The Fossil Free UC Retreat at SLO Ranch

by Emili Abdel-Ghany, Fossil Free Intern at UC Davis

Inspired. Connected. Informed. Supported. Reinvigorated. I can feel the revolution in the room. This weekend is a landmark for the fossil fuel divestment campaign in the UC.

Representatives from Davis, Berkeley, Riverside, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles including representatives from student governments and UCSA, gathered in San Luis Obispo for the first ever Fossil Free UC Organizer Retreat in solidarity with one another for a weekend of peer education, visioning, and strategy. What made this weekend different from any other aspect of the campaign was the shared energy and cohesion of so many campuses in one focused space for so long. Having worked on this campaign in so many venues for over a year and a half, I have never spent this much time with so many people working on the same cause. There was strength in our dedication to the space, the campaign, and to each other.

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Facilitators used a diverse set of styles to discuss and explain a range of topics for the campaign, including the history of the Fossil Free UC campaign, the structure of the UC administration, intersectionality and coalition-building with frontline solidarity, endowment and investment basics, the ask/reinvestment and the political imperative for divestment. This allowed people at any stage of the campaign to plug in and gain something from the space. Madi Oliver is a first year at UC Davis and part of the on-campus CSSC chapter. When asked how she felt about this weekend, she explained:

“As a freshman and someone who is new to this kind of professional activism, I feel like I have been empowered with more than just the excitement of change but the knowledge of what my campaign is working against.”

Excitement of change and knowledge are exactly what each member of this campaign will bring back to their campus and to the UC work as a whole. After learning the basic and more advanced tools for understanding this campaign, campuses were able to envision ways in which they could strengthen their campaigns and, thereby, invigorate the climate justice movement. Campuses strategized tangible applications of knowledge and excitement to bring back, and bonds were strengthened between organizers.

This retreat was a dream and a necessity for a very long time. Being one of the only schools in the world to have multiple campuses spread across hundreds of miles, working together has been inherently difficult. When each person first voiced his or her reasons for being there and part of this campaign, the commonalities were overwhelming.  People were snapping and smiling in agreement, resonating with new and old friends alike. We are constantly moving forward with every question, goal, share, laugh, diagram, and post-it map.

This campaign is creating avenues for students to have more power in administrative decisions of our UC. The recent agreement to create a task force on fossil fuel divestment within the UC Office of the President comes as exciting news at a crucial time.  We need to act now if we are to stop any more egregious human rights offenses by the fossil fuel industry. The UC can win this campaign – many more know and believe this after this weekend. However, our campaign is just one part of a larger climate justice movement, a movement towards fossil freedom.

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Check out CSSC’s Fossil Free page to get more info on this incredible campaign. 

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