On Saturday, Sept. 16, co-leader of Claremont’s Divest 5Cs Gianna Hutton González PO ’26 gathered alongside 70 other students in New York City for a youth climate justice conference and march to end fossil fuels.
The conference was hosted by Fossil Free Research, a pro-divestment organization of a national coalition of students. Both the conference and march took place during New York City’s Climate Week, a yearly summit that brings together students, educators, political leaders, business people and climate organizers to discuss the problems of and potential solutions to climate change.
“As students, we know the power our universities have to be leaders in social change,” Alicia Colomer, managing director for Fossil Free Research, told TSL via email. By hosting this event, she explained, Fossil Free Research was able to connect student activists from around the country and enable them to share their goals.
Hutton González represented the organization at the Climate Week events. Divest 5Cs is a student-run organization focused on encouraging the Claremont Colleges to divest their endowments from controversial investments in industries like fossil fuels or private prisons.
The divestment movement has been emboldened in recent years, with major universities such as Harvard and NYU announcing divestment from fossil fuels in 2021 and 2023 respectively, due in part to the success of student movements on their campuses.
In Claremont, 88 percent of Pomona students voted in favor of a resolution to divest from fossil fuels in April 2022, but the administration took no action. Pitzer College divested in 2014, but none of the other 5Cs have announced similar plans.
“Our movement is rooted in the idea that our schools that claim to be socially responsible and sustainable should not be invested in climate destruction and other industries that actively contribute to the disproportionate oppression of BIPOC, Latinx and poor communities,” Hutton González said in an email to TSL.
She further emphasized that investment justice is particularly important on the collegiate front because “universities have consistently led the way in driving social transformation.”
The Fossil Free Research Conference included talks and panel discussions from student organizers at American universities, in addition to building community and exchanging ideas between representatives from around the country and the world.
The morning after the conference, on Sunday, Sept. 17, conference attendees joined tens of thousands of people — including students from 37 colleges and universities — for a climate march in Manhattan. Protestors marched in support of a list of demands aimed at reinvigorating President Biden’s response to climate change, including declaring a climate emergency and ending the practice of fracking on public land.
“Getting to collaborate and share ideas with international campus leaders brightened my spirits so much,” Hutton González said. “By being able to share our knowledge, together we will revoke the fossil fuel industry’s social license to continue operating in youth spaces.”
Fossil Free Research does not currently have plans to host a conference event again next year, but Divest 5Cs continues to push for endowment justice on campus.
“For now, we’re just looking to get new students involved in our movement and continue to educate and mobilize for climate justice,” co-leader Nicholas Black PO ’24 said in an email.