Zero Carbon campaigners blockade the BP Institute
In protest against recent divestment scandals
This morning, at 6AM, Cambridge University Zero Carbon Society began their next direct action protest: blockading the BP Institute. This protest was in response to the recent revelations about corruption in the University's decision-making process.
It was a peaceful protest which aimed to highlight and condemn the "corrupt disruption big oil companies are having on the democratic governance of Cambridge University". As always, the campaigners continued calling for the University to divest from fossil fuels.
The planned end to the blockade is midday. This comes just days before the meeting of the University Council, scheduled for Monday 18th February, at which the future of the Investment Council will be discussed.
Zero Carbon Society made the statement "Given the impending climate crisis, we have no option but to underline the urgency of Cambridge’s need to commit to full divestment and respect the democratic wishes of University staff and students. Today’s action has been entirely peaceful and perfectly consistent with our warning last week to escalate actions if demands from our public divestment rally weren’t met."
Even though Zero Carbon's press release insists that today's action is "not targeted at research links", some student commentators believe that the blockade is only disrupting researchers and workers with no connections to fossil fuels. While the building of Cambridge's BP Institute was funded by the large oil company, it is solely a research building dedicated to studying multiphase flow – a process in fluid mechanics.
One student commented "I feel like Zero Carbon simply have a vendetta against the letters 'B' and 'P' and are succeeding in targeting completely unrelated researchers rather than people actually involved in corruption and divestment."
Today's action has raised the debate over what constitutes an effective protest. Some argue that the building is a symbol of BP's money within the University, and thus is a suitable target for symbolic protest; indeed, BP's website claims that the BPI's research has helped "enhance recovery from challenging and mature reservoirs and avoid hydrate build-up in pipelines". Others, however, believe that this blockade has negatively impacted people that are not associated with fossil fuels and will therefore not have an effect on the divestment decision. Only time will tell.