HBS students co-organize climate security rally

DC Rally
Daniel Gastfriend

By Ali Rahman and Daniel Gastfriend

More than 130 students from Boston-area schools, including Harvard Business School, gathered in Harvard Yard on Friday Nov. 18 to protest president-elect Donald Trump’s recent appointment of climate skeptic Myron Ebell to his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Transition Team. A collection of students, including HBS RCs, organized the protest to demand a strong U.S. stance on climate security and against global warming.

The protest comes not only in response to Ebell’s appointment, but also to Trump’s rhetoric on climate issues before his election. Student groups have raised concerns about Trump’s threat to undercut both the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, both of which acknowledge and combat anthropogenic climate change. Students have also taken issue with controversial statements that Trump has made in the past, including his widely-discredited assertion that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

HBS students at the demonstration emphasized the economic case for action against climate change. “Many industries have a tremendous amount at stake when it comes to climate change,” said Ronnie Brodsky, rally coordinator and joint student at HBS and Harvard Kennedy School. “But in order for it to be competitively feasible to make carbon efficient investments, many businesses need carbon pricing policy and an assurance that the U.S. government will maintain a strong stance against climate change. That’s why literally hundreds of companies, including Unilever, Monsanto, eBay, Intel, DuPont, Nike, HP, General Mills, Starbucks, Tesla, L’Oreal USA—the list goes on and on—have been publicly urging the U.S. administration to stay in the Paris Climate Agreement and to continue backing low-carbon policies.”

Demonstrators called on Trump and Congress to prevent a climate change skeptic from leading the EPA, the Energy Department, the Interior Department, and other U.S. agencies with sway over U.S. climate change policy. They also called on the U.S. government to ensure continued U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement and to support policies to mitigate climate change while keeping industry competitive.

Co-organizer Linda Cheung, a student at MIT Sloan, added, “Some of my friends think protesting may be pointless, but I think that protests serve as a way for young people like us to engage in a democracy, learn how to organize and share our voices on what matters to us. It’s just one step in many that we have to do to solve this climate crisis together.” The rally brought together students and club leaders from nine local universities (Harvard, MIT, Northeastern, Tufts, Brandeis, Boston College, Berklee, Gordon College, and Merrimack College) as well as Harvard alumni and leadership from national and local non-profit organizations, including 350 and The Better Future Project.

The protest was conducted in concert with hundreds of students from Washington, D.C., who held a large sister march on Myron Ebell’s Washington office. Following the Boston protest, students pledged online to collectively take more than 400 follow-up actions, including contacting representatives, writing op-eds, and attending town hall meetings. Adds Brodsky, “I think that we’re facing times when business and civil society communities should come together to push the government on the critical threat of climate change. That’s why we’re organizing here.”

Daniel Gastfriend, from Newton, MA, is a joint MBA – MPA/International Development student at HBS and the Kennedy School. Prior to coming to Harvard, he worked as a management consultant with Bain & Company in South Africa and as a policy consultant with IDinsight in Uganda and India. You can follow his writing at the Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/daniel-gastfriend.