Swarthmore Faculty Fasting for Fossil Fuel Divestment

Starting April 23, 2018, six faculty members began undertaking week-long fasts without food in support of students calling on the Board of Managers to divest from fossil fuels. A Student Government Organization referendum in the spring semester calls on the Board to drop its blanket policy banning socially and environmentally responsible investing. Swarthmore benefits from a $2 billion endowment.

The fossil fuel divestment movement began at Swarthmore College in 2010. To follow the campaign at the College, visit http://bit.ly/swatdiveststory

During the launches of successive fasts on Mondays, faculty spoke about why they fasted.


Professor Betsy Bolton, English Literature and Environmental Studies

Professor Bolton fasted while serving as a Fulbright Scholar at Yonphula Centenary College in Bhutan.

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Under the weight of concern

As I begin this fast in Bhutan, ten hours ahead of Swarthmore’s time zone, I am acutely aware of my caffeine-withdrawal headache. Joining this fast at the last minute left me little time to wean myself from my coffee addiction. For years, I have drunk coffee to give me the energy I need in order to accomplish the goals I have set myself. I have told myself I need the coffee, I can’t do without it. But is that true? I’m about to find out.

As Americans, we tell ourselves that we need energy—copious amounts of energy—to
accomplish our goals. Our fossil fuel addiction leads us as a nation to deny or ignore the science showing the disastrous effects of our current emissions. Until renewables can meet our insatiable energy demands, we will just have to keep burning fossil fuels—so we seem to say—and as long as our society remains addicted to carbon, fossil fuels will remain a profitable business.

Why shouldn’t Swarthmore college siphon off some of those profits and apply them to more ethical ends? Shouldn’t we use stockholder engagement to change fossil fuel companies for the better? How can we afford to invest in access and inclusion without those profits from fossil fuels? How can we afford to reduce our own carbon emissions without those profits? Isn’t it hypocrisy to refuse investment profits while we are still purchasing fossil fuels to power the campus? Shouldn’t we be working on fossil fuel reform through legislation instead?

These are the kinds of questions I have heard posed in response to the ongoing call for divestment.1 Let me tackle these questions one or two at a time.

Why shouldn’t Swarthmore college siphon off some of those profits and apply them to more ethical ends? The problem with this approach is that the harms and benefits of fossil fuel profits are vastly incommensurate. The benefits Swarthmore can produce through its use of these profits may be intensely important on an individual level, but they are primarily local. We aim to change the world by changing individuals—but the world is changing faster than we can keep up with. The harms produced by ongoing development of fossil fuels are global and devastating. Already, millions of people have been displaced from their homes by the effects of climate change; extreme weather events are destroying lives and livelihoods; across the globe, we face looming food crises and internal migration on a scale our cities cannot hope to manage. The benefits
Swarthmore can create through ethical use of fossil fuel profits are drastically overmatched by the harms created in the production of those profits.

Shouldn’t we use stockholder engagement to change fossil fuel companies for the better? A recent report on the ExxonMobil 2016 Annual General Meeting noted that fund managers who say they support engagement over divestment often do not support stockholder resolutions for better reporting of emissions. Sadly, fund managers’ self-reported support for engagement is not a reliable measure for improving the behavior of fossil fuel companies.2 Nearly two decades of stockholder resolutions have produced few positive outcomes. Some people see divestment as a purely symbolic gesture, distracting from “real action” on climate change. As an English professor, I work with symbols for a living: altering investment patterns for six trillion dollars exceeds my definition of “symbolic” by a long shot. In fact, it seems much more like “real action” than the actual history of stockholder engagement.

How can we afford to invest in access and inclusion without those profits from fossil fuels? How can we afford to reduce our own carbon emissions without those profits? The board of managers has effectively responded to calls for divestment both by emphasizing investment in carbon reductions on campus and by stressing the endowment’s support for the college’s commitment to access and inclusion. How to pay for our core campaign to increase access and inclusion and our own urgent reduction of carbon emissions—these are difficult and essential questions—but I believe they are questions that should be de-coupled from divestment. It seems to me a bitter irony to suggest that we must invest in further economic damages to vulnerable communities in order to pay for greater educational access for a handful of members from that community. Similarly, to depend upon profits created through massive GHG emissions (in the production of fossil fuels) in order to reduce our relatively small GHG emissions seems to me to reflect a misunderstanding of the crisis we face.

We should not attempt to balance the college budget with a choice between access and inclusion and emissions reductions on the one hand and divestment on the other. Instead, the college community as a whole must come together to make difficult decisions and deepen our common commitment to core values. I believe inclusive sustainability is and must be a core value of the college.

