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Cambridge City Council Endorses Fossil Fuel Divestment

Cambridge Mayor Marc C. McGovern speaks at a divestment rally held on Friday.
Cambridge Mayor Marc C. McGovern speaks at a divestment rally held on Friday. By Kai R. McNamee
By Alexandra A. Chaidez, Crimson Staff Writer

The Cambridge City Council voted Monday to pass an order endorsing student activists’ demands for Harvard to divest from the fossil fuel industry.

Divest Harvard organizers worked in conjunction with the Mayor’s Office to develop the order, which was sponsored by Mayor Marc C. McGovern, Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Councilor Sumbul Siddiqui, and Councilor Quinton Zondervan. The order’s language puts the “full support” of the City Council behind Divest Harvard, a student group advocating for the University to withdraw its endowment holdings from fossil fuels.

In a press release, Divest Harvard wrote that they are “proud” to have the support of the City of Cambridge.

“It is up to us as members of Cambridge and as global citizens to fight for our futures and for the wellbeing of our communities who will [be] hit the hardest by the climate crisis, who are disproportionately poor communities and communities of color,” the press release said. “Today, our vision goes beyond a more just and stable Harvard; it is for a more just and stable world that we are mobilizing on campus and beyond.”

This resolution is the not the first time that the city government has involved itself with Harvard students’ divestment movement. On Friday, McGovern spoke at a rally in Harvard Yard hosted by Divest Harvard, where he called on the University “to do more and to do better.” The rally was the culmination of “Heat Week” — a week of speakers and events pressuring Harvard to divest from the fossil fuel industry.

The order details several of Divest Harvard’s demands on the University, including fully divesting by Earth Day 2020, disclosing Harvard’s holdings in the fossil fuel industry, and the reinvestnting in “environmentally sustainable” funds. The order also urges Harvard to withdraw their land holdings around the world.

Ariel G. Silverman ’22, a member of Divest Harvard’s parent organization Harvard Undergraduates for Environmental Justice, made a public comment during the City Council meeting in which she thanked McGovern and the City Council for their support.

“This kind of leadership is the leadership we need to see from Harvard,” Silverman said.

Divestment activism has taken over Harvard’s campus in recent months. Members of Divest Harvard as well as the Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign — a group advocating for the University to divest from companies tied to the prison industry — have led protests throughout the school, released petitions that have garnered support from a range of Harvard affiliates, and met with Bacow himself.

University spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain wrote in an email to The Crimson that he has no further comment beyond the University’s previous statements.

In response to these increasing protests, Bacow has publicly and privately maintained that the endowment is not a mechanism for social change. He has also reiterated that the University must engage with the fossil fuel industry to prevent worsening impacts of climate change.

Zondervan, a city councilor, said he hopes Harvard will take the City’s order into consideration.

“We are the elected representatives from the people of Cambridge,” Zondervan said. “So when we agree on a resolution like that, we're essentially speaking to the entire community in saying that we do or don't want something so now, hopefully, now Harvard will take that into account.”

—Staff writer Alexandra A. Chaidez can be reached at alexandra.chaidez@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @a_achaidez.

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