I graduated from Brooklyn College in 2009, when the climate, at least in New York, seemed to be working roughly the same way it had for generations of CUNY students before me. That all changed in 2012, when Superstorm Sandy shut down the university system for days as the city braced record-breaking floods. While it's true that a single storm cannot be linked to climate change, the increased humidity and sea surface temperatures that led to the storm can be. Freak weather events like Superstorm Sandy are more likely today due to climate change, which means we can expect more class cancelations, the potential for student evacuations, damaged property and general disruption of day-to-day life.
The big oil, gas and coal companies responsible for altering the global climate are so powerful that most attempts to redirect or foil their business plan seem grossly inadequate. But the industry is not too big to fail. It just needs to be confronted on the institutional level, which is exactly what fossil fuel divestment can do. By divesting from fossil fuels, colleges and universities are doing their part to update the mainstream cultural attitude about climate change from apathy to action. Student-powered divestment campaigns are helping to revoke the moral license of the fossil fuel industry, whose product is robbing those students of their right to a stable future. As an alumni, I feel it is my responsibility to support student divestment campaigns in any way I can.
When I graduated from Middlebury College in February a little more than a year ago, I took part in one of the traditions that had attracted me to the school in the first place. Along with 125 other February graduates – “Febs” if you subscribe to the modern era’s excessive need for abbreviation – I donned my graduation robes, strapped on my skis, took the chairlift to the top of the nearest ski mountain, and charged down in front of a crowd of cheering friends and family members. It was a glorious day – blue skies, no wind, sun obviating the need for a jacket. It is a memory that I will always hold dear and for that reason, I prefer not to think about the students who, by mid-century, will no longer be able to take part.
Most people can be divided into two groups – those who live and breathe the pulse of New Orleans life and those whose appreciation for the city just doesn’t extend beyond temporary tourism. When Tulane University reopened for the 2006 Spring semester, this split manifested in the student body’s response, as some students decided to leave Tulane permanently in favor of schools in hurricane-free cities and others, like myself, didn’t think twice about returning to the Big Easy.
Hurricane Katrina utterly devastated New Orleans, but the city has made giant strides in its recovery. As a Tulane alumna and NOLA lover, I still hold my breath every hurricane season because I know that this special place is in an extremely precarious position and that climate change is adding to this vulnerability. Meanwhile, Tulane University continues to invest in the fossil fuel industry, which is warming our planet, causing sea levels to rise, and contributing to a host of detrimental effects on our environment. Tulane owes it to the city, to its alumni, NOLA lovers, and those of us who took a leap of faith by returning that Spring after Katrina to stop investing in the fossil fuels.
Storytelling, regardless of popular opinion and certain facts and figures, inadvertently manifests a culture. As a young parent I can't help but connect the dots-past, present and future. Mothers don't have time to beat around the bush. Our eyes blinked and we have a 17 year old nephew who is DRIVING, coming closer to making his wish as a young boy come true: to be on his way toward the title: Rutgers University Alumnus.