Alumna Advocates for Georgetown University to Divest from Fossil Fuels

Alumna Advocates for Georgetown University to Divest from Fossil Fuels

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“Chewonki showed me what a thoughtful institution could be,” says Lucy Chatfield (Maine Coast Semester 58 alumna; summer farm worker ‘17 and ‘19). “It’s an institution that tries to be very intentional and ethical in the way it interacts with the rest of the world. Chewonki helped me understand that we can expect more for our institutions and that we can work towards justice.”

Chewonki is well known for inspiring transformative growth and teaching appreciation and stewardship of the natural world. Fewer people know that there’s a third leg to our mission: challenging people to build thriving, sustainable communities throughout their lives. Chatfield, an alumna of Maine Coast Semester 58 and former chewonki farm hand, is meeting that challenge at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.. For the past year, she’s been advocating for more sustainable practices on campus and she was recently invited to speak at the Georgetown event “This Is Not a Drill: A Discussion with Jane Fonda on Climate Change.” 

Chatfield, right, speaking at Georgetown University on January 7, 2020

“To fight the climate crisis, we need to rapidly transform our economy and our society,” Chatfield said during the event. “This is a daunting task, but I’ve known Georgetown students to be brilliant, passionate and unafraid of challenge.”

Chatfield is also busy with Georgetown Fossil Free (GUFF), a student-run campaign asking the university to divest from fossil fuel and re-invest in a more sustainable future. The group is in conversation with the school’s administration and has submitted a proposal to Georgetown’s committee on investment and social responsibility. 

“The intentions are there,” Chatfield says, “but institutional bureaucracy can be really challenging.” Like many American colleges and universities, Georgetown has been slow to adopt meaningful changes. “It’s difficult to get across the urgency of the situation,” she says.

To keep up the pressure and bring more attention to the issue, GUFF has organized a student referendum for February 7. Chatfield will lead a teach-in ahead of the vote to educate her peers about endowments and why divestment can make a significant impact in the fight against climate change. Although GUFF expects the referendum to pass, it will not create a binding commitment for the university, so the campaign will likely continue into the future. 

The work is hard, but speaking with Jane Fonda backstage at the recent climate rally gave Chatfield inspiration. “If there’s one thing about her activism that I’d like to emulate, it would be her unapologetic attitude,” Chatfield says. “It’s hard to get people to care about the environment and sometimes I feel like I’m annoying people, even though I have so much faith in my convictions. Jane Fonda isn’t afraid to talk about it, to call up all her celebrity friends and get them involved. I have a lot of respect for that.”

“The first protest I ever attended happened while I was at Chewonki,” Chatfield says, referring to the spring 2017 climate march in Augusta, Maine. She was instrumental in getting Semester 58 students to the event. Chatfield notes that “the personal relationships I’ve developed with students and friends who are campaigning alongside me” are one of the most meaningful aspects of her activism. “That makes the frustrating moments worth it.” 

Chatfield, center, at the Augusta, Maine Climate March with Maine Coast Semester 58

She plans to take the fall 2020 semester off from Georgetown so she can spend the rest of the year working on a political campaign for a presidential or senatorial candidate.

We often say at Chewonki that many hands make light work. Thanks for everything you’re doing, Lucy!