Members of Climate Justice at Boston College marched up the Million Dollar Stairs in the 50-degree weather, under strong winds and overcast skies, to hold a vigil in front of the statue of St. Ignatius on Friday afternoon. The protesters used the opportunity to renew their call for University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., and the school’s Board of Directors to divest from fossil fuels and the oil companies Shell, BP, and Exxon-Mobil.
The march was partly an effort to make other students aware of the organization at the beginning of a new school year, but was also a response to Pope Francis’ recent encyclical that addressed climate change and its victims around the world, particularly in developing countries.
Zack Muzdakis, MCAS ’17, retold a story about a fisherman from the Pacific Islands that he heard when Bill McKibben, a prominent environmentalist, spoke at BC last year. For the fisherman, Muzdakis said, climate change was a matter of life and death because rising sea levels—an effect attributed to climate change—directly threatened the existence of his community.
“We are squabbling over 0.005-percent risk in shifting investments, while people like this man are fighting for their lives,” Muzdakis said. “Climate Justice at BC would like to ask everyone at Boston College to step outside of themselves and take a look at what our actions are doing to people in the global community.”
Friday’s march was the first event that CJBC has held as a registered student organization (RSO), and the first event that has been approved by the administration. The small turnout for the march, however, caused Muzdakis to question whether their registered status has actually hurt the group.
Last year, he said, they were getting big turnouts for their rallies and events, and by becoming a registered organization, CJBC has lost some of the sense of rebellion and power it had at the end of the spring semester. Although he said he couldn’t speak on behalf of the group, Muzdakis believed that the administration conceded the registered status in order to take away the narrative of the University suppressing CJBC, without addressing the real issue of divestment.
“Becoming an RSO was just a step along the way to show that we’re gaining recognition with the school’s administration,” Muzdakis said. “I personally believe that we could get a lot more accomplished if we weren’t an RSO.”
Members of CJBC were joined by students in the School of Theology and Ministry who were in support of the Pope’s encyclical and were concerned that BC is not doing enough as a Jesuit institution to fight climate change with their investments.
Eddie Sloane, a Ph.D. candidate in STM, said that the Pope’s encyclical was a call to action for everyone to take a closer look at their own actions.
The encyclical, he said, has ignited a discussion within the STM and did a good job connecting the broader tradition of Catholic social teaching to environmental and ecological issues.
BC, Sloane said, needs to embrace the teachings of Pedro Arrupe, a widely known Jesuit form the mid-20th century. Arrupe believed that institutions, especially Jesuit institutions, should not profit from injustice, and Sloane said that the encyclical was a call to action for institutions like BC.
“BC profits from investments in fossil fuels, and the Pope’s encyclical makes it very clear that there’s an injustice,” Sloane said. “The fossil fuels are disproportionately affecting the poor and we’re called to have a preferential option for the poor.”
Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor