The University's investment portfolio is far from the be all and end all of the fossil fuel industry's stranglehold upon our education system. In fact, divestment is merely a starting point for the international Fossil Free movement. Now that Warwick has become the seventh UK institution of higher education to commit to some degree of fossil fuel divestment, Fossil Free Warwick is turning its attention to the way in which Big Oil physically occupies space on campus. We are launching our BP off Campus campaign.
The University of Warwick hosts the only UK-based corporate archives of BP (formerly British Petroleum) in the Modern Records Centre (just behind the Library). It is entirely staffed and controlled by BP employees. We call upon the University of Warwick to take control of the Archive, to be managed by the Modern Records Centre staff in the public interest, rather than the interest of BP's private profit motive - and to sever all links with BP as a corporation. We expect the administration to have entered into discussions with BP over the vacating of the Modern Records Centre by Nov. 30, which will make a strong statement in time for the huge climate conference in Paris in December.
BP is one of the world's six major multinational oil and gas companies, responsible for countless socio-ecological catastrophes since its foundation. Its controversies are too exhaustive and too horrific to do justice to with a list, but to give a flavour of the kind of corporation that the University of Warwick is happy to host on campus, here are a few of their recent crimes:
Currently, key research into renewable energy is being kept under lock and key on our campus, in the BP Archive, despite the chairman of BP's claims that the holdings are publicly accessible. This is consistent with the oil lobby's - and particularly BP's - history of cosying up to politicians and leaders in order to block essential climate policy. If the planet is to avoid 2 degrees warming and climate catastrophe, around 80% of global fossil fuel reserves must be kept underground, and yet BP is intent on burning every last drop of oil in their reserves - whilst keeping renewable research hidden from the public.
Having the presence of this company on our campus indicates that we take no issue with this litany of crimes; forcefully ejecting them from our community takes a strong moral stand, underlined by a significant material impact and disruption. BP has publicly stated that they use the Archive as a propaganda tool to promote their image and shape the academic debate. Their website explicitly states that, "These records are not only used by the Company to support its primary business activities, but also to enhance its reputation." Peter Housego, the current Archive manager, has spoken openly about an initially critical academic article which resulted in "the writing of a very different article" after the researcher was allowed into the Archive. BP retains a veto on any material a researcher or journalist may want to use, allowing it to shape the frame of research in a way positive for its image.
Fossil fuel companies must no longer be allowed to buy their way into careers fairs and places of learning, research and intellectual exchange, co-opting the legitimacy and social currency held by the University. We may have divested, but Fossil Free Warwick has no intention of slowing down. It is time to reject this abusive and irresponsible industry once and for all and to declare that BP has no place in our education system. The fossil fuel industry is bent on a regime of plunder and ecological imperialism, and we refuse to be complicit.