Cambridge Zero Carbon Society organise Boat Race protest

Image credit: Cambridge Zero Carbon Society

Cambridge Zero Carbon Society today used the annual Oxbridge Boat Races to protest against both universities’ “immoral” lack of divestment. The society dropped banners and lit orange flares over Hammersmith Bridge as the men’s teams rowed beneath them.

Teaming up with the Oxford University Climate Justice Campaign, Zero Carbon’s protest aimed to force the universities to move faster on divestment from fossil fuels, following the lead of over 60 other British universities who have already divested. The race was unaffected by the protest, but drew a great deal of attention from the media, following a swimmer jumping into the Thames in 2015 to protest against social injustices.

At the same time as the banner drop, Zero Carbon released a statement explaining their motivation for the protest. The lack of movement from the universities, in spite of public opinion backing a change of policy, encouraged Zero Carbon and Climate Justice Campaign members to peacefully protest at the Boat Race “to further expose the reckless activity of universities.”

Highlighting the increasing number of natural disasters, the statement said that “the colonial gaze of Cambridge and Oxford continues to ignore current climate emergency,” calling both universities “complicit” in increasing climate change.

“Multiple petitions, democratic votes, and years of student campaigning have urged both universities to divest, but blinded by short-term profit, [the universities] have refused to budge.” Zero Carbon pointed out the “abdication” of responsibility to society by the UK’s top two universities, which “pump money into a climate crisis which threatens unprecedented social and ecological collapse.”

“TIME IS RUNNING OUT,” the society later tweeted, using the event hashtag, #TheBoatRace2018. Zero Carbon’s online activity has been liked and retweeted by politicians as well as members of the media.

In an attempt to use this publicity to keep the pressure on both universities’ Vice-Chancellors, the statement demands that both Oxford and Cambridge commit to fully divesting from fossil fuels. Professor Stephen Toope, the Cambridge Vice Chancellor, has also been called on to act in accordance with his expressed beliefs on climate change and to use his power to lead Cambridge divestment.

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