Claremont Colleges Divestment Campaign Protests Pipeline

The Claremont Colleges Divestment Campaign staged a protest against the Keystone XL pipeline project on Sept. 21, in an effort to broaden its approach to tackling climate change. 

The group continues to campaign for 5C administrations to divest their endowments from fossil fuel companies, but has shifted their attention to other environmental issues as well.

“Divestment is only a tactic, a means to achieve an end,” Claremont Colleges Divestment Campaign leader Patrick Pelegri-O’Day PO ’15 said. “Our goal is climate justice. We want to show that these issues are all connected, and are all part of the same broader goal.”

At the Keystone XL protest, which was staged by 24 campaign members and drew about 30 spectators, protesters tied black string dotted with notecards from tree to tree across the 5Cs. 

Pelegri-O’Day said that they intended the string to represent the pipeline, which, if built, would bisect much of the United States while transporting tar sands oil from Canada to Texas. 

The notecards detailed some projected environmental effects of the pipeline project.

“NASA scientist Jim Hansen has said that if Canada’s tar sands are completely tapped, then it is ‘game over’ for the climate,” one card read.

“The Keystone XL pipeline will carry 830,000 barrels of crude oil from Canada to the U.S. every day,” another read.

One of more than 200 “Draw the Line” events that occurred simultaneously across the U.S., the Claremont Colleges Divestment Campaign protest was coordinated with environmentalist Bill McKibben’s, the environmental group that has led Keystone XL protests since 2011 and inspired divestment campaigns at college campuses. 

“We need to alter our climate change trajectory, and that means persuading the American people—and therefore our politicians—that we need to change our paradigm and policies toward carbon emissions,” Pelegri-O’Day said.  

“The Keystone XL pipeline … will transport dirty tar sands oil to international markets, and pollute land and water sources in indigenous and farming communities along the route,” said Jess Grady-Benson PZ ’14, Claremont Colleges Divestment Campaign organizer and former intern.

These indigenous groups include the Yankton Sioux and the Nez Perce tribes, whose lands sit in the path of the intended Keystone pipeline path. 

Grady-Benson noted that, unlike most previous actions that the Divestment Campaign has taken on campus, the Keystone protest did not seek action on the part of the 5Cs, but rather was intended to raise national awareness in solidarity with the other groups who participated in the same protest across the country. 

Still, the Claremont Colleges Divestment Campaign is continuing its efforts to encourage the schools to divest in spite of the recent veto from the Pomona College Board of Trustees (see page 1). Pelegri-O’Day said that the group is presenting its case for divestment to the Pitzer College Board of Trustees on Oct. 11. 

The organization’s next enterprise will most likely aim toward a wider audience, as the Keystone protest did. He added that the group is considering a changing its name to reflect its new and broader approach to climate justice. 

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