As you may already know, People & Planet has called a march on the Shard on July 7th. Fossil Free campaigners from over the country will be assembling at Temple Place at 4pm, and marching across the city to London’s tallest skyscraper, where Warwick University Councillors will be meeting for a formal dinner on the eve of their decision on fossil fuel divestment.
Why exactly we are marching on the Shard is, on one level, very simple. We want the University of Warwick to join Glasgow, Bedfordshire, SOAS, Oxford, Edinburgh and London School of Hygiene and Medicine and become the seventh university in the UK to commit to some form of fossil fuel divestment. But in another sense, the timing, location and angle of our campaign co-ordinates around a collective desire to crush the University’s deep-set relationship with an industry that is destroying our planet, displacing thousands worldwide, and reinforcing the capitalist hegemony under which we live.
So why are we marching? Why the Shard? Why now? Here is some clarification:
1. It’s now or never. You might wonder why we have elected to march on the 7th, rather than the 8th, the day of Warwick’s actual decision. The reason is largely that we want to strike while there is still enough time to be heard and for our message to sink in. We have an opportunity and we need to take it.
Rather than descending out of the blue to either claim victory on the 8th or escalate demonstratively against Council’s failure, we want the future of this campaign to be tied to a timeline of escalating intensity so that nobody can say that we haven’t been present throughout this process, despite the University’s best efforts.
2. We need University management to hear us. Since the Fossil Free campaign was born at Warwick at the beginning of the 2013 academic year, it has navigated every democratic channel available to us. We passed a motion through our Students Union, wherein 65% of the student body supported divestment from fossil fuels. We have submitted letters to the University signed by all of our Sabbatical Officers, 100 members of University staff and approx. 1,500 students. We have attended meetings with finance managers, treasurers and upper management. We have leafletted tirelessly, we have compiled our own research brief, we have made our arguments with clarity and accuracy.
And yet, the fight against our University’s entanglements with fossil fuels has been an uphill battle. Every opportunity of engagement with finance committees and Council has been pushed back and back, until the final decision is now scheduled for 8th July, conveniently outside of term time. Our emails have been ignored, and promises of our attendance at these meetings revoked. At our sit-in in June, members of Council fled through a secret exit of the building so as not to confront us picketing the main exit to the Council chamber. It’s fair to say that the University have done a good job of excluding, stalling and sidelining us. We now need a form of protest that can’t be ignored. Which is why everyone attending the march is invited to bring instruments, pots and pans, horns, megaphones, their loudest voices to the foot of the Shard as Councillor’s arrive, so that they will literally hear the cry for divestment ringing in their ears.
3. The Shard is the perfect location.
Warwick Business School has recently built a new campus on the 17th floor of the Shard, as part of the logic of relentless development that has seen campus look much like a construction site for the best part of this year, and plans to expand into new frontiers in the Californian desert – an exercise that would be laughable if it weren’t so horribly unsustainable.
Warwick’s new home in the Shard is indicative of its rampant corporatisation. The new site will see the business school (which is now listed under ‘Companies’ on the Shard website) rub shoulders directly with the fossil fuel industry, including names such as IO Oil & Gas, South Hook. But as well as being a symbolic site of the neoliberalisation of the University, the Shard is also the new venue for the University’s most important democratic processes. July 7th will see Councillors assemble for a formal presentation and dinner, and re-assemble on the 8th for July Council, which will be discussing a motion on divesting from fossil fuels. The University has chosen a sleek, (some might say sterile), off-campus location to make this key decision which – as the past few years have proven – matters a great deal to students. If they won’t come to us, we’ll have to go to them.
Join us on the 7th as we march on the Shard! Facebook event here.