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Sussex needs to drop fossil fuels and get into clean energy

An hour before a Sussex Transition meeting my friend asked if I wanted to attend it with him. “What’s it about?”. He replied “green ethical stuff” I was intrigued and felt moralistically I should make an effort to engage with Sussex’s sustainable community. I left the meeting feeling like an activist, ready to take on the world, full of ideas and enthusiasm.  But where should I begin? What’s the best way to direct my energy? I decided to focus on the most attainable goal, that directly affected me the greatest – Fossil Free Sussex.

Their aim is simple – directly petition for management to move all of their money out of shares in fossil fuel companies. The main reason – it’s the single largest driving force behind global warming. As ever, when money is involved it sees human interest is pushed aside. Earlier this year, Archbishop Desmond Tutu called for an anti-apartheid-style boycott to tackle rising carbon emissions.

I could give you facts and figures on global warming that will shock and widen your face with horror but that won’t make you act. What can we do now? Fossil Free Sussex’s response – withdraw our support and divest. Universities are businesses- they make money, they sell degrees as a product. You are part of this company and right now it’s supporting fossil fuel industries.

We cannot let the interests of capital dictate the sustainability of our society. To make huge impact we must work from the bottom up, people power. The main obstacle is that the University has no obligation to do anything, and it appears the students have little say over what their university is funding – in this instance, global warming. Investment managers are controlling our university’s money. Tobacco and Arms are forbidden from investment, so why not fossil fuel?

With enough support, pressure and direct action, the overarching wants of students and staff will cease to be ignored. It was done in Australia, where Australia National University students petitioned to divest funding within a country where the Prime Minster declared “coal is good for humanity”. Sussex is lucky to have an ANU graduate, who backed that campaign from the start, joining this very same battle, urging students to follow in Glasgow University’s footsteps.

Sussex is renowned for it’s left wing ideologies. Situated next to Lewes, a transition town and within reach of Brighthelm Church Centre, the very first church in England to divest it’s funding, it’s not a question of is this going to happen but when. This is dirty energy that the organizations all around us like, British Medical Association and religions such as Quakers, are divesting from. The ‘divest-invest movement’ founded three years ago encourages getting out while the going is good and reinvestment in clean energy to break the capitalist market forces.

On Wall Street September 21st 2014, the largest climate march in history took place, with around 400,000 participate lining the streets in support of divesting. The world is waking up. It’s about time Sussex University took notice. Fossil Free Sussex is not asking to turn of the taps on the industry, rather a slow phasing out process that’s possible and essential, to avoid bursting our carbon budget. This is a student led, union supported and globally encouraged campaign. The process matters as much as the outcome, the catalyst has sprung, we want to prove to other universities this is a possible aim and an achievable goal.

I want to be proud of my degree, but I want it to be fossil free. The University Senate is one of the top groups within the management food chain, and come their next meeting in April, Fossil Fuel Sussex aim to have enough influence to raise the issue of Fossil Fuel investment and make changes. You can’t sweep this issue under the carpet when it’s being dug up from the earth beneath you.

Rachael Lipschitz

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