow to the fossil fuel lobby, we will become locked into a society of gross inequality and climate injustice.

So, it is day 7 of the occupation of Charles Stewart House and the university have still not engaged in any meaningful dialogue to meet our demands. Last night the university decided to escalate with 7 security guards currently standing outside the main door keeping us locked in.  This means we are unable to let people in to take part in the workshops and activities we had planned. However, I have witnessed the power of direct action in sparking progressive change. We need to challenge decisions that are made behind closed doors by a small group of too often white male elite. Students like us should use our power in numbers, passion and ideas to make our public institutions accountable. Our occupation has brought this issue to the forefront of the media and the local and global community and the campaign continues to grow day by day. The university’s attempts to intimidate us will not make us go away, it will only make us stronger.

It has been an emotional week and I am beginning to question my sanity, but am amazed by what we have achieved. Even if the university fails to meet our demands, this occupation has empowered the local student community, given inspiration to those fighting for climate justice around the world and given climate change the raised profile it so urgently deserves.

Eleanor Dow – medical student and member of Edinburgh People and Planet.

Shattering the climate silence. Speech by Dr Aaron Thierry of the School of Geosciences 19/05/15

19 May

Before I start, I’d just like to say how inspired by all of you I am. You’re amazing.

Hands up who here was born after February 1985. That includes me too. That means that for the whole of your life not one single month has the temperature been less than its 20th century average.  That means you’ve already been born into a fundamentally different world to the one your parents were born into. But the changes we’ve already seen are nothing compared to what is still to come if we don’t act now.

Climate change is a slippery concept. It is an idea with a bizarre ability to make us want to overlook it. Climate change wraps silences around itself, and leaves taboos in its wake.

I’m going to try and draw attention to three of those taboos. Three silences that you are shattering right now.

The first of these is one I’m sure we’re all vaguely familiar with in our daily lives.  I call it ‘Climate Silence’. It’s that uncomfortable feeling that you might have had, telling you that you know that something isn’t quite right with our weather, the number of extraordinary extremes that we hear about on the news, devastating cyclones such as Pam or Haiyan, the record floods in England, Chile, the Balkans, and the epic and ongoing drought in California.

We have that vague awareness that every few months the news reports about scientists who seem to be warning yet again about lack of action in reducing fossil fuel emissions, about how atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have now passed 400ppm, or in May last year you might have caught a mention, about how part of the West Antarctic Ice-Sheet has already become destabilised and is headed towards what NASA called “an irreversible collapse”. And this is only with 0.85°C of warming. Nature is just clearing her throat.

All of this is there in the background, gently prodding at our attention accompanied by a growing sense dread and yet we carry on with our daily lives as if nothing is the matter, as if it’s all under control.

The climate campaigner George Marshall tells a story about how he once tried to talk about his work at a dinner party. There was a silence. No one said anything until someone said, ‘What a delicious spinach tart.’ And then they spent the next 10 minutes talking about spinach tart — in obsessive detail ‘What a lovely spinach tart. Where did you get the spinach? I must have the recipe.’

This is the silence that we must confront. The silence in our daily lives.

That is the silence you are shattering just now in this act of occupation.

The next silence is the silence of ‘fossil fuels’.

George Monbiot has pointed out that: “There is nothing random about the pattern of silence that surrounds our lives. Silences occur where powerful interests are at risk of exposure.”

We’re often told that we’re all to blame for climate change as though each of us is equally responsible.  We’re told that we’re greedy, that our selfish wants demand high energy, carbon intensive lifestyles and that the fossil fuel industry is simply helping to meet that demand. But we are falling victims to a confidence trick. The old switcheroo.  Because by focussing attention on us and our emissions the fossil fuel industry has successfully avoided scrutiny. We have obsessed with designing policies that aim to reduce emissions, whilst at the same time allowing these companies to continuously extract ever larger quantities of fuels and rake in ever greater profits.

It’s madness to solely focus on demand whilst ignoring supply. You don’t try to hit the brakes whilst also sticking your other foot on the accelerator. Yet in twenty years of international negotiations never once have they talked about restricting extraction of coal, oil or gas. But the science is now clear that that is something that can no longer be avoided, this taboo must be tackled.

