A Pretzel for your Thoughts?
Brandeis Climate Justice delivered free pretzels to students in exchange for conversations about climate change and divestment.
The pavement shone from the recent rain as two members of Brandeis Climate Justice embarked on their shift for their yearly free food delivery event, which took place on Oct. 3. The annual event is a way for the group to raise awareness for their cause and start dialogue on campus about climate-related issues. Both club members were armed with scripts explaining BCJ’s position on divestment and their campaign goals, as well as containers of handmade chocolate-covered pretzels. They were on a mission: to deliver the pretzels — along with information about climate change. They ventured through campus, stopping at dorms to deliver their bittersweet message. Some students they spoke with were excited by the prospect of the University divesting completely from fossil fuels, while others expressed skepticism, which prompted more discussion. The club is in their seventh year of attempting to get the Brandeis Board of Trustees to divest in fossil fuel related investments, and has been doing the pretzel drive for years.
Brandeis Climate Justice’s mission, according to their Presence page, is to “empower members of the Brandeis community to bring their unique perspectives to a community of independent social justice activists working in solidarity & love in the multi-issue struggle for climate justice.” Students interested in learning more about the group’s efforts could order a free chocolate pretzel delivery in exchange for a conversation about divestment.
The event was advertised on BCJ’s Facebook page and on Brandeis class pages, and the club received 26 orders — a number considered respectable by the group. “That’s around the same number as my [first] year,” said Isabelle Graj ’21, who’s been a member of the club since starting as a midyear three years ago. She added, “That’s a really good number, we are happy with that.” Per BCJ’s Facebook page, other efforts to raise awareness about the group’s divestment goals have included events such as a banner drop and phone call campaigns in the spring of 2019, and a march to the Board of Trustees meeting. The annual pretzel delivery event follows on the heels of the International Climate Strike this past September, which left many people newly impassioned about climate change and youth activism.
The goal of the Oct. 3 event was to start conversations with students around campus about climate change and to allow BCJ to explain their divestment campaign. “It’s really just a way to build more communication to students on campus about this club and about this campaign and just to get people to talk about these issues,” Graj explained. “This semester we really want to focus on building our base and training people so that more people can know divestment is a thing on campus and that our university is investing climate change,” she said.
Last December, University President Ron Liebowitz shared with students that the University will no longer invest directly in groups that profit from fossil fuels, per a Dec. 4, 2018 Justice article. “Last semester, we had our first headway in the campaign where the University had a vote on divestment and what came from that vote was a freeze on the investment for the next three years, and that just means that they will not put any more investments into the fossil fuel industry for three years, but they are not going to sell any of the ones that they already have,” explained Graj. Three years was a strategic choice for the Board in that “three years is a tricky number because a lot of numbers of BCJ will flip,” Graj said.
BCJ has not yet had luck in convincing the Board to accept all of their demands. “For most of the campaign, the Board and the University have been very reluctant to talk about divestment or make any leeway on it,” Graj explained. However, the progress they made last semester was “a good push in the right direction because they are thinking and considering it. University President Ron Liebowitz was a key player in that because he really pushed the board to give us something so that it was not just a flat out ‘no,’” Graj said. “We understand it’s not our full ask and we still have to push. But we want to recognize that it’s something to celebrate. It gives us hope that we are going in a direction towards divestment. It’s not an impossible thing that is never going to happen. We believe it’ll happen really soon,” Graj said.
Despite the difficult task ahead, Graj is still hopeful that this event and others will push Brandeis in the direction of their goal. “The conversations are not just gonna end there, we’re hoping that these conversations will build with those people’s friends, those people’s social networks,” she said. “If the University came out and said that we don’t want to support an industry that is ruining our students’ chances at their future and they are coming here to invest in our future. If they would make a statement like that, that would mean a lot.”
The club, which meets every Wednesday from 5-6 p.m. in the Village TV Lounge, has other events planned for the rest of the year, but none which they would share as of press time.
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