Campus Beat Reporter
With another executive order signed, another campus protest went into action. This time, University of California, Santa Barbara students rallied in favor of the environment, with students holding signs demanding the UC “DIVEST NOW.”
The UC-wide protest, held at noon on Thursday across all nine UC campuses, was sparked by President Donald Trump’s approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline construction, reversing the decision made in the last month of President Obama’s term.
The current pipeline route, expected to run approximately 1,172 miles long, has garnered extensive controversy over the past year as it cuts through the Missouri River, the Sioux Tribe’s main source of drinking water. Officials estimate that deep water drillings will be required in at least 22 locations, according to The New York Times.
At UCSB, students gathered on the Student Resource Building lawn to express outrage against the order and urge the UC regents to take a stand by divesting the remaining $1.7 billion invested in fossil fuels by the UC system. Banners hung from the Lot 22 parking lot with the hashtags “#divestnow”, “#UCResist”, and “#fxckfossilfuels”. The total $1.7 billion supports both the Dakota Access Pipeline and fracking across the state.
To acknowledge the effects of DAPL most immediately felt by indigenous communities, student organizers reached out to the local Barbareño Chumash tribe to speak at Thursday’s gathering. One tribal leader began the rally with a ceremonial blessing delivered in the tribe’s native tongue. A traditional Native American flute tribute followed.
Jimmy Joe Navarro, a representative of the Barbareño Chumash tribe, spoke on behalf of the tribe as a whole, offering words of caution and advice for the future.
“The very reason why you’re going to school today is to better yourself in society, to get yourself a good career and make money and support your families,” said Navarro. “But if we continue to be blind and be deaf to what is going on in our history today, your babies that you hope will have a future—you will be celebrating their birth and shortly be at their funerals.”
Fourth year environmental studies major Michelle Sevilla, one of the primary student organizers behind the event, shared her story of growing up in the Philippines. She described her childhood backyard as “both the forest and the ocean”.
“My privilege,” said Sevilla, who emphasized the deep ties between indigenous communities and the land, “is weighted heavily with responsibility for those who can’t speak for themselves back home.”
Organizers urged those present to exercise their consumer choice as a means of giving a voice to affected communities by attending Saturday’s emergency divestment action alongside the Santa Barbara Standing Rock Coalition. Despite its legacy as the birthplace of both environmentalist and Earth Day movements, Santa Barbara County remains the fourth largest producer of oil in the state.
From 11 am to 1 pm, volunteers engaged in peaceful protests outside Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Union Bank locations on State Street to urge patrons to close their accounts. Similar movements are occurring in cities nationwide, including Seattle, where the city council is set to hear a proposal to divest $3 billion of city funds from Wells Fargo alone.
“This movement involves everyone,” said Navarro. “It is up to us to set the example of what a leader should be to ensure a better tomorrow.”