Ah, nothing like pictures of the Old Campus to bring an alum to misty nostalgia. Especially today, when the pictures coming out of Harvard Yard show brave, smiling young people sitting in outside the president's office to demand that she talk about fossil fuel divestment.
When I was there--a long time ago, back in the late 1970s and early 1980s--the issue was divestment from apartheid. In fact, that was the last huge divestment campaign to sweep American campuses--and Harvard, to its shame, resisted for many years. This time too the administration has refused to sell its stock in the oil giants, arguing (among other things) that it would be hypocritical while the university still used fossil fuel. (Great argument: 'we'll take steps to solve the problem once it's been solved'). But the backlash is coming fast and furious. Three days after the president's latest statement, a hundred of the most senior faculty sent a letter demanding divestment. Soon after that, Desmond Tutu--hero of the apartheid battle--added his august voice to the pressure.
All along the students have been in the lead, doing a remarkable job. If you're willing to add your voice to theirs, here's a petition to sign. You don't need to be an alum--Harvard likes to think of itself as the world's university, so if you live on this planet they're theoretically interested in what you have to say.
Don't think for a moment that this is limited to Harvard. Brave students at Washington Univ. in St. Louis have been sitting in for weeks to demand that their school end its ties to coal giant Peabody. You can support them here
And just last night in Seattle high school students blockaded the federal building to demand the president deny a permit for the Keystone Pipeline.
Led by these youth, adults are paying attention. They've helped create enough of a market that yesterday Blackrock, the world's largest asset manager, announced that they were joining with the folks at FTSE to offer a fossil-free index fund for investors. They sense that there's some money to be made--in fact, a FTSE exec said "this is one of the fastest moving debates I've seen in my 30 years in markets."As the very good folks at the Natural Resources Defense Council, which helped set up the fund, just said: "divestment has gone mainstream." There's no longer any excuse for any university or church, any city or synagogue, any foundation or any private investor, to still be snared in the tarry grip of oil money
So do you belong to something with a bank account? Do what those kids at Harvard and Washington U and the high schools of Seattle are doing: get busy causing trouble for the bad guys.