As individuals and as a society, we must learn to make healthier investments—and we need to learn quickly. As our students have led in the global divestment movement, our board could lead in modeling a more rational understanding of fiduciary responsibility—one that engages the entire community in reforming our energy expectations, trimming our unnecessary energy expenditures, and finding more creative ways to accomplish our goals. Our college carbon charge and Greg Brown’s budget seminar are wonderful early steps in this kind of community engagement: I invite the board to engage more fully with this kind of work at the college. We need new models of engagement for a challenging new era of human existence.

Isn’t it hypocrisy to refuse fossil fuel investment profits while we are still purchasing fossil fuels to power the campus? Is it hypocritical to be imperfect? This argument puts the onus for change squarely on the individual: until each individual institution or community member discovers ways to live without fossil fuels, we cannot ask for a broader re-orientation of our communal investments. Living for a year “far from the market” in eastern Bhutan has emphasized for me the extent to which my choices are shaped by the markets I can access. In order to enable individual change, we must also push for market changes. Even as our facilities managers and our office of sustainability work to find energy alternatives to reduce our carbon emissions, we need to work to persuade larger market forces to begin reducing emissions rapidly and on many fronts simultaneously.

Shouldn’t we be working on fossil fuel reform through legislation instead? Not instead but also: we should all absolutely be working for legislative change. I’m proud that Swarthmore has been a campus leader in the Put a Price on It campaign, and that Mountain Justice has joined the Sunrise Movement to work for electoral and legislative change.

In 1991, in an essay entitled “What is Education for?” David Orr noted that

Students hear about global responsibility while being educated in institutions that often invest their financial weight in the most irresponsible things. The lessons being taught are those of hypocrisy and ultimately despair. Students learn, without anyone ever saying it, that they are helpless to overcome the frightening gap between ideals and reality.

Swarthmore cannot afford to teach helplessness in the face of climate change. In fact, by launching the divestment campaign back in 2011, beginning a movement that has now moved six trillion dollars in investment away from fossil fuel companies, Swarthmore students have demonstrated their ability to change lives and change the world. Working for change is a messy and imperfect process. I support and applaud our students’ efforts, while also acknowledging that we are all learning on the job—the biggest job of our lives. Please join us in learning and working for a more resilient and inclusive future.


“Swarthmore cannot afford to teach helplessness in the face of climate change.”


Today, as I struggle to work through my withdrawal headache, I keep thinking that weaning our society off our addiction to fossil fuel will also have painful side effects. At this particular moment, for instance, divestment is a major headache for Swarthmore’s board of managers. I sympathize as only a fellow-sufferer can. We should not understate the short-term pain involved in resisting addiction, in turning away from unhealthy consumption patterns. Nor should we underestimate the short-term pain involved in changing community norms maintained for over twenty-five years. But avoidance of even intense short-term pain is not a good reason for maintaining an addiction or a dysfunctional pattern—especially not when other people suffer the consequences
of that addiction.

Will you join us in this fast? You need not give up food, if that poses too big a challenge this week. As a few of us fast under the weight of this concern, you can help to carry the burden by holding the weight of that concern in other ways. Write your legislators in favor of putting a price on carbon. Support a political campaign that promotes climate-rational policies. Write to the board of managers with suggestions about ways to move forward in maintaining core policies of access and inclusion and reducing emissions without relying on profits from fossil fuels. Create a list of unnecessary carbon-intensive luxuries you could forego, now or in the future. Turn your lawn into a food garden. Refuse plastics. Carpool or walk. Do at least one thing each day, whether you support or oppose divestment. We can create a thriving human future, but only if we begin—together—today.


Assistant Professor Liz Nichols, Biology and Environmental Studies

Prof Nichols also fasted while away from campus in Washington, D.C.

Liz_Nichols_main

At this moment, the global movement to decarbonize our economy walks a tightrope – anchored between the need for low-carbon leadership, and the necessity for fiscal responsibility. It will do the world no good if our climate visionaries and practitioners fail in their mission because they run into the red.

That said, because of their smart fiscal management and supportive, generous alumni, some institutions are in the privileged position to take greater risks in the decarbonization effort. I believe Swarthmore is one of them.
Of course, with privilege comes responsibility, especially for an institution built on the core value of social justice.

Global decarbonization has four pillars: improved energy efficiency, a zero emissions electricity supply, transitioning land from a source of carbon emissions to a sink, and transitioning from fossil fuels to renewables.
Elevating the social risk of investment portfolios with exposure to fossil fuels is concrete action towards this transition. When done by an institution with high visibility, it is an act both concrete and symbolic.


