About 130 students from Yale and Harvard ran onto the field after the half-time show at the annual playing of The Game between Yale and Harvard to hold banners calling on the two prestigious, almost unbelievably wealthy universities to divest their holdings in fossil fuel companies and Puerto Rican debt.

Divestment would help delegitimize the fossil fuel industry, which is doing everything in its power to obstruct the transition to renewable energy that is so desperately needed to prevent climate disaster. Puerto Rico, still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Maria, urgently needs debt relief. Thus, the overall theme was “climate justice.” I was one of a handful of baby boomers who joined them.

Since becoming active in the anti-Vietnam War movement on one of the country’s most radical campuses – the University of Wisconsin in Madison (Go Badgers!) – I have participated in an untold number of protests, but this was perhaps one of the most impactful. Time will tell if the real-time coverage in outlets like The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Guardian, as well as leading headlines in most of the state’s media outlets, and actual coverage by the sportscasters covering the game for ESPU (a sports channel dedicated to college sports) will help move Harvard and Yale to divest these holdings from their endowment ($39 billion for Harvard, $29 billion for Yale). But the action has already had an impact on me.

After we sat down in mid-field and prevented the second half of the game from starting, hundreds more students (and perhaps some non-students) flooded onto the field to join us. It was a beautiful sight. We chanted ‘til we were hoarse: “What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now! If we don’t get it, shut it down!” The game announcer pleaded, “Out of courtesy to the players and the fans, please leave the field. The game must go on.” The absurdity of prioritizing a football game over the survival of life on earth as we know it was not lost on us. I wonder how many people in the stands noticed.

Climate scientists say we have until 2030 to reduce the emission of global warming gases enough to prevent irreversible climate chaos. The students know they are facing a changed, diminished and very scary world. Despite the exuberance and joy we all felt in accomplishing our goal of reaching the field and unfurling our banners, the overall feeling is one of trepidation. But also a fierce resolve.

I love these young people with all my heart. I love their commitment, their love for each other, their welcoming elders like me into their bold, creative actions. I love that one of the organizers said we might have to run onto the field and asked me if I could run. You betcha I could.

Harvard and Yale always boast about what leaders they are in the worlds of government, business, technology, etc. Yet they are laggards in this critical arena. Hundreds of cities, businesses, a few whole countries and other universities have already divested – to the tune of $8 trillion, according to 350.org, the group that kicked off the fossil fuel divestment movement. The entire University of California system, including its flagship campus in Berkeley, just announced its plans to divest.

After 45 minutes, police threatened to arrest those who didn’t leave the field, and most did. Forty-two of us decided to stay and were detained. My arrest buddy and I were escorted by a Yale cop through one of the tunnels of the Yale Bowl to be processed, while fans on both sides of us applauded, cheered and returned the peace sign I made. On the outside, a few Trumpers at their tailgate party called us names. I felt sorry for them. We have to appear in court on the morning of December 6, which is the same day as another round of youth-led climate strikes. How fitting.

Oh, and Yale came back from a 15-3 deficit at halftime to win the game in double overtime – another historic aspect of this year’s Game. Maybe we inspired them.

Melinda Tuhus lives in Hamden.

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11 Comments

  1. I am hoping Ms Tuhus takes the time to refer back to her history books. Maybe she will become enlightened to the critical need and use of fossil fuel to power manufacturing and troop deployment if a major conflict were to ensue. If she is comfortable in being forced to learn Chinese or Russian due to Unconditional Surrender. That is her prerogative. Myself, I am not betting our countrie’s future on tanks, jets, drones, personal craft, etc. that are exclusively powered by Solar Cells.

    1. So we should all choke to death and drown so we can continue to make war? Bravo John, somewhere there is a cave waiting for you to inhabit it. We have over 2000 operational nuclear warheads, who is going to attack us? The answer if you refer to YOUR “history books” is no one. WE on the other hand continually travel the globe overthrowing every fiefdom whose resources we desire and have increased human suffering exponentially because of our easy and readily available ability to wage war. Take your own advice, pick up a book.

      1. Apparently Jim you seem to have forgotten that in response to 9/11 we attacked a country that was in no way responsible for it, even Bush admitted that. Hundreds of thousands dead for no good reason. WE have overthrown governments in countries like Libya and created a climate that brought back slavery in the 21st century. Oh and the guy that we said was in fact responsible for 9/11?? It took the fossil fueled and over budgeted military of the United States a decade to find him sitting in a house in an area that a CNN reporter had told us years earlier he was in. To say that we have to continue to create sludge ponds throughout the Appalachians and frack in Pennsylvania in order to “keep us safe” is an outright lie that serves no American other than those that profit from it.

      2. Hello Randell

        Trees and stopping worldwide deforestation are the key to clean air. I am sure you are aware that trees consume and convert CO2 into Oxygen. Do you know how many products are made out of wood (lumber) that could be replaced with steel or composites. Do yourself a favor and do a search for “Joanne Chory”. Let’s agree, to disagree. Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. There will be inconvenience. It is more than inconvenient that thousands of homes are already burning up along with forests. It is more than inconvenient that hundreds of thousands of families are already fleeing record flooding. It is more than inconvenient when millions are suffering historical drought. It is more than inconvenient when whole countries are being ravaged by bombing and economic warfare so that the oil companies can grab even greater pools of oil that requires burning to fill their coffers with more profits as the planet itself scorches. It is more than inconvenient that the greatest purveyor of violence on earth, the USA, spends 69% of federal tax dollars on beefing up its already bloated war budget while the potholes are unfilled, schools are impoverished, healthcare is rationed, homelessness grows in the richest country in all history. There will be inconvenience, indeed.

  3. Melinda, God Bless You, the other adults and the students who put yourselves at risk to protest what is the fast track to human extinction. So often we hear of Ivy League grads going on to “semi criminal” careers on Wall Street and not using their educations and advantages in life to further the human cause. Saturday was different and the most welcome sign of hope that I’ve seen in this home for neoliberalism called Connecticut in decades. The fact that some people want to place the “significance” of a game above an urgent crisis facing every human being on this fragile dot of a world speaks volumes to how delusional Americans have become as a nation. My hope is that this will not be the last protest from these young (and some not so young) people who had the courage to take a risk so that positive change may take place. Never stop caring.

  4. Some day these students will realize that a police record will effect their lives. Its all fun and games until people get hurt and then its the republicans fault.

  5. Some day these students will realize that a police record will effect their lives. Its all fun and games until people get hurt and then its the republicans fault.

    1. You know, I scoured every news account that I could find for a listing of the injured and “people that got hurt” during this protest. Guess how many I found.

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