The Tories are no friend of the environmental movement

29 Nov

Yesterday we attended Scotland’s Climate March and were absolutely delighted by the turnout of about 6,000 coming together to stand up for the environment.

However, we were appalled that the Tories had been given a platform to speak at the rally.

Someone told us off for heckling them, as we were all here together in unity.

We are not in unity about climate change with the Tories.

Let’s be crystal clear, the Conservatives are choosing to destroy the planet and do nothing to protect our futures. They are not on our side. They are the people our march is trying to change the opinions of because they are the people who are currently shunning all of our campaigning and laughing at our environmental demands. These people are not on our side and to pretend so is utterly ridiculous. Being the party of the government the Tories don’t need to be given any additional platforms – especially when they don’t agree with the aims of the march.


Giving them a platform allows them to greenwash, to pretend they care about the climate. It makes it seem like they are on our side and is offensive to those who have spent their time campaigning to try and stop the government’s slashing of any remotely environmentally sound policy.

After 5 years of attacks since retaking power the Tory government are decimating the renewable energy industry removing the subsidies for wind, solar and biomass industries.   This has happened to such an extent that the UK has dropped out of the top ten on a respected international league table on renewable energy. Meanwhile the Tories are maintaining their intimate relationship with the fossil fuel companies that are causing global temperatures to rise so dramatically. They’re making no efforts to phase out fossil fuels or even to limit their damaging effects: just last week the Tories broke their manifesto promise and cancelled the £1bn pounds for carbon capture and storage.


Our march should not only have been condemning all of this but also slating the fact Cameron has appointed a former consultant to major oil and gas companies as the key advisor on energy and environmental policy before the climate summit in Paris.

The Conservatives are about profit, not people and not the planet.

All the parties have a long way to go with their environmental policies but one thing is sure, the Tories are not  working to slow the effects of climate change. We’re hurtling towards catastrophic climate change and they’re profiting from it.

P.S We’re pretty sure you could have found a presenter for the rally who was not suspended from a job for inappropriate behaviour towards a female colleague, but that’s another serious issue entirely

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Divestment must also include ‘uncontroversial’ arms

22 Sep

Today the University of Edinburgh has announced that it will no longer be investing ‘controversial’ arms which is good but nowhere near good enough.

Senior Vice-Principal Charlie Jeffery has said: “This is an important phase in our review and demonstrates the University’s commitment to responsible investment” however I think this is little more than an attempt to gain some good publicity.

Let’s be clear, there’s no such thing as uncontroversial arms. Arms kill people whether or not they are classed as controversial. A commitment to responsible investment would involve divestment from all arms manufacturers.

We’re now in the 4th year of our campaign with students, staff and the public calling for the University to divest from arms and fossil fuels. We’ve said it before but we’ll say it again: Edinburgh University should not be funding environmental devastation, human rights abuses and war. It’s a publicly funded institution and the money it invests should benefit society.

Both this, and the divestment earlier in the year from coal and tar sands, are a step in the right direction but ultimately are a half-hearted attempt showing no real commitment to responsible investment. They have taken action because we have forced them too and have not divested willingly. If the University realise that investments in coal, tar sands and controversial arms are unacceptable then they should be able to understand how ‘uncontroversial’ arms and natural gas and oil kill people too.

We’ve been delighted to have the Edinburgh Peace & Justice Centre back our campaign and Brian Larkin thier coordinator highlighted that ‘although the University divested from one Drones manufacturer last year its list of “controversial” weapons does not include drones. This is a concern because it still has investments in Meggitt plc a manufacturer of drones and drones now used extensively in Afghanistan and implicated widely in civilian deaths. Besides manufacturing drones Meggitt sells weapons to Bahrain, with its record of human rights violations’.

Last week the University launched their new Climate Change campaign with which the “aim is to become a hub within the wider city for the exchange of ideas and opinions about how best to tackle one of the world’s great global challenges.” This is great but it would be much better if the University decided to practice what it preaches. They pitch themselves to the world as a leader in sustainability and a socially responsibility yet behind closed doors are continuing to fund the destruction they pretend to fight against.

By Kirsty Haigh

Partial Progress! Edinburgh to divest from coal and tar sands…

16 Jun

Nearly three weeks ago, on Wednesday 27th, Edinburgh University released a statement signalling its intention to divest from three of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies in the next six months due to their exploitation of coal and tar sands.

It was jubilating news but we didn’t quite believe it.

The trio of veteran People & Planeters delegated to meet with the university that morning, shortly before the statement’s release, returned with expressions of confused optimism, delivering the news to the rest of us in a hesitating tone: ‘I think, we might have won…?’

