Making Friends Amongst Activists

By Sabrina McMillin, class of 2015

It was the summer of 2012, and as I gingerly opened the heavy envelope containing the book for that year’s Common Reading program, I knew that even though I was a transfer student and did not know how to fit in amongst the peachy young freshmen and the returning students, I would somehow find my place. The book in question, Annie Leonard’s The Story of Stuff, covered various environmental issues without being too esoteric for a non-science major like myself. To be honest, the book is what first sparked my strong interest in climate change and environmental conservation. Even though I was aware of the importance of conservation, being the first person in my house to advocate for recycling during my childhood, I never connected the issues we face as the de facto “groundskeepers” of Earth to the many breaches of human rights. But Ms. Leonard’s work has challenged me, and likely other Tufts students, to question the inefficiencies and greed that pervade the American economy and hurt our chances at a sustainable future on this planet and amongst humanity.

When I signed up on the Tufts Divest for Our Future e-mailing list, I figured it would be just like any other club: I’d get some e-mails, maybe attend a few special events here and there, and carry on with my life. But a simple writing mistake on my part (I absentmindedly wrote “@gmail.com” instead of “@tufts.edu”) led me to a personal interaction on Facebook with Dan Jubelirer, a co-founder of the group. After having discussed the mistake, my proper e-mail address was added to the list and I had a decent conversation with Dan, who struck me as very bright, kind, and steadfast in his recruiting abilities. Though I had missed the first meeting, Dan encouraged me to attend the next one.

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Tufts Divest having fun. Feeling unusually obligated due to our conversation and with Ms. Leonard’s lessons on the mind, I decided to give Divestment a shot. I had admittedly expected a group of deadpan activists with a nihilistic attitude towards life (hey, they were fighting climate change, after all), but what I encountered were several of the most interesting, passionate, funny, and intelligent peers I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. I soon assimilated into the group as a regular member and eventually became one of its social media team leaders.

Tufts Divest for Our Future has serious goals. But one of the things I love about being a part of it is never having to stress out if I’m sick or too busy with homework to miss a meeting. My favorite activists are truly understanding, and if you’re interested in joining, you don’t have to fear being yelled at for taking some time off. The truth is, some people come and go, but the effort of the group is unwavering and focused. Although I would like to avoid an arrest record, I read in awe as I found that two of my group friends, Emily Edgerly and Shea Riester, made national news when they were arrested for protesting the Keystone XL pipeline at the TransCanada office in Westborough, MA.

The truth is, I could never be as daring and self-sacrificing as some of my fellow Divestment friends are. I am merely a behind-the-scenes person, helping out with social media and enjoying the time spent together. And when the famous Annie Leonard visited the Tufts campus in Medford for a lecture in October, I was able to partake in an unforgettably interesting conversation with her, amongst a few of my newly found friends.

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Ms. Leonard even signed my copy of her book with a personal message!

Whether we’re sitting in a meeting and plotting strategies or simply playing a third round of Bananagrams, I look around the room and know that I have found my place at Tufts. Now I challenge you, dear reader, to check out Tufts Divest in Our Future. We’re holding our first meeting of the spring semester on Monday, January 21st at 9 PM in the East Hall lounge. Even if you don’t fancy yourself a die-hard activist, give it a try. You may just meet some of your future friends.

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