Columbia Climate School solidarity with Gaza

Columbia Climate School alumni stand with the Gaza encampment

Alumni of Columbia University Climate School

The past staff and students of Columbia University’s Climate School have issued a statement asserting their solidarity with the Gaza Solidarity Encampment and their campaign for total divestment and full dissociation from institutions profiting from or engaging with Israel’s occupation, apartheid, and genocide in Palestine.  This is a summary of the statement. 

In alignment with Columbia Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw’s teachings on feminist intersectionality, we recognize there can be no climate justice without peace and no peace without the liberation of Palestinian people.

We reaffirm the letters by our fellow alumni, especially those of the Palestinian, Muslim, Jewish, Indigenous, Christian, Latinx, South Asian, and Black communities, of Barnard and Columbia Colleges, and of Columbia’s Journalism, SIPA, MSPH, Teachers College, Social Work, General Studies, and Law Schools.

We applaud the encampments springing up on campuses globally, demonstrating that while the University may repress individuals, this movement will not be silenced. The over 100 students arrested at Columbia’s orders remind us of the land defenders who risk their bodies daily for climate justice and intersectional liberation. They remind us: “You can kill 100 roses, but you cannot stop the coming of spring.” This dedication to freeing Palestine in our lifetime is embodied by students’ chants: “Disclose! Divest! No more suspensions, no more arrests! We will not stop! We will not rest!”

Columbia’s crackdown mirrors and contributes to the irredeemable rising repression and surveillance against climate activists worldwide. As charges of racketeering and domestic terrorism are leveled at nonviolent environmental activists, the fundamental human right to protest is being criminalized. This is especially grave for Black, People of Color, and Indigenous people. The 2023 murder of Indigenous gender-queer land defender Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran — whose death marks the first recorded instance in US history of police killing a climate activist — as well as the National Guard’s 1970 massacre of anti-war students at Kent State, demonstrate the logical conclusion of Columbia’s actions.

We are appalled by reported threats from Columbia and Congress to unleash the National Guard on students and given the history of rampant police brutality against BIPOC people, we wholly reject President Shafik’s claim that NYPD in any way serves the safety of the community. As reports of brutal police repression on campuses proliferate, of students of color tear-gassed, tasered, shot at with rubber bullets and a professor assaulted by police at Emory University, of a police sniper possibly deployed to Indiana University, and of blood staining Emerson College’s cobblestones, we remind you that Columbia started this crackdown. We are disgusted that Columbia, which preaches free speech, is instead normalizing the violent repression of activists and the criminalization of dissent.

Columbia and President Shafik have undermined democratic governance by acting without University Senate approval to authorize violent police force against students, in violation of Statutes Section 444, and by breaching student’s Title VI civil rights. We are beyond alarmed that Columbia is fomenting the same rising fascism that obstructs multilateral climate negotiations. As Columbia moves in lockstep with authoritarian assaults on democracy by unilaterally crushing dissent, it pours fuel on the flames of a burning planet.

The climate crisis and the global military-industrial complex are deeply intertwined. War’s devastation does not stop at human injury and death but also wreaks havoc on ecosystems and the climate via massive emissions, pollution of water and air, and environmental devastation felt for generations. Columbia’s own Center for Global Energy Policy Director Jason Bordoff recently acknowledged this deep link at a recent panel discussing Israel. Alumni activists with Climate Defiance disrupted the discussion to protest the University’s platforming of BlackRock, a top investor in war profiteers and fossil fuels firms, highlighting Columbia’s unethical research funding from such firms. These financial relationships corrupt its research,  undermine academic freedom, and make the University complicit in unconscionable harms, as do repression of activists and ties to war profiteers. Divestment and full dissociation are therefore plainly necessary.

The environmental injustice of Israel’s decades-long siege on Palestine, compounded by climate change, includes water shortages, ecocide, agricultural damage, and infrastructural collapse, caused by embargo, bombing, and humanitarian aid obstruction. Along with disease and death among Palestinians, this drives waste-water system failures, rendering 97% of Palestine’s water undrinkable since at least 2018 and causing sewage to poison coastal ecosystems and harm marine wildlife. We uphold the Palestinian people’s inalienable rights to self-determination and governance which include environmentally just access to clean air, clean water, landback, and the right of return – all upheld by international human rights law.

War and a stable climate are irreconcilable. The US Military is the single largest institutional emitter of greenhouse gasses, outstripping 140 nations, and the first two months of Israel’s 2023 siege on Gaza alone outburned the annual emissions of “over 20 of the most climate-vulnerable” countries. The climate emergency clearly demands the abolition of the military-industrial complex. Thus, we find the University’s investments morally reprehensible and scientifically objectionable and demand full divestment from such firms, including fossil fuel companies that profit off genocide, apartheid, and war — in recognition that these investments are incompatible with the biodiversity, public health, human life, human rights, and a stable climate.

We therefore insist the Climate School and University enact the student and alumni demands, including yet not limited to:

  • Divest financially, including the endowment and research funding, and fully dissociate from entities profiting off of or complicit in Israel’s apartheid, occupation, and genocide against Palestine
  • Enact Columbia University Apartheid Divest’s proposal to the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing, and the Gaza Solidarity Encampment students’ demands to the University
  • Ensurecomplete transparency for all Columbia’s investments, research funding, and financial ties
  • Grant amnesty from legal action and discipline for all students, faculty, and staff facing repression
  • Reinstate the suspended students and the Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace groups, including with class participation, housing, healthcare, and on-campus food access
  • End Columbia’s repression against activists, including NYPD’s immediate and sustained withdrawal from campus and surrounding areas, as well as ceasing of surveillance against activists
  • Boycott academically, by canceling the opening of the Tel Aviv Global Center and the Tel Aviv University Dual Degree Program, because they are currently exclusionary and function as a military laboratory while affirming that discourse and education are ultimately a bridge to peace
  • Upholdacademic freedom, free expression, shared governance, and the right to protest
  • The Climate School must secure amnesty for the current C+S Student Speaker who was arrested and suspended, and ensure they are allowed to speak at Graduation/Class Day
  • The Climate School must publically callfor an end to the genocide and declare support for student anti-war activists

Until these demands are met, we as Climate School Alumni will not accept any new staff or faculty positions, speaking engagements at, or advisory roles with the School, nor will we donate to, organizationally support, culturally contribute to, or promote the University.

This is the summary of a statement by the Alumni of Columbia University’s Climate School.  You can read it in full here.