Oil, Hoax, and Gas

The Hoax

This Thursday, October 16, 2014, a strange article was circulated claiming that Tufts University is divesting from oil companies while drilling for a recently-discovered pocket of natural gas under Curtis Hall. It further announced that Tufts would be selling the gas to British Petroleum, which would also sponsor a petroleum engineering center as part of the Chemistry Department in Pearson Hall. Upon closer inspection and communication with President Monaco, it was determined that the article was a hoax.

President Monaco let's us know that it's a hoax.

President Monaco let’s us know that it’s a hoax.

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A hoax, I tell you!

 

 

Digging for Truth

A few other hints further elucidated the article’s phony nature: it was posted on bostonglobetoday.com, not bostonglobe.com, the Globe’s real website. The article’s comment section could not be viewed, and a disclaimer was posted above the article asking commenters to instead email the author directly (the author’s email address looked like, but was in fact not, a valid Boston Globe email address).

Students investigated the fake URL, which has so far clarified very little: it was registered on October 10, 2014 by Domains By Proxy, LLC., so no human name was given. Student members of Tufts Climate Action have since contacted reporters at the Boston Globe to ask for information and to ask if they would cover this strange hoax and the work that is actually being done on campus around divestment, natural gas, and other climate issues. One student, Ben Weilerstein, spoke with a reporter who informed him that it is unlikely the Globe would cover the story. Nonetheless, Jesse requested a link to the phony article. He also mentioned that the Globe’s lawyers might investigate the fake post, since it used the Globe’s name and logo.

 

A gas flare burns at a fracking site in rural Bradford County, Pennsylvania.

A gas flare burns at a fracking site in rural Bradford County, Pennsylvania.

The History

Today’s hoax article, as absurd and unexpected as it was, is based in the history of a campaign that has been working hard to pressure Tufts University’s Board of Trustees to remove the $70 million that it invests in the fossil fuel industry. The fossil fuel divestment campaign at Tufts formally began in September 2012, when a small group of students began a petition calling on the University to divest. In the beginning of fall semester 2013, over 1000 students voted in favor of fossil fuel divestment, passing a student referendum demanding divestment. This referendum, a variety of student protests, a faculty petition with almost 50 signatures and an alumna petition with over 200 signatures, forced Tufts’ administration to meet and negotiate with students. These negotiations culminated in the Trustees voting not to divest.

By choosing to continue investing in fossil fuels, Tufts is supporting an industry that causes at least 5 million deaths every year and that fundamentally alters the chemical composition of our atmosphere with numerous destructive consequences while blocking world governments’ attempts to confront this crisis.
Students are now organizing and building power to increase the pressure on Tufts’ trustees to divest from fossil fuels. Join us. Click here to sign the student petition to demand that Tufts’ divest from fossil fuels, come to our movie screening of Gasland 2, an intriguing and difficult film about fracking, and come to our weekly meetings in Miner 112 at 8:30 PM. You can contact the group on facebook or twitter and reach out directly to some of our student leaders:
Shana Gallagher (shana.gallagher@tufts.edu), Evan Bell (evan.bell@tufts.edu), Lila Kohrman-Glaser (lila.kohrman_glaser@tufts.edu) and Makaylah Respicio (makaylah.respicio@tufts.edu).

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Press Release: Tufts Students Meet with Trustees to Demand Fossil Fuel Divestment

from gofossilfree.org

Here’s a press release from the divestment crew at Tufts about a big meeting they just had with their board of trustees: 

Boston, MA—Early Thursday morning, students with the group Tufts Divest for our Future met for the first time with the Investment Committee of Tufts University’s Board of Trustees to discuss divesting the endowment from fossil fuels.

While four students engaged in dialogue with the Board members, over forty other students and community members stood outside the meeting with signs. The group supports divestment as a method to draw attention to the conflict between the fossil fuel industry’s business plan and the hope of preserving a stable climate system.

In the meeting, the Trustees told students that roughly 5% of Tufts’ endowment is invested in fossil fuels. They made it clear that divestment would be a “challenging and difficult” process crequiring serious financial consideration, but invited the students to meet with them again in two weeks.

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“We appreciate the administration’s willingness to communicate with us and continue discussion,” said Anna Lello-Smith, a junior at Tufts who was among the group of four students that met with the Board. “At the same time, there is very little time left to combat the climate crisis. We hope the Board understands the urgency of the problem and acts with similar urgency themselves.”

Tufts Divest for Our Future began its fossil fuel divestment campaign last September, asking the university to divest from the top 200 oil, coal, and gas corporations that possess the majority of the world’s carbon reserves. After a semester of teach-ins and workshops, over 1,100 students and 185 alumni have signed petitions in support of divestment.

The Tufts campaign is part of a nationwide movement with over 200 other colleges and universities. The movement, supported by 350.org and other organizations such as Cambridge-based Better Future Project, won early victories last fall when Unity College and the City of Seattle announced intentions to divest.

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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.