[This blog was written by Steven Myburgh from Fossil Free Stellenbosch]
Fossil Free Stellenbosch (FFS) is a group of students at Stellenbosch University, formed in response to the climate crisis, and has divestment from fossil fuels as its first campaign.
Divestment is the opposite of an investment – it simply means getting rid of stocks, bonds, or investment funds that are unethical or morally ambiguous. Universities and other institutions put billions in these same kinds of investments to generate income to help them run. FFS is asking Stellenbosch University to divest its endowment from fossil fuels, with the logic that it is wrong to support and profit from an industry whose activities are compromising the future of its students and people everywhere.
As part of the regional week of action around climate change, Fossil Free Stellenbosch decided to host a climate change action week. Three events were held over the week. The first event saw the team engaging with students around a mobile climate change game show on the university plain. Students were invited to face off against each other on multiple choice questions around climate change. The victors then had a chance to spin a spinning wheel, and win a number of prizes – including ‘climate change’ shirts handmade by the team. The second event invited students to attend a screening of the film ‘Merchants of Doubt’, followed by a discussion around climate change. The last event was dubbed the ‘photo mob’, where students gathered around the statue on the university plain, and held up letters to spell out ‘divest US’ as a photo opportunity. The US has a double meaning: us, the students of Stellenbosch; or US, the acronym for the University of Stellenbosch. After the photo, a few members of the group hand-delivered letters addressed to members of the university management, outlining the climate crisis, introducing the concept of divestment as a response to the crisis, and asking for a meeting. The letter was made open by being published on Bonfiire Stellenbosch, an online platform for critical debate on campus.
University management has responded positively to the request for a meeting, scheduled to take place in November. Climate change action week was made possible by the support of 350Africa.org.