Why I Disrobed for Divestment
Last Tuesday, I crammed naked into into a university toilet cubicle and let my body become a human canvas for the fossil free movement. After a slightly stressful and very intimate painting session, nine bodies in total - both students and alumni of the University of Melbourne - clambered onto the roof of the Old Quad, stripping our clothes to the reveal the naked truth: our university cannot claim to be “sustainable” while continuing to invest in the fossil fuel industry. Standing at the edge of the roof and looking down to cameras, reporters and fellow Fossil Free-ers, I felt giddy, proud and utterly supported by my fellow bums on the roof and the Fossil Free community.
After the action, reporters asked us what the connection was between public nudity and divestment. We kept our answers pretty light “we dropped our assets to encourage the uni to drop theirs in coal, oil and gas” and “we wanted to be brave so hopefully the university will be brave too.” If I’m honest, a more realistic answer might be that we live in a world where a lot of people are more interested in reading about a bunch of students getting naked on a roof than more “depressing” news about corporate greed and its shocking impacts on our planet. Sometimes living in this world is hard. Sometimes the reality of a situation can be depressing and sometimes you can only talk so much about coral bleaching, farmers committing suicide, and corporate social responsibility to people who don’t want to listen. For FFMU, our public nudity action was a way to marry our passion for everyone to know about divestment with the Internet’s obsession with butts (thanks for that one, Kimmy K). It was a way for us to meet the public in the middle.
Divestment is not an idealistic or radical idea. It is entirely necessary and - as other universities around the world have already shown - entirely possible. It is not radical to want a safe and livable planet. It is not radical to think it makes economic sense to invest in renewable energy over finite resources. It is not radical to want to go to a university that aligns its investments with its teachings. I think that the more people that know what divestment means, the more people that would support it. Getting naked on a roof is just one more way of getting the message out there.
Climate action is for everyone because it affects everyone. It’s not just for people who love camping or those who know a lot about science (if it was, I definitely wouldn’t be here). The movement for a healthier planet is as diverse as the myriad of forms of action taken to make it happen. For those of us who stripped off on the roof on Tuesday, doing so was entirely empowering. For others, it would probably be their worst nightmare. For our voices to reach as many people as possible, our activism must be as diverse as possible.
So write a letter to the editor, tweet about it, make a youtube video, talk to your mum or do some performance art. Do whatever makes you feel empowered. We can all be activists if we let go of our preconceived notions of what an activist is meant to look like. I think that everyone has their role to play in fighting climate change, and I am so very grateful to FFMU for helping me find mine.
By Aoife Nicklason