After years of delay and ineffective action, compounded by a fossil fuel industry funded misinformation campaign designed to sow doubt in the public’s mind about the dangers of global warming (which has drawn on the same dirty tricks that  the tobacco lobby used to deny the link between lung cancer and smoking), we now find ourselves in a situation where fossil fuel companies have laid claim to five times more reserves then can be burned if we are to meet our internationally agreed climate targets.

Yet, these companies’ business plans are based on digging it all up and looking for more. Just listen to Peabody Energy, one of the largest coal mining companies “The greatest problem we confront is not an environmental crisis predicted by flawed computer models, but a human crisis that is fully within our power to solve” or Exxon Mobil “All of ExxonMobil’s current hydrocarbon reserves will be needed, along with substantial future industry investments, to address global energy needs”

$600 billion was spent by fossil fuel companies last year exploring and developing new reserves. That’s $600 billion that could have been spent on putting us on a path to a clean energy future, instead of locking us onto even more extreme climate as though business as normal is still acceptable.

And they have the nerve to say that it is we who are the radicals for trying to protect our home and maintain a stable climate. Instead it is those who would put profit before people and the planet who are the real radicals. The real radicals are sat in the board rooms of fossil fuel companies and who send forth drilling rigs to the Arctic Ocean now that the sea ice has melted back. They’re the radicals! 

This is the silence that we must confront. The silence of pointing out who’s to blame.
That is the silence you are shattering just now in this act of occupation.

The last silence that we must face up to, is perhaps the hardest. It is our silence towards our friends.

We cannot let friendships get in the way of our challenging each other for failing to take action in a crisis.

There’s a Chinese proverb that says:

“To know and not act is not to know”

When the University Edinburgh last week decided not to act by not committing to fully divesting from fossil fuels it proved that they have not yet broken the first silence and have yet to come to accept the urgent and overwhelming reality of the threat of climate change.

It also showed that nor had they broken the second silence recognising the negligence, short-sidedness and greed of the fossil fuel industry and the need to strip them of their social licence if we are to make progress in truly rising to the challenge of the climate crisis.

It is our job not to let that go unchallenged. Friends do not let friends deny reality.

Our message has been one of simple morality since the beginning of the campaign “If it’s wrong to wreck the planet it is wrong to profit from that wreckage”. We will not stand silent when it comes to reminding our institutions of this obligation.

Marin Luther-King Jr once said “we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Edinburgh University’s silence as a Climate Leader has been deafening.

That is the silence you are shattering just now in this act of occupation.

That is the silence you are shattering just now in this act of occupation!

And may your Bravery, your Honesty and your Truth shame them in to doing what is right.
So I say to the University of Edinburgh- DO THE RIGHT THING!

Where is my mind? Night 6 in the occupation….

19 May

One of our occupiers wrote this lovely piece last night…

Where is my mind?

Night 6 in the occupation

I don’t know where my mind is. It’s here inside, it’s there outside. It’s still hanging in the exams of the last weeks, it’s already busy with my dissertation for the upcoming weeks. But the present takes up all the space. It’s urging me to do my to-do list instead of occupying a management building of the university, it’s mainly occupied with the occupation however.

But, I shouldn’t be doing anything else apart from this. If I want to keep true to my principles, I have to be here. To learn about how financial decisions impact the world around us is one of the reasons I studied Economics, sustainable energy solutions are what I have studied every day this past year and so this occupation is living what I have learnt. These principles are what I want to build my future, my personally and my professionally on.
That is why I’m here. To build a sustainable future for me and others. For people who think like me and this really lovely group of occupiers, and for those who don’t. For people who really really care and for those who don’t. Because not everybody can care, and not everybody has to. But us who do, we have to make a stand. A loud and clear and firm stand. And tell the University of Edinburgh that it has to care.

My experience in the occupation has been as unique as everybody else’s, and I would like to thank my wonderful flatmate again (and again) for dragging me off the couch, down here to be part of this beautiful community that has been formed in the past week. Despite not knowing anyone of the occupiers at the time of ‘moving in’, despite very different backgrounds, political views, and feelings about the university’s decisions, a common goal has formed us into a unified group of friends.

We will see how this plays out, but for me it is already clear that this experience has shaped my life and I will leave this building a different person than the one that came in last Wednesday.