It’s not that we weren’t expecting them to give ground, some form of capitulation seemed inevitable, but hitherto our interactions had left us with a dim and distrustful view of the university. Considering the duplicitous hypocrisy of their position throughout the occupation, outwardly professing their support for our right to peaceful protest, while simultaneously attempting to stonewall criticism and stifle the occupation, our caution wasn’t totally unjustified.

A couple of hours later the statement was released: ‘The University is writing to three of the world’s biggest fossil fuel producers to inform them that it intends to fully divest from their activities within the next six months.’ (Full statement: http://www.ed.ac.uk/news/2015/fossilfuelsupdate-260515)

The media rapidly picked up the story, reporting the university’s new commitment to divest from coal and tar sands, and we breathed an explosive sigh of relief at how hard it would be for them to renege now. Everywhere the words ‘backtracks’ and ‘U-turns’ cropped up and this is an important part of the victory. It’s empowering, rightly crediting the protesters’ capacity to influence the university.

Actually this whole campaign has been a testament to the value of activism. It has inspired a huge range of people – staff, students and the general public – and managed to reach so many who wouldn’t normally describe themselves as ‘activists’. The comprehensive panoply of news coverage, the avalanche of support from individuals and organisations across the world, and most significantly the success of forcing the university to listen, all attest to protest being both efficacious and worthwhile.

Something has clearly been achieved but precisely what remains to be seen. The university’s commitments are full of disconcerting shortcomings. For starters, this is obviously not complete divestment, not even close. No promises have been made about other fossil fuels (oil and gas, for example), only about the most harmful ones (coal and tar sands) and for the university to stop here would be an unpardonable moral cop-out.

Even with coal and tar sands there is a worrying haziness surrounding Edinburgh’s intention to give fossil fuel companies four weeks to respond, a face-saving measure included in deference to the university’s commitment to engaging with fossil fuel companies. (Quickly, let’s be clear that this is ridiculous. Investment funds and institutions have been promising to ‘engage’ fossil fuel companies for years with no meaningful results. Edinburgh has an endowment fund of around £300m but its investments are still a pathetic pittance relative to the amount invested in multinational fossil fuel companies. To suggest that they have the investor clout to fundamentally change the behaviour of such companies is at best ludicrously hubristic, and at worst a disingenuous avoidance tactic.)

When we directly pressed them on this, ‘what could these companies say or do to stop you from divesting?’, they refused to specify. Quite apart from the total lack of transparency, this allows for the alarming possibility that they might accept the most environmentally insignificant, meagre token gesture as grounds for wriggling out of divestment. This would, of course, be a huge betrayal which would invariable precipitate a furious backlash, but could set the whole campaign back to square one.

Perhaps this seems paranoid? Call me an unforgiving cynic but I don’t think Edinburgh University’s senior management have been struck by an environmental road-to-Damascus change of heart (no energy-saving-lightbulb moment, as it were). Important and welcome as their promise is, it will remain a hollow gesture if not promptly followed by meaningful steps towards divestment. It will take an awful lot more for Edinburgh to prove – to its students and to the world – that it takes seriously its investment responsibilities.

Luckily for the university they’ve got People & Planet here to help! The demands of the ethical investment campaign remain as they were when it was launched three years ago: that Edinburgh University divests completely and permanently from all fossil fuels and arms companies.

Over the past two weeks we’ve been discussing how best to pursue these aims. The university’s working group on arms investments will be meeting over the summer and People & Planet will be calling for a strong stance to be taken against arms investments. Crucially we will also be holding the university to account on its coal and tar sands promise, monitoring progress to ensure it meets its divestment commitment.

The success of two weeks ago has buoyed spirits and going into the next academic year the campaign has a vigorous momentum and many new members. We will be looking into collaborations with other activist groups as well as reaching out to university staff to strengthen our campaign as we call upon the university to ‘divest the rest’ (catchier slogans are still in development.).

So it’s a wonderful relief to see Edinburgh backtracking and taking some very welcome steps towards divestment; but there’s a long way to go and we won’t be resting on our laurels. Ardent congratulations and thanks to everyone who has been involved and given People & Planet such incredible support. We hope to see you soon as the campaign continues.

300 University Alumni withhold donations over fossil fuel investments

26 May
gdd2015

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 peopleandplaneted@gmail.com

Dear MSP,

I’m asking for your support in signing this motion: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/28877.aspx?SearchType=Advance&ReferenceNumbers=S4M-13235&ResultsPerPage=10

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: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/28877.aspx?SearchType=Advance&ReferenceNumbers=S4M-13235&ResultsPerPage=10

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

Thanks,

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!