In a week of climate protests, activists from Fossielvrij NL posted an online petition last Wednesday. They claim that the motives of companies in the fossil fuel sector run counter to the values of the academic community.
According to the activists of people-powered movement Fossielvrij NL, universities are closely linked to the fossil fuel industry through sustainability prizes for students, recruitment on the campus, alumni networks, research funding and sponsorship of student associations.
This must end, they write in a petition that has a national version and separate versions for the University of Amsterdam and VU Amsterdam. They have a total of more than 2,100 signatures.
On 23 February, there will be a university-wide debate on collaborating with the fossil industry at VU Amsterdam. Chief Impact Officer Davide Iannuzzi: “Currently, we are gathering opinions around the campus. Everyone can write a one-pager with their opinion directly to me, and I promise that I will read every letter.”
New research agenda
Companies in polluting industries have, in the words of the petition, no trouble “undermining science whenever it suits them”. Their sponsorship activities allegedly lead to “bias in research” and do not contribute to a more sustainable economy.
The activists claim that university executive boards are frightened of losing research funding from companies and are keeping up the appearance of sustainability, thereby disavowing academic values. So boards ought to set up a new research agenda that takes account of the transition to a greener economy.
Climate action week
The petition is another in the long line of climate actions in which university executive boards have been called to account. On Monday, students occupied a University of Amsterdam building because of its links with oil company Shell. On Tuesday, climate activists called on all higher education institutions to switch to sustainable banks and insurance companies. On Wednesday, as a response to the protests, GroenLinks asked the ministers of Education and Economic Affairs to provide mandatory guidelines for higher education institutions.