“Elevating the social risk of investment portfolios with exposure to fossil fuels is concrete action towards this transition. When done by an institution with high visibility, it is an act both concrete and symbolic.” 


Another act both concrete and symbolic, is the support of our students. On this campus, with this degree of overwhelming and clear-headed student desire for a change in policy and strategy, I see divestment and reinvestment as an act that says, 
“We understand that the impacts of non-action are yours to bears, not mine. 
We listen to the science that says business-as-usual investment strategies have measurable and negative impacts on your future, measured in terms of livelihood, economy, social stability, biological diversity, and national security. We know, that these costs are disproportionately borne by the most vulnerable communities, in Delaware County, across the United States and around the world. We have agency here, and we choose to use it. Divestment and reinvestment carries risk to our institution. We will work to manage that risk, for the greater good.”
As a faculty member, I am proud to have come to an institution that values social justice, and that is working to become a leader in quantifying our on-campus carbon use. As a scientist, I understand that we have an estimated 15 years to decarbonize the global economy before we commit subsequent generations to living conditions not experienced over the arch of the Holocene. This is the world’s next “mega development project”, and it is all of our grandest challenge. The trillions of dollars that will be committed to this effort globally will create the economy in which our students will work and live. If we are committed to supporting them, it starts here.
I hope that Swarthmore will divest and reinvest. 

——————————————–

Associate Professor Lee Smithey, Peace and Conflict Studies

LS fast launch

Thank you all for coming out today, and special thanks to Mark and Christy for courageously leading the way.

This is our third week of beginning fasts, and those of us who have been fasting have taken this opportunity each week to share why we are fasting. I suppose there are many reasons, but I will share just a few.

We hear stories from around the world about people, sometimes our own students, struggling at interfaces with the fossil fuel industry. Last year, the World Bank estimated that there are 16,000 flares worldwide that produce around 350 million tons of CO2 each year and contribute to acid rain and respiratory issues in communities in places like Nigeria. Last semester, Professor Wallace and I took our classes to Lancaster County, where residents are resisting the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline that is being forced through residential areas to carry fracked gas from the Marcellus Shale region. Even closer to home, the Mariner East 2 pipeline is coming through nearby Media. We’ve all read about the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines that have endangered Native American people, their lands, and their sovereignty.

It turns out that I live at an interface as well, a very different one, a privileged one. I work (and practically live) at an institution with a $2 billion endowment. According to the faculty white paper on fossil fuel divestment published in 2015, that means about $40 million exposure to fossil fuels. Those are investments that help fund pollution that impacts marginalized communities that live closest to fossil fuel infrastructure. Those are investments that help sustain greenhouse gas emissions. Those are investments that help fund lobbying efforts to slow our transition to a clean energy future. This is the interface that I live at, and it is one for which we must take responsibility.


“Our investments in fossil fuels buttress business plans for a dangerously slow transition to a clean energy economy. With those investments, the Board literally bets against sustainability efforts on campus.”


Our investments in fossil fuels buttress business plans for a dangerously slow transition to a clean energy economy. With those investments, the Board literally bets against sustainability efforts on campus. Those who seek to profit off of the sales of fossil fuels can’t want us to be TOO successful in our efforts to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels. And that is especially problematic when we only have two years to confirm the permanent global decline of greenhouse gas emissions that might allow us to stay below 2 degrees Celsius of global warming. We need sustainable technologies and lifestyles so that we can live into our future, but only if we can avoid crossing too many tipping points in the process of global warming that can lead to runaway climate change. We need leaders in civil society to model leadership in this critical moment.

I fast as an educator. The Board of Managers’ 1991 blanket policy prioritizing short term financial gain over social responsibility and environmental sustainability undermines the College’s educational mission. That policy says that the Board will only consider one metric when making decisions about investments: financial return.  How many of you can imagine registering for a class here at the College and finding that the Professor welcomes you to the class by saying, “We are going to cover some difficult and complicated issues this semester.  However, I want to let you know up front that we will only use one metric in assessing these issues. Can you imagine that? The 1991 ban could never pass as sufficiently rigorous at Swarthmore College. The student referendum this semester reflects that contradiction and makes me proud to be a professor and fellow learner with you.

Finally, I fast as a father. My kids are younger than all of you, but I think of them as part of your generation. The stakes are higher for you and for my kids. And so, I stand with you as you advocate for your own future. I get that you are the ones you’ve been waiting for to address this problem, and I’m sorry my generation handed it to you.

