Harvard Affiliates Denounce Fossil Fuel Funded Research at Reclaim Earth Day Rally


More than a dozen Harvard affiliates gathered Monday afternoon in the John F. Kennedy Memorial Park to protest fossil fuel research in an Earth Week event organized by Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard.

During the Reclaim Earth Day rally, protesters held signs that said, “I’m so tired of making these signs” and chanted “What do we want? Climate Justice. When do we want it? Now. If we don’t get it? Shut it down.”

FFDH organizer Sophia A. Gustafon ’24 spoke about her senior thesis centered around the Belgian exploitation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in mining cobalt.

Harvard Law School student Anne R. DeLong, a member of the Osage Nation, spoke about the impact of oil drilling on her reservation.


“As an indigenous person, as a member of a tribal nation, I’m just really concerned at the way that the oil and gas industry is hurting our planet and exploiting colonized communities in particular,” Delong said in an interview. “I just really wanted to get out on Earth Day and be outside with like-minded people.”

University spokesperson Jason A. Newton declined to comment on the rally.

Over the past few years, Harvard has made strides to combat climate change.

In 2018, the Office of Sustainability set the goal to be fossil fuel-free by 2050 and the Harvard Management Corporation is working towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions in their portfolio.

Additionally, the Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability funding policy prohibits the acceptance of funds from, or partnerships with, any company whose goals do not align with moving the global economy away from fossil fuels.

Phoebe G. Barr ’24, another FFDH organizer, said Reclaim Earth Day offers an opportunity for students to push back against corporate greenwashing and stand up to universities complicit in the climate crisis.

“Earth Day began as part of a resistance against the forces of climate change, and it’s really been co-opted a lot by corporations and greenwashing and stuff, so this is a chance for students to really take back what Earth Day means,” Barr said in an interview.

Barr pointed specifically to the role Harvard affiliates play in reversing this narrative and fighting for climate change.

“This is about us standing up for the future of our planet and standing up to our universities and saying they need to distance themselves from the fossil fuel industry,” she said.

Though the event was originally scheduled to take place in the Harvard Kennedy School Courtyard, organizers relocated to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Park nearby due to heightened security personnel at the Courtyard.

A handful of Harvard University Police Department and Securitas members were stationed outside the courtyard today in apparent anticipation of pro-Palestine student demonstrations at Harvard, after police arrested student protesters at Yale and Columbia Universities.

The heightened security around HKS comes after University officials restricted access to Harvard Yard on Sunday.

HKS posted signs announcing that “this courtyard is Harvard University’s Private Property.”

“Harvard Affiliates can exercise their freedom of speech,” the sign read, but “no one may block or interfere with ingress or egress to buildings” or “put up tents or other structures or stay overnight here.”

Barr said the heightened security in anticipation of pro-Palestine protests is “just a further example of speech repression that’s been going on all semester and all year.”

“It kind of shows that our causes are connected and what happens to one will affect all of us,” she said.

Correction: April 28, 2024

A previous version of this article misidentified the Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard organizer who discussed their senior thesis about the Belgian exploitation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in mining cobalt.

—Staff writer Xinni (Sunshine) Chen can be reached at Follow her on X @sunshine_cxn.

—Staff writer Christie E. Beckley can be reached at Follow her on X @cbeckley22.