One of my strategies for getting to know people in Auckland was by joining clubs at the university. This worked remarkably well because I joined the club that would later be voted best club at the university: Fossil Free. The main focus of the club is specific and direct- to convince the university to divest from fossil fuels. The club is affiliated with 350.org, an environmental organization. Every university has a certain amount of money invested into different industries, and that includes fossil fuels. Divestment is the opposite of investment- it means taking your money away from a certain industry. Other uni’s in New Zealand have already divested, including Otago University in Dunedin and Victoria University in Wellington. Auckland Uni is the largest uni in the country, so the fact that it hasn’t divested yet is a big setback for the movement. The reasons for divestment are obvious- fossil fuels are wrecking our planet and endangering our futures, and students don’t want to attend a uni that is supporting fossil fuels.
The great thing about Fossil Free as a club is that it is inclusive of all its members. The club will give you as much responsibility as you are willing to take on, regardless of seniority or social standing in the club. As a new member and a foreigner, I didn’t feel left out or like I couldn’t contribute. Since responsibility is shared among all members, the club is able to achieve a lot compared to clubs at my home university. I was impressed by how many events we could organize and how much time members were willing to dedicate to planning and organizing.
I attended weekly meetings, which were two hours every Monday evening, and got to know the people who also came regularly. Towards the end of the semester, at graduation, I went to Aotea Square with signs in hand, asking recent graduates to take a picture supporting our movement. By the end of the semester, I was helping to organize the club’s biggest event. We held a festival on campus that included spoken word poetry, baked goods, and interactive activities. Besides that, there were other events throughout the term that drew attention to the movement, including fake oil spills around campus.
By the end of the semester, I felt like I had really accomplished something and contributed to an important cause. I also met a lot of interesting people who inspired me with their dedication. I wasn’t even aware of the divestment movement before I came to New Zealand, and now I have the skills necessary to start a movement for divestment at my home university.
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<p style="margin-bottom:12.0pt">Kia ora! My name is Jessica and I'm majoring in biology and environmental studies at Lawrence University, a small school in Appleton, WI. I grew up in Marquette, Michigan and will always call the shore of Lake Superior home. I love to travel and have been to Costa Rica, Chile, and Argentina so far.<span style="text-autospace:none"><span style="font-size:16.0pt"><span style="font-family:"Times",serif"> </span></span></span></p>