Message of Support from Oxford…

18 May

Louis Trup , the President of Oxford Students’ Association, sent us this message of support following Oxford’s announcement that they will divesting their funds from coal and tar sands….

The University of Edinburgh is home to many academics who have documented the dangers of climate change. It is home to students who have clearly demonstrated the impacts of climate change on people around the world and have highlighted how strong the student feeling on divestment is. Yet the university management is choosing to ‘engage’ with the fossil fuel companies? The university has a duty to its academics and to the world to be intellectually honest, to maintain academic integrity, and to foster a community of learning by listening to its students. Yet the management is sacrificing the most important principles of a university to be part of a dirty industry.

Oxford have done it – they have stood up and said that we must listen to our students, alumni and academics and get away from these dirty industries. They haven’t gone far enough, and it’s by no means an end, but it’s an important start. If Edinburgh University doesn’t divest, it will be seen as being on the wrong side of history, and failing in its duty as an educational institution to stand by the research it produces and the voices of its students.

Oxford University Student Union and Oxford University Fossil Free stand in solidarity with the campaigners in Edinburgh, and hope the University can join Oxford in waking up to the dangerous realities of climate change.

Divestment Die-in Speech

17 May

Today Fred Spolier, one of our occupiers, gave this powerful speech at our die-in over the failure of University to withdraw their funds from from fossil fuels and arms. Supporters covered themselves in ‘oil’ and lay dead in the pavement while occupiers stood in the windows with tape over their mouths holding signs which read ‘Fossil fuels kill’ and ‘Edinburgh Uni is shutting us up’.

For five days now in this occupation, we’ve tried to make our voices heard. We’ve tried to represent the overwhelming consensus of students and staff that there is no ethical investment in fossil fuels and arms.

But the university seems to think that the voices of students and staff don’t matter: they’ve hit the mute button. For years they’ve refused to engage with People and Planet, and they still refuse to have an ethical dialogue about the issues we face.

And the fact is, people are suffering and dying in wars and environmental disasters across the world, and the university is complicit.

It’s no good hitting the mute button, it’s no good turning away. The people who’ve come out today and “died” have brought this reality to the streets of Edinburgh. It’s a powerful statement that lack of action on this issue shows a callous disregard for human life. We believe people should not be treated like ants, that you step on and feel no remorse.

We believe in duty. Education is about investing in the future, so let’s ensure we have a future!

That’s what all these amazing people have come here to show the blind money-grubbing bureaucrats: our demands are not requests! We are reminding you of your ethical duty!

If the University of Edinburgh wants to be known as the university of Hume, the home of rationality and the Enlightenment, let’s see a little enlightened and rational action: stop funding global warming and war!

At the current rate of carbon dioxide emissions, we will hit the 2-degree scenario of global meltdown within 30 years. There can be no more prevaricating, no more silence. Let’s set an example to the world, and share with Glasgow University the honour of taking the lead and saying what we all know to be true: we need change, and we need it now!

No more investing in murderous profiteering! Divest! Say no to fossil fuels and weapons, show us that the voices and lives of your students and staff mean something, and let’s start committing to the future of our wonderful planet!



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Why I’m occupying a University Management Building over their failure to divest from fossil fuels

15 May

Kirsty Haigh writes about her experience of the campaign…

When I sat in Teviot debating hall three years ago as one of the students asking the students’ association to join the campaign to push the University to divest from fossil fuels and arms companies I never thought I’d be sitting in a management building three years later after continual refusals to divest. A couple of days ago the University of Edinburgh made the cowardly decision to not withdraw it’s £291 million endowment fund from fossil fuels and to instead keep funding climate change. Our University claims itself to be a world leader in sustainability but they have now clearly proved this is not the case.

We’re going to find our existence utterly altered if we continue to extract and burn fossil fuels. Divesting is a way of taking on the big fossil fuel companies and the power they hold over our public institutions. We rightly condemn companies that don’t pay their taxes or who exploit their workers and so we must do this to the companies who are threatening our very existence. The only reason our society is currently so dependent on fossil fuels is because that’s what was (and still is) invested in decades ago. The University needs to invest in alternatives so we’re ready to replace this dirty and unhealthy energy source. These alternatives need to be planning and creating new jobs so that when fossil fuel industries cease to exist there is something to replace them and that our students are trained to work in it.

