Why I’m occupying for fossil fuel divestment


Áine Kelly-Costello: Why I’m occupying for Fossil Fuel Divestment


I don’t have a history of breaking the rules. Ever. I was that kid who was scared of wearing a hair-tie the wrong shade of blue.


Today, on May 29 2017, I am peacefully occupying the Vice Chancellor’s wing of the University of Auckland with 13 fellow activists. We are demanding that our Vice Chancellor Prof. Stuart McCutcheon actively support divestment from coal, oil and gas extraction.


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In 2013, my first year of university, I heard some environmental campaigner guy called Bill McKibben tell a story. It was a story of maintaining the status quo, of fearing transition, and of valuing profit above the well-being of people and the planet.



In our Vice Chancellor’s story, we are hypocrites by divesting from coal, oil and gas while we remain dependent on them. In his version, divestment is a tokenistic move which we should avoid, because it won’t turn around climate change on its own.




I’ve been blind all my life. I live in a first-world country and yet I often have to work twice as hard to overcome access barriers that sighted people don’t face. My mother always tells me life’s not fair. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try and make it fairer.




Two and a half years ago, a group of university students, including me, started explaining Bill McKibben’s story to our Vice Chancellor, the University Council and the University Foundations. We reminded them that universities are the critic and conscience of society, and that if they were serious about their efforts to kerb climate change, they would take all practicable steps not only to reduce their own emissions but also to stigmatise the industry which is responsible for polluting and wrecking our planet. We even cited the University’s Strategic Plan. “we cannot plunder the future in order to pay for the present”.





I still don’t like breaking rules, at least those which have a good reason for existing. There are very good reasons why laws against trespass exist. I know.  I also know about the support for my university to divest’ from 3385 petition signers, 240 staff and 23 student organisations including the Auckland University Students Association. I know how many respectful, articulate and well-informed letters, emails and reports we’ve written and continue to write, and I know how many meetings with university officials we’ve presented at.




It’s stuffy in this room, just down the stairs from our Vice Chancellor’s office. I’m dehydrated, the concept of time feels off kilter and I’m reminded of long-haul flying. The plane is currently the ultimate carbon emissions culprit, perhaps. The plane was also once revolutionary, certainly. It remains a connector of humanity, a crosser of geographical boundaries that ultimately bring us closer to each other.




Across at least 76 countries, 732 institutions and over 58,000 individuals have made fossil fuel divestment commitments. And a couple months ago, the CEO of the multinational oil and gas giant Shell announced  that the “biggest challenge” the company is facing is “the fact that societal acceptance of the energy system as we have it is just disappearing”.




We just sung to the Vice Chancellor. * “Do you hear the people’s call? Support divestment for us all. We won’t move until we’re done. We will fight until we’ve won”.


  1. Presumably you yourself will divest from the use of coal, oil and gas extraction and lead by example?

    How about showing us how it is all done by leading a pre-industrial existence and boycotting all associated products of the oil, gas and mining industries?

    Thought not, sounds like to much effort eh? Better just to sit down, moan and cry rather than offer a viable alternative that doesn’t mean a reduction in living standards.

    • That’s another cop-out, Stephen.

      Using your rationale, you should set up your own blogsite and post your comments there, instead of using Forum.

      It’s difficult to offer “viable alternatives” when citizens don’t have access to the same capital funds that the fossil fuel industry can readily exploit. But you hadn’t considered that, have you?

      • I post on here to be the voice of sanity and reason otherwise without me you would be an echo chamber for shrill and baseless opinions.
        There is a reason why fossil fuels have such large capital funds Frank and that is because a lot of people buy there products as they are cheap and reliable. Unlike renewable such as solar and wind which require huge tax payer subsidies. I suppose you didn’t think about that did you, taxpayer just a bottomless pit for you?

        • Stephen and Andy, the sub-text of your nit-picking is that you’re opposed to reducing fossil fuel consumption and supporting the status quo.

          I dismiss your ego-centric claim that you “post on here to be the voice of sanity and reason”. With increasing CO2 and temperature, that is no longer tenable. Your “voice of sanity and reason” is anything but.

          Your attempt to distract the debate by introducing certain products is a way of ducking the main issue here and attempting to frame the narrative as one of hypocrisy when it is not.

          If fossil fuels were replaced with alternatives, we wouldn’t need to be consuming carbon-intensive products in the first place.

          • I never said to be the voice of reason.

            I’m not opposed to alternative energy sources. I just don’t see how occupying an office to get someone to sell their shares in fossil fuel companies to someone else is going to make any difference

            • “voice of reason”? I don’t think anyone could call you that, Andy.

              “I’m not opposed to alternative energy sources. I just don’t see how occupying an office to get someone to sell their shares in fossil fuel companies to someone else is going to make any difference”

              Well then, you’ve not been paying attention, have you, Andy?

              Pray tell how else ordinary people will change corporate behaviour?

              You’ve not offered any constructive alternatives, I notice.

