The real fight should be to save the planet we love – not a war on Procrastination



In the immediate aftermath of discovering that on the 20th of January, a certain climate change denier will be given an unbelievably powerful platform on which to sell the story that climate change is a hoax created by China, I was just another of the hundreds of millions of blips who felt slapped in the face by the enormity of a power imbalance where the brave and heartfelt actions of millions of people (such as those witnessed during the Global Climate March or the Dacota Access Pipeline protests) were brushed aside without a backward glance. We have the  research to demonstrate that the days of drilling for moore coal and building new pipelines are over if we have any remote intention of capping temperature rise at 2ºC, seeing as average temperatures are already 1.3ºC of the way there. We have the data to show that climate change is a key factor in making extreme weather events more common and more severe. We even have grim accounts like this one of the lives of people which have been torn apart due in no small part to climate change. So, no matter how exhausted we are, we are just going to have to keep standing up for our planet and the lives of all of its people until the Donald Trumps of planet Earth emerge from their bubbles—except we have to do it with the comparatively infinitesimal resources for influencing change that each of the rest of us has access to.

That’s essentially why I have spent no small part of the last two years campaigning locally to convince The University of Auckland to join a global movement to stigmatize the fossil fuel industry in light of their blasé attitude to wrecking the planet, thanks to contributing 65% of our world’s greenhouse gas emissions. This global movement urges individuals, institutions, cities and superannuation funds to harness the power of their investments by removing them from the 200 fossil fuel companies projected to cause the most harm by emitting the most CO2. My fellow campaigners and I are invested in the divestment movement as a useful cog in the wheel of our university’s stance on climate change because it gives the university a great opportunity to make a strong and influential statement about the pressing need to shift the status quo away from the 100% profit-hungry business model of the fossil fuel industry.

So why is the University of Auckland currently showing utter disinterest in the concept?

  1. According to our Vice Chancellor Prof. Stuart McCutcheon, divesting is hypocritical because we still rely on fossil fuels.

This would potentially be a good argument – if somehow it were practical to transition the university to running entirely off renewables by tomorrow. Obviously, it will be a gradual process. For the time being, we are forced to rely on the fossil fuel industry to a certain extent – and it’s precisely because we want to accelerate the transition away from the industry that we want the university to divest. Meanwhile, the University are quadrupling their endowment pool by fundraising $300 million to address “challenges that now seem intractable – [like climate change”, as our Vice Chancellor stated. It’s a funding boost “for all our futures”, according to their tag line, and you’ll never guess where that money going towards all our futures will be invested. Just to remind you, the Vice Chancellor was the one calling divestment hypocritical.

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  1. Also according to the VC, divestment may well result in lower returns for the University.

If we thought there was a good chance divestment was seriously going to harm scholarship numbers and research grants, we wouldn’t be advocating it. Ethics are important to us in investment decisions, but obviously returns do matter, too. Happily, there is a strong case for divestment being a financially prudent decision, due to the fact that the valuation of fossil fuel stocks Is based on the ill-founded assumption that they will all be burned. If the university didn’t believe us showing them so, it should be pretty clear from the fact that the University of Otago and Victoria University have both fully divested from fossil fuels already. Prof. McCutcheon also questions whether donors would care about ethical concerns like fossil fuels, and an Australian think tank has shown that they certainly do, with most university alumni they surveyed saying they would be more likely to donate to their university if it divested.

  1. The University administration just don’t want to put any time into bothering to divest – or even making a decision on divesting, for that matter.

The University has not put time into being quite that blunt, either, but what else can we make of the University Council’s decision not to vote on divestment? The Auckland University Students’ Association president tabled a report on the topic at a council meeting, which requested the issue be put to the vote. The report was received and commented on, but the Council (or rather, the Chancellor) was not even willing to allow the 3200 of us who have signed a petition calling for divestment to find out the opinion of Council on the topic. If that wasn’t enough, the key decision-makers, who in our case are the University of Auckland Foundation, are yet to agree to table our letters at their Board meetings, or to so much as reply to an email on the topic, other than to quote their website and remind us that they are unavailable to meet with us.

We are asking for divestment because we are standing up for the planet, for its people and all living things. We have built a local movement because we care about these aims, but we could do without the need to persuade a university administration laiden with apathy and convenient disinterest to give us the basic respect of listening to our perspective and responding to our request. If we are going to negotiate, our interest lies in talking about any valid points of concern they may raise regarding wording and implementing a policy which will see them divest, and not in expending our energy convincing them to talk to us in the first place.

At Fossil Free Uoa, we nonetheless remain unphased. If you want to tell the University of Auckland that the real fight is supposed to be to save the planet we love, instead of being a war on procrastination, please do. After all, it’s supposed to be a fight for all our futures.


Áine has recently completed a conjoint degree in Music, English and Spanish at the University of Auckland, and is co-president of the student-lead group Fossil Free UoA which campaigns for the University to divest from the fossil fuel industry.


  1. The fact the planet is warming is not really debatable, whether it was man or whether man can now influence global warming is more the issue.

  2. The fact the planet is warming is not really debatable, whether it was man or whether man can now influence global warming is more the issue.

