Dear SOAS Trustees,
We are writing to you as concerned members of the SOAS community. SOAS Students’ Union, SOAS UNISON branch, and SOAS UCU branch have all just passed motions declaring a climate and ecological emergency.
These motions note that there is a climate and ecological crisis. We are living in the sixth mass extinction event, with life forms being annihilated at an unprecedented rate. Climate change and extreme weather are multiplying inequalities in access to and ownership of water, land, food and energy, increasing conflict, and further displacing millions of people.
We recognise that the British state has a particular historical responsibility for creating the these crises as the geopolitical origin of fossil capitalism, which it financed through the profits of racial slavery and spread across the world through settler colonialism and indigenous genocides and ecocides. The climate and ecological crises are a direct result of these centuries of capital accumulation for domination and profit, and the contemporary declarations of ‘crisis’ are integrally linked to these colonial power relations which determine which crises are recognised, when, by whom, and who is made responsible for acting on them. To be explicit, this is not an appeal for SOAS to position itself as a progressive saviour, but an opportunity for SOAS to take responsibility for its historical and ongoing complicity in (re)producing social and ecological harm in the service of colonial and imperial power, and to commit to the necessary steps to reconcile this.
We do not believe that a transition to zero carbon emissions should be framed in terms of managing future risks to Western populations and states or securing property and order. Rather, a just transition across multiple scales and spaces must immediately establish reparations and remediation led by and for Indigenous, Black, brown, queer, trans, disabled and working class communities across the global South and in the global North, who experience the structural violence of pollution, hunger, drought, floods and displacement as extensions of their marginalisation. We also believe that a just transition should establish legal rights for ecosystems to thrive and regenerate, before repairing the effects of ongoing ecocide to prevent the extinction of humans and all species, and in order to maintain a livable, just planet for all.
We, as students, academics, and staff of this institution, call on SOAS to join us in declaring a climate emergency, and to take appropriate steps recognising this state of affairs and its origins.
These steps include:
Committing as an institution to a zero carbon emissions plan by 2030 through a just transition as outlined above
Divesting all financial investments in institutions, corporations and government bodies that profit from extractivism, apartheid and climate and ecological crisis, and boycott institutional affiliations with them e.g. Centrica, Unilever and GlaxoSmithKline, and the UK Ministry of Defence.
Striving to ensure that courses and departments at SOAS integrate the climate and ecological crises into their curricula and pedagogy.
Joining us in calling on the UK government to commit to zero carbon by 2030, including the emissions of every corporation listed on the London Stock Exchange, through a just transition.
Provide material support to the Youth Climate Strikes and climate justice collectives in London, involve them in the above processes, and facilitate spaces for collective learning, organisation and mobilisation.
We note that SOAS has had ambitious and effective carbon management plans in the past that have outstripped national targets. However these targets have been shown to be wildly insufficient, and lacking in historical context. We also note that SOAS was the second university to divest from fossil fuels in 2015, and has now been joined by over half of all UK universities. Declaring a climate emergency and taking these above actions would therefore not only be in-line with the values that SOAS espouses, but more importantly with the severity of the current crises. We would like to meet and discuss these steps with you, and look forward to your response.
SOAS Students’ Union
UNISON - SOAS Branch
UCU - SOAS Branch