On Saturday, April 24, roughly 100 people gathered in front of Nassau Hall for an “Earth Day, No Delay” rally held by Divest Princeton.
Participants called on the University to move faster and more decisively against climate change, specifically advocating for the divestment of its $26 billion endowment from fossil fuel companies and the ending of its research partnerships with corporations like ExxonMobil.
The crowd consisted of students and community members, many holding hand-painted signs with slogans that included “Climate Change Brought to you by PRINCO” and “Swipe Left on Exxon.”
Members of Divest Princeton met on Friday afternoon to paint dozens of the cardboard signs, which were available for attendees to hold if they did not bring their own. More signs were spread out around the front steps of Nassau Hall.
Ryan Warsing GS, co-coordinator of Divest Princeton, opened the rally by welcoming attendees and introducing the first speaker, Hannah Reynolds ’22.
Reynolds, a member of Divest Princeton, noted in her speech that “we cannot afford to wait any longer” to take decisive action against climate change, as we “do not have the luxury of time on our side.”
She discussed the current movement as the “product of nearly a decade of incredible, relentless organization.” She also referenced Divest Princeton’s ‘No Donations Until Divestment’ petition, an open letter to President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 that currently has over 2200 signatures.
Reynolds is a contributing columnist for the ‘Prince.’
Mayu Takeuchi ’23, speaking on behalf of USG as sustainability chair, talked about last fall’s referendum that passed overwhelmingly, with 82 percent of students voting for divestment from fossil fuels.
“We, as your University Student Government,” she said, “echo the student body sentiment that we need strong institutional action now.”
Reverend Bob Moore from the Coalition for Peace Action spoke about humanity’s spiritual responsibility as “caretakers of this earth, not destroyers or exploiters.”
Other speakers included Daniel Pontón GS from Princeton Mutual Aid, Katie Massie ’21 from Divest Princeton, and Mary DeVellis ’21 from Princeton Students for Reproductive Justice.
Various chants throughout the rally included “divest from pollution, invest in solutions,” “delay is denial,” and “Earth day, no delay, Princeton must divest today.”
Warsing closed the rally with a speech — penned by Anna Hiltner ’23 and delivered on her behalf, as she could not attend the rally — in which it was asserted that Princetonians, as students at an institution with a $26 billion endowment, have responsibility and power to act. The speech also emphasized the urgent timeline of action against climate change.
“This is at a time when the UN IPCC report gives us less than ten years to respond to the climate crisis and prevent significantly worse environmental ruin. We don’t have any more time to waste,” Warsing read from the speech.
Parts of the speech also responded to some of the counterarguments against divestment. For instance, responding to those who argue that divestment is purely symbolic, it was noted that “symbols matter.”
At one point during the speech, Warsing instructed people to pull out their phones and email President Eisgruber regarding their support for divestment from fossil fuels.
He closed with one more call on the University to act: “We want strong commitments, and we wanted them yesterday.”
This rally was the culmination of earth week efforts by Divest Princeton, which also included students changing their email signatures to indicate their support and participating in a virtual walk-out, during which students turned off their Zoom cameras in online class and displayed a Divest Princeton logo.
University Spokesperson Ben Chang stated in an email to The Daily Princetonian that “we appreciate the constructive engagement of Divest Princeton on this critical issue, whether in the form of a rally in front of Nassau Hall or as part of discussions with the CPUC Resources Committee.”
The next Council of the Princeton University Community meeting, at which the Resources Committee is expected to announce a decision regarding whether it will recommend divestment to the Board of Trustees, is on May 3.
In a recent guest column for the 'Prince,' Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Jim Matteo responded to concerns about the status of the fossil fuel divestment proposal.
“I know that some in the University community are eager for the consideration of this proposal to move more quickly or to conclude by a symbolic date, such as Earth Day,” he wrote. “However, this process is designed to ensure divestment and disassociation proposals receive a full, careful review, with input from stakeholders across the University community. This careful consideration is what defines the process and what any divestment/dissociation discussion deserves.”
Chang deferred comment on the status of the divestment proposal to Matteo's column.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated to clarify that the speech Warsing read was written by Hiltner and delivered on her behalf.