I do hope that there will be opportunities to engage with Board members as they come to campus this week. Current students, faculty, and alumni have again and again demonstrated that we understand the need for divestment as one important action we can take to shift the political landscape and make greater regulation and reform possible. I feel certain that there are also Swatties on the Board who feel the same way and see the contradictions in the Board’s current position. I sincerely hope they will find the inspiration to advocate for dropping the 1991 policy and divesting from fossil fuel companies as Sunrise students have requested. The campus community is here, and we are ready to stand with them and support them.

I will end by saying what a privilege it is to fast alongside Betsy Bolton and Liz Nichols.  Betsy was a primary author of the faculty white paper on divestment and is a visionary where environmental sustainability is concerned. Liz has also been inspiring me with her commitment and the important perspective she brings as a biologist and in her work studying the world’s six multilateral environmental agreements.

 


Associate Professor Christy Schuetze, Anthropology and Environmental Studies

Prof. Schuetze began fasting on April 30, 2018

Christy fast launchSince first joining Swarthmore college, I have been inspired by and proud of the central place of social justice in Swarthmore’s guiding values. I arrived at the college feeling that I was in the right place—that I had been fortunate to find an institution whose guiding mission, as I understood it, aligned with my own core beliefs and motivations as a teacher/scholar.  The college’s Quaker roots and the resulting centrality of social justice in the college identity and values, seemed to me to link together both student and faculty orientation to scholarship and engagement in the world made Swarthmore feel to me the most perfect “home.” I also was proud to join the faculty at an institution which I had understood had a great deal of faculty involvement in governance.

I am fasting this week in part to draw attention to what I feel is a policy that stands in opposition to these central aspects of what I understand to be our institution’s core guiding principles. The 1991 ban on investment decisions in relation to any “social objectives” and the blanket policy to manage the endowment only to yield the “best long term financial results” is at odds with the centrality of social justice in the college’s self-professed identity.

However, searching around on the college website to see where the language of social justice appears, … I had a hard time finding it.  Where did I gain the sense of the centrality of social justice in our shared mission and values? Has the website changed? Maybe it is in the air? The “About” section of the college website does not contain the language of “social justice.”  And, the “history” section identifies the “core tenets” of the college as “academic excellence, thoughtful stewardship of natural resources, and educating for the common good.” So, even if we put social justice aside for the moment, these explicitly stated “core tenets” are at odds with the board’s present investment policy.


“I am fasting this week because there can be no better example of success in educating for the common good than our students’ recently passed referendum to remove the 1991 ban.”


I am fasting this week because there can be no better example of success in educating for the common good than our students’ recently passed referendum to remove the 1991 ban…  this adding on top of their previous two referenda calling on the board of managers to divest the endowment from fossil fuels. The notion of “education” on a college website implies a unidirectional kind of knowledge transfer…  but this spring, as well as previous famous “springs” at the college have demonstrated how students’ also work to educate others in the institution and beyond… linking into and sparking broader movements for social and institutional change. This is education for the common good at its best.

The board of manager’s investment policy is fixed. It is closed to the kinds of processes of growth and change inherent in something like “education.” As we slowly wake up to the current and future realities of climate change, the challenges we face are urgent and dire. This is no time for business as usual. This is an all hands on deck moment. It is not a time for delay. This is a time when institutions must change, the way we think about the world and our relationship to it and to each other must change…  our students are showing us that the education needed at this moment goes in multiple directions.

While I fast this week, I will be working on a project, and I invite anyone to join me in this effort (stop by when you are free!). I will be working to create a banner (and it may take more than one!) that highlights a timeline of the divestment decisions of institutions of higher learning. One thing that I want this to visualize is how Swarthmore students were at the forefront of what has become a global movement. Their actions in the spring of 2011 have sparked what is now a global divestment movement with approximately $6 trillion divested which includes (what my count is) 147 different educational institutions in addition to investment funds, faith-based organizations, cultural institutions, NGOs, pension funds, philanthropic foundations, healthcare institutions, and city and national governments. Doing the research to put together this timeline, I came across an article that captures another dimension of my fast… a sense of longing coupled with a sense of hope: Sterling College, which was one of the first educational institutions in the US to divest (February 2013… the first was Hampshire College in December 2011) featured an article titled “Divestment without Drama” on its website.  The article opens:

“When Sterling College President Matthew Derr asked the Board of Trustees last fall to consider divesting the College’s endowment of its fossil fuel stocks, I’m afraid our response would have made for some very bad reality television. There were no raised eyebrows, no shouting or drama, not even any bad background music. My fellow board members and I couldn’t have agreed more that this action would be a logical expression of our values, and a way to help strengthen the movement for action on climate change.”