Throughout the campaign I’ve been amazed by the constant stream of support from students, staff, alumni and the wider community. With lobbying happening both within and outside the boardroom this campaign has been diverse and been very clear on its demands. Even before this campaign, back in 2002, we saw early day motions lodged in both parliaments calling on the university to cease investing in companies which “flout human rights, exploit workers, pollute heavily or irresponsibly sell armaments” but due to the University’s inaction this could have equally been lodged yesterday.

There’s been hours and hours spent talking to students, gathering thousands of signatures, holding stunts on our campus and submitting papers to board meetings and yet the University have done nothing. When human rights charity Reprieve got involved last year we saw our first big win with the University withdrawing its investments from UltraElectronics (a company which makes parts for drones which were being sent to Pakistan). Following this we persuaded the University to run an all student and staff consultation on what they wished the University investments to look like. This not only provided an extra piece of support for our campaign but proved that the University’s own research produced the same result as ours- a vast majority in favour of divestment .Yet still the University refused to change their investment policy. Since then the University have conducted the whole process behind closed doors and, until the day of their announcement, had refused to publish any of their internal recommendations or working group reports.

The University and its fund managers have focused on a policy of engagement for years but in that time we’ve seen no positive outcomes and BP have reduced their research and funding in renewable energy. We’ve spent over three years lobbying and negotiating with the University but it has yielded no results. They have rejected and ignored the clear consensus on this issue and so the time for negotiation is over.

Divestment is also about creating more democratic institutions where those who make up the University can have a say in how their money is spent and invested. This lack of commitment has shown that we still have a long way to go in achieving a transparent, democratic and ethical University.

So, after shutting us out of the decision we’re now firmly shutting ourselves inside. We’re no longer being shunned and ignored by the University. We will meet with management but on our terms, in a space we have reclaimed from them to make them reconsider the purpose of the University – to make them put principles before profit. Our University is fundamentally failing to acknowledge the part they are playing in funding climate chaos and instead are speeding up environmental degradation. What we hoped would be the end of our campaign is now to be only the beginning and our campaigning is going to get louder and louder until the University stop burying their money in unethical companies and head in the sand.

I am tired.

14 May

I am tired. In the sleepless, exasperated, jaded and honestly angry way, I am tired. I joined People and Planet looking to bolster the tail end of a successful three year campaign for divestment, but was only met with vague half-promises on the part of the University of Edinburgh. The narrative on the part of the university has been one of time and patience; the time for that has passed. Last year New Zealand accepted the first climate change refugee, only after he and his family had lived in the country for seven years. Despite the profoundly immoral nature of an economic valuation of climate change, the University continues to assure us that the developing world needs fossil fuels in order to develop. I would challenge Charlie Jeffery, senior vice-principal of the university, to inform the thousands living on low-lying island nations whose fields will lay salted and fallow, whose families will go hungry, whose homeland will be obliterated by climate change that this is the answer. All too quickly, Mr. Jeffery, the investment board and court full of bankers, and the usual bureaucratic suspects have dismissed divestment as ‘not in the university’s best interests’. In continuing to invest in fossil fuels, we are rapidly approaching a climate genocide in which, regardless of the level to which we address our cognitive dissonance, we will all be complicit. The unfortunate reality is that we are born into a commodified lifestyle. This can change.

In my time occupying the Charles Stewart House at the University of Edinburgh, I have been deeply inspired by my peers and by members of staff who persist in supporting the cause of divestment despite facing pressure not to from the University. In our day to day meetings and consensus based decision making, I recall the words of the German philosopher Gustav Landauer who said, ‘The State is a condition, a certain relationship among human beings, a mode of behaviour, we [change] it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently toward one and other… We are the State and continue to be the State until we have created the institutions that form a real community.’ We are rapidly approaching the tipping point of climate change but we still only just have time to change. If we view the earth as a condition, as an entity with which we can have a sustainable and healthy relationship starting with divestment, we still have time to contract other relationships, to behave differently, to create institutions that form the new community. Join us, occupy the planet.



Why We’re Occupying – Fourteen More Reasons

14 May

The students of Edinburgh University have settled their beds in the university’s finance department to voice their outrage over the court’s decision to maintain investment in fossil fuels. After three years campaigning, the students are still battling to have their voices heard and now they’re taking action.

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