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Climate change vigil on the Rabb steps offers opportunity for members of the community to come together

During a climate change vigil at the base of the Rabb steps, students, faculty and staff passed out fliers on Friday, Oct. 19. The fliers were invitations to “Climate & The Human Consequences of Irreversible Change,” an event that will feature Jim Anderson, a climate scientist from Harvard.

The climate change vigil was in part a response to a report released on Oct. 8 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of scientists convened by the United Nations. The IPCC warned that if the rate of greenhouse gas emissions remains steady, the planet could stand to warm by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, causing flooding, droughts and wildfires and killing off as much as 99 percent of coral reefs.

The demonstrators at the vigil included members of Faculty Against the Climate Threat (FACT), the Multifaith Chaplaincy and the Brandeis Staff Action Team on Climate Change. They held signs and spoke to students to raise awareness about climate change. “We’re terrified. That’s why we’re here,” said Rabbi Liza Stern, the Acting Director of the Department of Spiritual and Religious Life.

Standing by the steps with a sign, Amy Rinaldo, Assistant Director of English Language Programs and a member of Brandeis Staff Action Team on Climate Change, described how the enormity and immediacy of the threat laid out in the IPCC report felt daunting. “It doesn’t feel like it’s affecting our everyday, but I think we’re seeing that it is and it’s going to continue to. I’m feeling very powerless. Even just having this vigil, it’s like getting out there and making sure people know that there are a lot of others who care.”

Stern and Rinaldo echoed what other participants said about the vigil—they felt motivated to do something in the face of a looming threat.

Some of the demonstrators also stood in support of divestment, an issue that has been the subject of multiple demonstrations on campus. Brandeis has invested money in companies that use fossil fuels, which significantly contribute to global warming according to the IPCC report.

The Board of Trustees has spent years pushing back the date of a vote on divestment. Last April, George D. Krupp, a member of the Board told members of Brandeis Climate Justice (BCJ) that they would vote within 60 days. In June, just before the deadline, President Liebowitz announced in an email that the Board would need to revise a 1974 investment statement, “Brandeis as a Responsible Investor,” before voting on the topic of divestment.

In the most recent report on the September Board of Trustees meeting, President Liebowitz told the student body through email that the Board of Trustees had not voted on an updated version of the investment statement but had discussed the topic of climate change and Brandeis’ role.

The Oct. 19 vigil took place in the middle of climate change week, which spanned from the Oct. 15 to Oct. 21. The vigil was not the only event to acknowledge climate change. Earlier in the week, members of BCJ had hung a banner above the Rabb steps reading,“Climate Change Kills #DivestDeis.” They also passed out fliers reading, “We can’t wait any longer. Do better, Brandeis. DIVEST NOW.”

When asked about divestment at the base of the Rabb steps on Friday, a member of Faculty Against Climate Change (FACC), Sabine von Mering (ENVS/GRALL/WMGS), explained, “Divestment and a statement in support of divestment is really what gives the signal that we say we’re on board with the solution and not part of the problem.”

A banner hung on Oct. 24 outside of the Shapiro Campus Center read, “There is no such thing as an innocent stockholder.”

“Climate & The Human Consequences of Irreversible Change” will take place in Schwartz Auditorium on Oct. 29 at 6:45 p.m. The event is co-sponsored by multiple groups on campus including the Mandel Humanities Working Group on Climate Change as a Threat to Human Civilization and Life as We Know it and the Environmental Studies Program.

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