For Fossil Free TCD, the group behind the campaign seeking to see Trinity divest from the €6.1 million it has indirectly invested in fossil fuels, there is one very clear victorious outcome: the College divests. The group appears confident this result will be in the report due from Trinity’s Finance Committee in November, with one of the campaign’s founding members telling The University Times last week: “We’re expecting full divestment, but we’re also preparing if they say maybe or if they try and stall.”
Even if the College says maybe, stalls or even rejects divesting altogether, there is a victory to be had for the group in their approach. While a symbolic victory compares little to the tangible one of changing Trinity’s policy and setting a new precedent for environmental sustainability within Ireland, their method is one worth praising both for what it has achieved and the potential it has left.
A group of committed volunteers came together in a way that encouraged grassroots participation, hosting events that struck a balance between those savoury to the College’s management and those a bit more radical. By aligning themselves closely enough to Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) to receive support and official representation but remaining separate enough to be able to hold their own events and remain independently critical of the college, Fossil Free TCD has managed to seem both fringe and official – an activist group making significant progress by lobbying. By building a campaign that steadily attracted more members, the group has gained more attention and support since its inception.
The approach has essentially backed College into a corner by presenting the campaign’s aims as a reasonable and rational step in the own college’s aims. The College, including Provost Patrick Prendergast, speak often about Trinity’s green aspirations. If the College does not divest now, it will be seen as hypocritical by more than just the campaign’s members.
In December 2015, the fossil free campaign in Queen’s University Belfast staged a sit-in in the university’s finance department. By working with the College in a way that fits nicely with the way Trinity runs itself, Trinity’s campaign has come away looking reasonable in its approach while leaving these radical steps possible for the future.