Wes, Divest organized a fast on Friday, Oct. 24 to raise awareness about climate change-induced famine. The fast occurred in the Usdan Marketplace in the Mink Dining Hall, often referred to as the “quiet side,” during the main lunch hours.
Sophie Sokolov ’18, one of the organizers of the event, stated that the mission of the activist group Wes, Divest is to organize student action to raise awareness about climate change, to support ongoing local campaigns against fossil fuel infrastructure, and to encourage the University to divest from fossil fuels in its endowment.
“[We are] pushing for divestment because we think that the University has an obligation to stand by its moral values and to not invest in an industry that we all know is contributing to global climate change and thus supporting massive oppression,” Sokolov said.
Sokolov explained that the group chose to hold a fast because it allowed students to reflect on the fact that they are able to decide to fast, while many people around the world are forced to fast due to lack of resources.
“[A fast] really draws attention to the privilege we have in this space because the reason that a fast is noticeable is that we constantly have this privilege of food,” Sokolov said. “But globally, one-seventh of the world goes hungry right now, and with climate change, that is only going to get much worse and is already getting much worse with massive droughts in California and flooding.”
Gabrielle Resnick ’18, another organizer of the event, stressed the urgency of climate change and the necessity of spreading the word around campus.
“Climate-induced famine is happening and will continue to happen in places that already have issues getting food and clean water to begin with, so it exacerbates an already very urgent need,” Resnick said.
On the afternoon of the fast, members of Wes, Divest set up tables with empty plates and silverware. Members of the group also canvassed and explained that the purpose of the fast is to interest students.
Abigail Cunniff ’17 explained her reasoning for participating in the fast.
“I participated in the fast because climate change will exacerbate all types of inequality, including access to food,” Cunniff wrote in an email to The Argus. “I also wanted to disrupt students’ everyday routines by sitting in the cafeteria and not eating, which forced at least a few students to think about their privilege and relative lack of food insecurity.”
Sokolov spoke about her experience as a participant in the event.
“[It was] a really interesting personal practice to think about climate change on a personal level and a physical level, because a lot of times it’s a hard issue to personally interface with, but there are moments where it hits me very harshly,” Sokolov said. “Being able to physically go through that fast, I felt like I was more able to think about climate change and the justice impacts of it.”
Resnick spoke about how Wes, Divest hopes to spread its message on campus and gain more members.
“We want to demonstrate that divesting is not just a priority for students that are in Wes, Divest but is actually a campus-wide goal, and that there are other supporters,” Resnick said.
Members of Wes, Divest protested at the Board of Trustees meeting in the spring in order to encourage the Board to divest from companies that are contributing to global climate change. Sokolov and Resnick mentioned that the Board of Trustees and University President Michael Roth have not been responsive since.
“So far everything we’ve heard is vague and unclear, and so the objective of the proposal is to get a more definitive answer, yes or no, so that we can move forward from there,” Resnick said.
According to Cunniff, the fast’s significance extended beyond Wesleyan’s campus alone.
“The fast was important to me because it contributes to the nation-wide narrative that students on college campuses care about climate justice and want our schools and government to take action now,” Cunniff wrote.
Resnick and Sokolov also discussed Wes, Divest’s goal to be on the agenda at the Board of Trustees’ meeting in spring 2015. For this to happen, a proposal must be submitted with 1500 student signatures in support of divestment.
“That was another point of the fast,” Sokolov said. “To begin to mobilize this petition throughout the student body.”
In another act of mobilization, Wes, Divest sent carpools on Monday, Oct. 27, to Bridgeport, Conn., to protest the existence of the last coal plant in Connecticut during a public hearing about its future. The Bridgeport City Council voted a few weeks ago to shut down the plant. However, the company that owns it, PSEG, wants the plant to remain open and hosted Monday’s hearing on the issue.