Tritons Gather in Earth Day Rally Against University of California Fossil Fuel Use

On April 22, as part of the UC-wide Earth Day rally, dozens of students and staff gathered in front of Geisel library to demand the closure of the UC San Diego Central Utilities Plant and the termination of fossil fuel use by University of California campuses as a whole. 

Nine out of 10 UC campuses participated in the rally, protesting against the 1 million tonnes of carbon emitted annually by UC campuses. The rally was organized by the UC Green New Deal Coalition and Green New Deal UCSD; it included various speakers discussing climate-related topics and urging campus officials to make a promise to decarbonize.

The rally began with PhD student Adam Cooper sharing his fears and frustration against the duplicity of the campus’s climate change initiatives. 

 “I’m here today because I’m scared. The more I study the climate crisis the more it terrifies me,” Cooper said. “ When I walk around UCSD — an institution that prides itself on climate scholarship, yet continues to burn methane gas on campus and put $10 million a year into the hands of the fossil fuel industry, I start to get a little angry.”

Cooper went on to explain that UCSD burns fracked methane gas worth millions of dollars on its campus at the Central Utilities located by York Hall. With the county’s new opt-in sustainable community power program, fossil fuel use could drop in many households even while UCSD continues to use high amounts of fracked methane. With this change in power usage, UCSD could soon also become the largest polluter in San Diego county, according to Cooper.

“For us, as students, staff, and faculty at UC San Diego, we must fight like hell to change our institution and end the complicity of burning gas on campus,” Cooper concluded.  

Another speaker, PhD student Andrea Rodriguez-Marin Freudmann, spoke about the university’s hypocrisy in regards to divesting away from fossil fuels.  

“Finance and fossil fuels are completely entangled. Right now banks pour trillions of dollars into investments and they use our money to do it. Despite UCSD talking a whole lot about divesting, it still uses these banks,” she explained.

“For example, Chase and Bank of America, along with the rest of the world’s 60 largest banks, have put over $4.6 trillion into the fossil fuel industry over just the past 6 years,” Rodriguez-Marin Freudmann continued. “The money that we and UCSD invest into these banks literally funds climate change… UCSD chooses to work with banks that they know are funding the climate crisis, all while talking about divestments.” 

She went on to explain that while it’s ultimately large corporations and institutions such as UCSD who will leave the largest impact by divesting from banks investing in fossil fuels, individuals stopping their support of these banks will still have an impact in reducing funds funneling into the burning of fossil fuels. Rodriguez-Marin Freudmann urged the crowd to take action by transferring their money out of said banks in favor of smaller, more ethical ones.  

Rodriguez-Marin Freudmann’s comments come after a group of scientists, including world-renowned NASA scientist Peter Kalmus, were arrested earlier this month after chaining themselves to a JP Morgan Chase building in downtown Los Angeles. They were protesting Chase’s investments in the fossil fuel industry. 

After listening to more speakers, including local politician Kylie Taitano, PhD student Hayden Schill, and junior Sofia De La Cruz, the crowd began to march down Library Walk and Gilman Drive toward the Central Utilities Plant. 

During the march, the crowd could be heard chanting “No more gas, no more oil. Keep your carbon in the soil.” and “We are unstoppable, another world is possible.” Others called for University of California president Michael Drake to “be brave.” Supporters were also seen holding signs that read “Get off the gas” and “Stop burning fossil fuels like our tuition.”

Eleanor Roosevelt College freshman Mara Button shared her thoughts on the importance of moving beyond performative activism in fighting against climate change. 

“If you’re not fighting for our world, if you’re not taking actions in small ways, even if it’s not a rally, posting pictures on Instagram on Earth Day is beautiful, but it needs to be accompanied by action,” Button said. 

Graduate student Taylor McKie expressed her support for the rally. “We’re here to encourage our administration to be brave and switch our cogen plant to something that is completely fossil free, to decarbonize, or build a new plant and electrify our grid on campus.”

The rally follows the publication of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on April 4, which revealed that emissions have been increasing each year, reaching 59 gigatonnes in 2019, a 12% jump from global 2010 emissions. The report also states that only drastic collective climate action will keep global temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius. After its publication, hundreds of climate scientists protested worldwide — some even supergluing themselves to glass windows—to bring awareness to the issue and induce collective governmental action. 

The IPCC report can be found here and to learn more about the UC Green New Deal policies or sign their petition, click here.

Photo courtesy of Joe Orellana.

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