              • I would suggest that one could develop alternate energy sources, or build a new house that is energy efficient, as I have done

                If you have no talent or aptitude for the above, occupying a university office is a great idea, that will get you lots of retweets

    • That’s a piss-poor argument, Andy, when our technological consumerist society offers very little by way of alternatives. Your snide comment is meant to justify the status quo, not question it.

      • No Frank. You miss understand. Andy isnt being snide. No. He is truly and legitimately confused by transport.

        He is infact hungry for spaghetti. Would you like cheese with that Andy?

      • Of course you don’t have choices because you all victims exploited by the evil corporate entities. You are forced to sit in centrally heated offices supping your trim soy lattes, mindlessly virtue signalling by supporting divestment campaigns, which upticking comments on the The Guardian online

          • I don’t need to do anything. Neither do the virtue signalling activists either, by the looks of it.

            • No one has heard of you. Your name will disappear. Your house will disappear and your job will disappear and I aint even mad. I don’t even know you but you will disappear

                • Oh don’t be so bloody paranoid, Andy. He meant you’ll disappear into the MISTS OF HISTORY!! People like like are on the wrong side of history and if you are remembered at all, it’ll be in the same vein as Flat Earthers, Creationists, and Luddites.

                  Silly iriot!

                  • Oh forgive me Priss, I thought he wanted to kill me

                    Of course people like me, with engineering and technical backgrounds, will disappear into the mists of history

                    People with “degrees” in intersectional gender-queer theory who occupy university offices to tackle the existential crisis that is “climate change” are obviously the future

                    Woop woop Yay! You go gurl (so proud, yay!)

  2. I totally support your stance. We do not need coal, oil and gas given the “free energy” technology that is being withheld from humanity. Perhaps the sit-in should be demanding the release of those inventions…such as water driven engines available some 70 years or so back.
    I do think that commonsense must prevail regarding CO2 levels, as shown in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6-Sk0FEGGQ
    and not let the past rantings of people like Bill Gates persuade the argument: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gc16H3uHKOA
    Bravo for taking a stand!

  3. Bill McKibben? From 350.org? Made (in)famous by their video of children’s heads explo**** because they didn’t fall for Komrade McKibben’s Kult of ‘Goddess Gaia forgive us for we have sinned’ pap? Give me patience.

  4. Thanks for your commitment and work towards a saner and healthier world. Do not let the fear and mis-info mongers tell us that just because we are activists for healthy energy and sane investments that we are somehow not allowed to drive cars. Stupid stinken thinkin

  5. No one has the right to make any peace or environmental activist feel guilty for driving cars. That’s insane. I support your efforts in divesting and waking up the greedy corporations. Activists need all the support and help they can get. Good on you and your efforts are greatly appreciated.

    • Of course. We have such great activists as Leonardo di Caprio to look up to, as he jets around in private aircraft.

      We no longer expect anyone to actually *do* anything. We just needs some hashtags, a few retweets, and some “divestment” campaigns, which involve selling your stock to someone else

  6. The society we all live in is a heat engine, the only way to reduce our CO2 emissions is to collapse this society …. well that might have been the case back in the dim dark past (no wait, 100 years ago) but it is way way too late to do a goddamn thing to reverse what is in motion now.
    The new ‘middle aged’ could be as young as 2 – 4 years old.
    410 CO2 …. and increasing at a (nearly?) never seen rate, is driving everything we need to survive into the crematorium.
    The futility of this action, is similar to bailing out steerage, even with a 10 lt bucket.
    Nature is emitting more CO2 than humans are now, what we are seeing is called Runaway Climate Change, or is that global warming??
    The horse has well and truly bolted, in fact it has impregnated the neighbours filly.
    Talking about ‘divesting’ in oil extraction, or whatever, is just asking people to start dying a little sooner, we eat fossil fuels.
    I’ve probably pushed my luck, better shut up (

  7. Interesting to read a link on TDB a few days ago about india’s solar power is now cheaper than coal power. Does look like an Aussie coal company wanting to change this however… 1 step forward, 2 steps back!
    Keep getting the message out there!

  8. Thanks for the support and to those who’ve already refuted the hypocrisy argument on here. We were proud to take a stand yesterday.

    • Good on you, Aine!

      The Flat Earthers here (Andy, Dave, and Stephen) will be forgotten in the mists of time. The human race either has to change it’s carbon-polluting ways, or face a dim future.

      We are indebted to people of conscience like you!!

  9. Isn’t it interesting that the trolls on this thread have nothing to offer beyond a few key messages (“raising the alarm about our collective dependence on climate-cooking fossil fuels while still being dependent on fossil fuels is hypocrisy, shut up!”), and cheap below-the-belt jabs. Oh and anecdotes about individual solutions for financially comfortable homeowners, which are a good start, but far from enough to keep global temperature rise under 2%. Stephen, Andy, and Greg are the perfect illustration of the bankruptcy of neo-liberalism, and the fact that we urgently need an entirely new political-economic system that is compatible with the health of the biosphere.

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