On Friday the 30th of October, as part of People & Planets Halloween Actions across the UK, Fossil Free UCL staged a Halloween themed flash mob across campus to remind the University of its frightening continual investment in the Fossil Fuel Industry.
Activists dressed as ghosts with placards and banners assembled in the main quad and moved across campus in a circuit through Malet Place as part of the ‘Nightmare on Gower Street’. The rolling flash-mob carried a Halloween themed three and a half metre tall gasoline-pumping puppet and chanted “UCL UCL, DON’T PUT US IN CLIMATE HELL” whilst playing cheesy Halloween classics from a mini-amp. This carnival-like affair drew the attention of students, yet the message that we will not tolerate the complicity and inaction of UCL in exacerbating planet destroying climate change, was still clear.
This action was part of a national day of Student Action with 151 Universities in England, Scotland and Wales facing actions from students and staff, as activists aim to encourage universities to divest the £5.2 billion they currently invest in the fossil fuel industry. With the upcoming COP21 Climate Talks in Paris this December, campaigners are looking to challenge UK Higher Education Institutions to be consistent with their climate research and accept their role and divest before Paris. This is hoped to send a strong message to the UK government to push for a strong deal. Surrey University recently became the eight UK universities to divest, with People & Planet expecting to announce another three divestments before the end of December.
Despite this growing momentum, UCL continues to directly and indirectly invest £21 million in this morally reprehensible industry, and in doing so fails to accept its role as a leading global institution. In fact, this continued investment violates its own ethical investment policy, as it is not analogous with its world leading research that recognises the catastrophic effects of continuous burning of fossil fuels. The recent hosting by UCL of Colombian activists representing communities accusing mining companies that UCL invests in, Glencore and BHP Bulletin, of human rights violations, is indicative of this contentious ethical investment policy.
UCL Fossil Free aims to lobby the university to divest as soon as possible as this relationship with the fossil fuel industry helps further perpetuate a growing cycle of poverty and exploitation, as it normalizes and finances the reckless exploitation and extraction of mineral resources, often at the expense of both environment and communities.