November 26, 2013 - Just about a year ago, Bill McKibben took to the road in a sustainably-fueled bus, intent upon provoking actions in the board room and the classroom opposing dirty energy. McKibben told students they had more power than they knew, and could speak truth to power in guiding their institutions of higher learning to divest themselves of shares of stock belonging to petroleum companies. Then he went even further, suggesting to university students that civil disobedience could turn these same companies into a focal point for political action. Did he convince them?
It would appear so. According to Chloe Maxmin, a junior at Harvard and a leader of Divest Harvard, “Students have organized divestment groups on about 400 campuses.” She expressed the conviction that American government has been “taken over by the fossil fuel industry.” Due to that supremacy, “we’re going to pressure the fossil-fuel industry itself.” Sadly, Harvard is first among equals in rejecting the divestment movement’s arguments, responding that it would have little or no impact on petroleum companies, or on society’s reliance on fossil fuels.
Peculiar, isn’t it? Harvard regards itself, and is regarded, as a household name, synonymous with excellence and representative of all that is best in the United States. This being the case, they are quite naturally looked to for leadership, which graduates have rightfully assumed in the halls of major corporations and American government. Now, however, Harvard favors us with its best imitation of the retiring wallflower who, when asked to dance, bats her eyelashes and feigns surprise with a softly spoken “Who – me?”
But all is not lost! In a November 18 editorial, the Yale Daily News quoted the university’s own well-established Ethical Investor guidelines. Now we have something: an institution known for excellence and endowed with foresight. Yale was wise enough at the time of the anti-apartheid movement to know that would not be the last time the university would be called upon to engage in moral decision-making; hence, the guidelines. Armed with the wisdom gained from previous campaigns, the editorial avows “We are in a unique position to pioneer a new front on an existing powerful environmental movement.” Yale can be very proud of its students, who demonstrate an innate understanding of leadership.
After only a year, the list of colleges, towns, religious institutions and other organizations which have voted to divest is quite impressive. Here is the list in its entirety. I hope it will inspire you: College of the Atlantic, Foothill-De Anza Community College Foundation, Green Mountain College, Hampshire College, Naropa University, San Francisco State University Foundation, Sterling College, Unity College, Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, OR, Eugene, Berkeley, Richmond, CA, Santa Monica, Boulder, Santa Fe, Madison, WI, Bayfield, WI, State College, PA, Ithaca, Truro, MA, Provincetown, MA, Providence, Cambridge, Northampton, MA, Ann Arbor, New London, CT, Amherst, San Francisco County, Dane County, United Church of Christ – National, Massachusetts United Church of Christ, Minnesota United Church of Christ, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Oregon, First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City, First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in Cambridge, MA, Portsmouth South Church Unitarian, First Unitarian Church of Pittsfield, ME, First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee, Uniting Church, New South Wales & ACT, Australia, Dover Friends Meeting, Dover, NH, Melbourne Unitarian Church, Australia, Unitarian Universalist Society of Amherst, MA, Anglican Diocese of Wellington, NZ, Anglican Diocese of Auckland, NZ, Anglican Diocese of Dunedin, NZ, Anglican Diocese of Waiapu, NZ, Anglican Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki, NZ, Society for Community Work, Sierra Club Foundation, Wallace Global Fund, Jubitz Family Foundation, Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, Santa Fe Art Institute, New Progressive Alliance, Council of Canadians, Santa Clara Valley Water District, Students’ Society of McGill University.
With thanks to gofossilfree.org, The Seattle Times, and The Washington Post.