‘Gnome more oil’: XR Cambridge call for incoming Master of Clare to fully divest from fossil fuels

XR Cambridge said that Clare is the college with the biggest endowment to have not committed to partial or full divestment from fossil fuels

Extinction Rebellion (XR) Cambridge last week led a new campaign against Clare College as part of their ongoing push for the University of Cambridge and its 31 colleges to commit to a timeline for divestment from the fossil fuel industry. Activists created a model protest using home-made gnomes on Clare’s lawn, equipped with miniature shovels and signs with slogans including  “gnome more excuses” and “divest now”.

Activists later marched to Trinity College, where last year XR activists dug up the lawn, to thank the college for its efforts to divest, unfurling a banner that read “Divested, thank you”. A member of the group made a speech that urged the College to continue cutting ties with unethical industries.

Model gnomes made a Covid-safe protest replacement. (Image: Extinction Rebellion Cambridge)

XR Cambridge said that they have decided to target Clare because it is the college with the biggest endowment that has not yet committed to full or partial fossil fuel divestment. They added that despite being urged by staff and students alike, the College has never released any statement on fossil fuels or divestment. XR blame this lack of action on the outgoing master of the College and lawyer, Anthony Grabiner, who advises litigation on behalf of the oil and gas industry. According to his online CV, his recent work includes a defending the oilfield services company Halliburton in the Supreme Court “in relation to an explosion and fire on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico”.

One of the activists criticised Clare for maintaining a “friendly and progressive face to the world, including prospective students” while they “continue to invest in an industry causing catastrophic global overheating, and which a Harvard study recently found to be creating air pollution responsible for 1 in 5 deaths worldwide”.

XR Cambridge activists outside Memorial Court, Clare College (Image: Extinction Rebellion Cambridge)

Another activist has hope that a change in leadership will mark a new position from the College: “We saw earlier this year, with Trinity’s divestment announcement coming shortly after the arrival of a new bursar, that a change in leadership creates the opportunity for a change in direction.

“This October, Loretta Minghella will become the new Master of Clare. Due to her background in finance, she is likely aware that fossil fuel investments not only give legitimacy to a destructive and exploitative industry, but are also increasingly proving to be financially harmful. We are therefore calling on her, and all of Clare College, to commit to full divestment from the fossil fuel industry.”

Divestment campaigns have dominated XR Cambridge’s work since last year’s Trinity lawn action, which saw two protesters fined. The group’s demands listed on their website includes a call for “immediate” divestment and estimates that the University and its colleges are still have 6.4 per cent (£400 million) of endowment funds invested in fossil fuels.

Clare College has been contacted for comment.

Cover image: Extinction Rebellion Cambridge