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Enviro Collective demands USyd Senate divest from fossil fuels in “destroy the earth” stunt

This stunt coincided with education actions also on campus today.

Photograph: Deaundre Espejo

During a meeting of the University Senate this afternoon, the USyd Enviro Collective gathered on campus to protest the university’s ties to the fossil fuel industry.

The stunt, which was live-streamed on their Facebook page, saw students dressed as university executives, kicking and destroying a ball painted as the earth. “The university is gambling away our future”, Enviro Collective member Paola Ayre said.

In the meeting, the Senate was rumoured to be discussing the implementation of the university’s new sustainability strategy, which is set to launch in September. Honi understands that the first draft of the strategy has no specific targets or requirements for divestment.

Co-Environment Officer Shani Patel drew attention to a freedom of information request by Fossil Free USYD last year, which found that the university spent $28 million on fossil fuel energy and a further $22.4 million on fossil fuel investments in 2018.

“At a time when fires have burned through the planet’s most valuable carbon sinks and a heatwave has swept through the Arctic Circle, the university’s greenwashing has become unbearable,” she said, reading a statement written by Fossil Free USYD Convenor Alison Eslake.

She also pointed out how USyd’s sustainability strategy is trailing behind other universities such as UNSW, which is set to divest from fossil fuels by 2025.

“No number of green campus initiatives [at USyd] will erase the knowledge that this university is profiting from the continued success of the fossil fuel industry”.

In a media release, the Enviro Collective demanded that the university transition to 100% renewable energy immediately, divest from fossil fuels and weapons manufacturing by 2025, and redirect these funds towards renewable energy investments.

They also called for the university to commit to an ethical investment portfolio and implement a more ambitious sustainability strategy — one which includes allocation of sufficient resources and rehiring of staff.

The action was part of the Enviro Collective’s ongoing “Grow Back Greener” campaign, as well as a global push for a renewables-led economic recovery in response to COVID-19.

This year, the fossil fuel industry experienced a plunge in prices and consumption, meaning that these investments are no longer financially viable. At the same time, renewables have grown to become a cheaper, cleaner and viable technology.

Enviro Collective member, Drew Beacom, condemned how governments and corporations are continuing to push a fossil-fuel led recovery plan in wake of the incoming recession. 

“We will not sacrifice our futures for the bottom lines of individuals and corporations whose contingency plans for the current climate crisis are to maximise extraction, maximise profits, and maximise destruction,” he said.

“Enough is enough. Now is the time for a green recovery, now is the time to grow back greener.”

Police and university security were present throughout the action but did not shut it down.