Interview with Brown Divest Coal Campaign

Rally in front of University Hall,  November 29, 2012
gnarlly in front of University Hall, November 29, 2012

Tomorrow, the Corporation will meet and may discuss the possibility of divesting from 15 major coal companies. Activists from Brown Divest Coal Campaign have spent a year campaigning, pressuring Christina Paxson and other members of the Corporation to vote to divest. They’ve written a case for divestment, and their site features a comprehensive FAQ on divestment. They’ve also called for the members of the Corporation invested in coal companies to recuse their vote. Since Bluestockings Magazine supports environmental justice efforts, we decided to interview a member of the student alliance, Ruby Goldberg. Tomorrow there will be a rally at 2 PM on the Main Green – show your support & let’s vote YES to DIVEST!

Ragna: How are you feeling about all of the progress that’s been made in the Brown Divestment Coal Campaign?

Ruby: I think the progress is absolutely incredible. I think it really shows the dedication and persistence of Brown students, and their willingness to go above and beyond for such an important cause. I think it is fantastic that so many students, faculty, and alumni have shown their support and put their time into the campaign, and that so many other clubs and groups have endorsed us and our cause. Nevertheless, the final and most important step has yet to be completed, and we will keep working until that happens.

RagnaDo you think the Corporation will decide to divest this week, if it is decided upon this week?

RubyI really hope so, but it is very difficult to get a temperature check on the corporation. Despite our efforts, we have had only limited contact from trustees, so it is hard to guess as to what they are thinking. All I can say is I feel confident that the campaign has done all it can to lay out its arguments to the Corporation and demonstrate to them why this is the right step for the University to take, and hopefully the vote will reflect that.

Ragna: Who will be most affected by a decision on the behalf of the Corporation if it doesn’t decide to divest?

Ruby: Our campaign will definitely be affected, as will Brown’s reputation as a forward-thinking institution, but more importantly than that is the effect it will have on people who are living on the front-lines, who are suffering every day from coal mining, processing, and burning. More than 13,000 people died of preventable deaths from pollution due to coal in 2010 in the U.S. alone, and the longer our society takes to transition away from the use of coal, the more people will be hurt.

RagnaHow has feminism or ideals of gender parity intersected with Divest’s activism thus far?

Ruby: As a social justice group, we have done all we can to support other social justice groups, including gender equality, gender parity, and feminist groups. In fighting for coal divestment, we are fighting for everyone who is being affected by coal, regardless of gender, or any other characteristic.

Ragna: What do you hope will happen if the Corporation decides not to divest?

Ruby: I mainly hope that it does not come to that, but if they decide not to divest, I hope everyone on campus, including the corporation, understands that we believe very strongly that this is the right decision for both our University and the planet, and will continue to fight for coal divestment until it happens.

Ragna: How has Brown Divest’s activism been attuned to the largest contributor of carbon emissions – eating meat?

Ruby: As a group we have been relatively focused on the specific issue of coal divestment, but Brown Divest whole-heartedly support other environmental movements, including vegetarianism, because in the end we are all fighting to protect our planet. Many members of the campaign are also involved in other environmental groups which have been more directly involved in reducing meat consumption.

Ragna: As with the sidelining of women’s and LGBTQ+ issues in the historicized depiction of the civil rights movement, how do you think the environmental movement and the divestment movement has also been exclusionary and/or marginalizing to some extent?

Ruby: There is always the difficulty of simply not having enough hours in the day to advocate for all of the causes you care about, but our campaign has done all we can to support other social justice groups where possible. I feel very strongly that none of these causes stand alone, and that in fighting for environmental justice, we are genuinely fighting for our planet and everyone on it. Far from marginalizing each other, I think social justice movements, including women’s, LGBTQ+, and environmental movements, can support each other and help each other pave the way towards a more just world.

Two Brown undergraduates protest University’s involvement with coal industries

Sign the petition on their website, check out their Facebook page, and go to tomorrow’s rally!

Interview with Ruby Goldberg

Featured Image via Brown Divest Coal Campaign

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