Last Friday, the student group Refuel Our Future hosted a clothing exchange on the Beach in order to promote support for fossil fuel divestment by the University. Divestment is the practice of reducing or eliminating financial investments in certain sectors or businesses; recently, the movement for fossil fuel divestment has been gaining steam.
Senior Elly Ren, a representative of Refuel our Future, noted the significance of the event in light of the movement’s recent successes at other schools.
“We are holding this event, known as DivestFest, kind of in celebration of different wins by the climate and divestment movement,” she said in an interview with The News-Letter. “Specifically, Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard; their campaign was successful two weeks ago, which led to Harvard divesting. Also, Boston University today announced today they were divesting.”
Ren also remarked that the day was a global climate strike and the group hoped to demonstrate solidarity with climate crisis protesters across the world.
Sophomore DJ Quezada explained why he and his friends chose to participate in the clothing exchange.
“We thought it would be engaging... and [it] also conforms to our idea of mutual exchange without profit incentives,” he said. “We’re not selling clothes. We’re not trying to make money out of this. We’re just trying to create a nice community event where we can talk about issues like climate change and such.”
Quezada also elaborated why he supported Refuel Our Future’s goals of Hopkins ending its fossil fuel investments.
“I feel that divestment is particularly important as an issue with the financial resources that Hopkins commands in its endowment, with hundreds of millions invested in furthering fossil fuel extraction around by the world,” he said. “I think that it’s important for us as an institution to put our money where our mouth is when we talk about sustainability and environmental action.”
Quezada argued that actions like setting up recycling bins and issuing metal straws were insufficient; he believes that solutions to climate change should tackle structural causes. He commented that divesting from fossil fuel companies would then deprive said companies of the resources to engage in further fossil fuel extraction operations.
The University did not respond to The News-Letter’s request for comment.
Sophomore Eirnin Mahoney stated that they chose to attend the clothing exchange due to their aversion to the environmentally problematic aspects of fast fashion.
“At the end of high school, I started to get more aware of the negative impacts of fast fashion on the environment,” they said. “Since then, I tried to exclusively buy things secondhand. This is that, but it’s free.”
Specifically, Mahoney highlighted that fast fashion clothes wear out quickly, often intentionally designed to do so in order to drive additional purchases. This produces and encourages additional waste. They mentioned how dyes used in the manufacturing process often pollute the water supply. Mahoney added that garment workers in the fast fashion industry often suffer terrible conditions.
“A lot of brands, like H&M, source their labor overseas because it’s cheaper,” they said. “There’s not a lot of oversight, so people are working in really dangerous conditions. They don’t get paid nearly enough. There’s the human rights abuse part of that.”
Ren noted that Refuel Our Future plans to take legal action against the University on the issue of fossil fuel divestment. However, that is the extent of what the group can disclose at the moment.