    • The old “you can’t fix it anyway” argument.
      Yeah, that one comes up around the about the same time as “more carbon dioxide is beneficial to growing stuff”.

      The only debates worth having now are about:
      * how do we get action, fast
      * what are the most effective actions

      Kyoto was 25 years ago, 25 years – get real. No impact here in NZ? Insurance payouts for weather related damage from 1980-1997 was $236m, from 1998-2015 was $1,168m and that’s from just a bit over one degree of warming. Tim Grafton from Insurance Council of NZ is predicting annual payouts of $1.6bn.

  3. The University of Auckland is business-as-usual institution, fully committed to rendering the Earth uninhabitable in a matter of decades for the sake of a few dollars more now. Like most institutions in NZ, it is rotten to the core -‘burn more coal’ Chris de Freitus and all that.

    These are truly fascinating times, as everything predicted decades ago comes to fruition, and institutionalised inertia and denial of reality continue to reign supreme.

    Arctic ice cover is not just the lowest ever for the time of year but has actually declined when it would normally be increasing rapidly!

    And the atmospheric carbon dioxide level is at a record high and rising like never before, of course, since fossil fuel addition is promoted throughout most of the world.

    Daily CO2
    November 16, 2016:  404.70 ppm
    November 16, 2015:  400.43 ppm
    Up 4.27 ppm date-to-date.

    Oh well, it’s ‘only’ the future of the next generation that is at stake, so why worry when there is short-term money to be made out of operating scams?

    Denial of reality will probably be possible for as much as another 3 years, after which everything, including the University of Auckland start to go kaput.

  4. didn’t Mammoth & Dinosaur Farts cause the melting of the ice age?

    [Slippery, in future please provide a real email address. Further use of your current bogus account will result in your posts being rejected for publication. – ScarletMod]

  5. Well, the lesser evil seems to have done better with the popular vote than first thought:

    “Hillary Clinton’s lead in the popular vote over President-elect Donald Trump has surpassed 1 million, according to Dave Wasserman of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

    As the final vote counts continue to trickle in a week after Election Day, Wasserman’s tally found that Clinton had 61,963,234 votes to Trump’s 60,961,185 as of Tuesday afternoon.

    Wasserman tweeted that votes from Montgomery County, Maryland, pushed Clinton’s lead over the 1-million mark, with the Democratic nominee receiving roughly 20,000 more votes, compared to about 3,000 for Trump.

    Votes are still being tabulated in California, Utah and Washington, according to Tracy Lewis, elections operations manager for the Associated Press. The result in Michigan remains too close to call.”

    We are getting a fossil fuel defending President Trump instead of perhaps a lesser evil president who may at least have stuck to some of what Obama already committed to.

    Indeed, I am worried about where the journey is going, because if the US opt out of signed agreements, others may choose to also slacken off in their efforts.

    What was agreed in Paris was anyway a minimalistic kind of “achievement”, in my view.

    • Clinton may have paid lip service to concerns about climate change, but she is in the pocket of the same financial industry that is funding fossil fuel exploration and extraction. She said nothing critical about the Dakota Access Pipeline, let alone supportive of the direct action against it. I could go on. Electing her would have been no better in terms of real action on reducing carbon emissions than electing Trump.

  6. “to join a global movement to stigmatize the fossil fuel industry in light of their blasé attitude to wrecking the planet”

    How un-wow can you get?

    Was nothing useful learned from the wars with words in various delightful venues, conducted by the good, great, and temporary in various public services? Rio. Tokyo. Missed targets. Thick politicians and venal lobbyists for lazy industries.

    A ‘war’ is a stupid diversion of creative energy, synergy, people, and practical responses. I thought we learned that a long time ago.

    Someone did a blight on the first poster – yet he’s right. Whether people can now mitigate/reverse or support rapid adaption to global warming is more the issue.

    If McCutcheon’s market is with the ‘No ‘T’isn’t’ people – there it is.

    Meanwhile – there are other places of learning which have said, ‘We see our future in the development of responses and initiatives. We’ll organise ourselves to team in a different way for getting ethical income streams.’ They could be worth your money and attendance.

    McCutcheon’s choice is actually okay. Remember – the last iceman always makes money in the short term.

    If you need to snap at someone – try our useless government with its ‘competitive model’ for science and research funding. They’ve learned NOTHING since Muldoon and his ‘picking winners.’ They’ve starved innovation and made foraging for income a higher priority than learning and doing.

    PS – if you prefer word wars, please continue. You can’t change a belief by force, though.

    Otherwise, please consider a course of study that pitches you into collaboration and co-operation with colleagues from across the world to find out, invent, investigate, and generally behave in practical ways to see if we can continue as a species, despite our inherent stupidity.

  7. I’m glad to see this post generating discussion. Andrea, evidently words without actions often are next to fruitless, but divestment is undoubtedly an action. We, not the fossil fuel industry, have control over whether we invest in that industry. Shareholder engagement with the industry has a terrible record (see: ). As such, divestment is a practical step which will speak louder than words alone as the movement spreads more and more. A quarter of UK universities have now made divestment commitments ( ).

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