The Brower Youth Awards annually highlight the top environmental youth leaders from across North America. Award recipients undergo a rigorous application review process and represent the best, most creative, young environmental leaders of today.
Chloe Maxmin, 21, of Nobleboro, Maine, a regular writer for StudentNation and an undergraduate at Harvard University, was one of this year’s Brower Youth Award winners for her long history of environmental activism. Maxmin has a history of starting movements—she founded the first environmental club at her high school and built a student sustainability movement that continues to this day. At Harvard, she’s keeping up the momentum as co-founder and coordinator of Divest Harvard. She researched Harvard’s endowment and past divestment campaigns, and led the first campus vote on fossil fuel divestment in the world. She is also the founder and sole contributor of the online youth environmental network, First Here, Then Everywhere, which she hopes to build into a thriving hub of discussion and support for young environmentalists.
Maxmin sent us her acceptance speech, given in San Francisco on October 18 in which she outlined three new institutional responses to climate change and divestment.
Combating Climate Change
On October 1, another Divest Harvard activist and I sat in the office of Harvard’s President, Drew Faust. It had been over a year since we launched our movement. We had the support of over 3,000 students, over 170 faculty, almost 600 alumni and countless community members.
The frustration in the room was palpable. As I continued to press our arguments, President Faust interrupted me and asked: “Chloe, if you were president, what would you do?”
Two days later, I checked my e-mail and learned that President Faust had released a statement opposing fossil fuel divestment. I wasn’t surprised. It repeated the same arguments that we had been hearing for a year. It reiterated the notion that Harvard is an academic, not a political, actor—which is to say that it somehow stands outside the realm of action.
My aim tonight is not to repeat these discussions. Instead, I want to take seriously President Faust’s question…Chloe, what would you do?
I’d like to suggest the first three principles of a new institutional response to divestment and the climate crisis.
Vaclav Havel, poet, playwright, dissident and former president of Czechoslovakia,was a man whose life combined scholarship, art and politics because he knew that that all derive from the same source: a love of the world. He insisted that we need to reawaken in ourselves what was once known and then forgotten: that the only real hope for us lies in “a renewal of our certainty that we are rooted in the earth…”