Elsewhere on the website they state:

“By fully divesting its endowment from fossil fuel extractors, we are reaffirming our mission to educate problem solvers and the next generation of environmental stewards.”

And the president is quoted as saying:

 “Our Board of Trustees realizes that there is something inherently contradictory about relying on profits from fossil fuels to fund an institution like Sterling.”

These statements capture something of the longing I feel for our investment policy to line up with the institution’s broader professed mission and values.

Finally, in the spirit of these weeks of reflecting on and listening to people’s personal stories of how climate change and fossil fuel extraction has impacted them directly, I wanted to share one aspect of my personal reasons for involvement in this action.  As many of you know, I conduct research in Mozambique. I have lived there off and on for 7 years over a span of time beginning in 1998. It is a place where I have many deep personal relationships and commitments. It feels like a second home. The research I will be doing during my upcoming sabbatical leave will focus on the growing insecurity of land tenure around the country—particularly in the resource-rich central and northern part of the country. Structural adjustment policies put in place in 1987 (in the midst of a civil war… ) removed social safety nets and prioritized fiscal austerity and the creation of a “business friendly environment” to attract foreign direct investment as a strategy for development. Success towards “development” in this frame, is measured primarily by the rate of GDP growth. This kind of narrow metric which prioritizes fiscal returns over social equity or social transformation is hauntingly similar to the board’s investment policy.

The result of such policies in Mozambique has been the growing insecurity of livelihoods of small scale agriculturalists who have lost any support they previously had: price controls, subsidies, and protections to buffer the risk of crop failure and fluctuating market prices. People struggle to make ends meet. As GDP growth has risen, so too has the gap between the wealthy and the poor, and rates of malnutrition have risen to above levels recorded during the 16-year civil war.

Along with food insecurity these policies, imposed by foreign governments, have been a boon to extraction industries.  But they have brought with them the insecurity of land tenure. Prioritizing foreign direct investment in the economic development model for the country has led Mozambique to gain the unfortunate notoriety of being one of the most heavily targeted countries for large-scale land transfers on the African continent. Since 2006, Mozambique consistently reports among the highest rates of land transfers. Land transfer is a nice way of saying expulsion—from residence or from use of land. Who is losing their land? Small scale farmers…  Who is acquiring it?  Private companies based in Australia, Brazil, China, the US, South Africa, India and a whole host of other countries. They are setting up large scale commercial farms (a major focus on biofuels) and mining coal, heavy sands, and natural gas, and other natural resources. Since 2006, 85 trillion cubic feet of natural gas has been found in the Rovuma basin, Mozambique has become known as one of the big future players in oil and gas.  We know well, from experience that this does not bode well for many in the country—particularly for the small farmers and the families who rely on fishing to make a living.

In Mozambique . . . after having fought and won a long-war for independence people are finding themselves under siege by a growing number of foreign investors, particularly in the extractive industries. But unlike during the colonial period, there is not a single enemy to fight against. There is no head to the beast.  In the face of climate change and the injustices perpetuated by fossil fuel industries, multiple strategies are needed. The divestment movement, sparked by Swarthmore students in 2011, is just one important strategy.

What has been happening in Mozambique is a microcosm of the nature of the new global political economy, which Saskia Sassen has described as being characterized by “the emergence of new logics of expulsion.” This leads to a link between the divestment campaign and the O4S campaign happening now that goes beyond the issue of governance and accountability at the college. Kyle Whyte, indigenous scholar and climate justice activist who Giovanna Di Chiro brought to campus to speak the week before last made the connection between sexual violence and climate change clear.  He showed us how moral relations and ecological relations of societies are fused together. Sexual violence and fossil fuel extraction share in common a culture of lack of consent.

I am fasting this week to draw attention to these concerns. I am fasting, because I feel we need to act on multiple fronts, as an institution, as a society and as individuals.

I am fasting in support of the student referendum that just passed. My fasting aims to symbolically draw attention to the fact that my hunger for change in the world is much greater than a hunger for food. A hunger for change in the forces that hold sway and have the power to shape political and economic systems.  A hunger for change to our addiction to fossil fuels and to material gain that blinds us to the ways in which our lives and our lifestyles are interconnected. I am cognizant of the fact that it is a privilege to be able to choose whether or not to eat and to be able to enter into this week-long commitment willingly to draw attention to the weight of concern that attends these issues. I am fasting because there is something inherently contradictory about relying on profits from fossil fuels to fund an institution like Swarthmore.


Professor Mark Wallace, Religion and Environmental Studies

Professor of Religion, Mark Wallace, began fasting on April 23, 2018

Mark fast porchI am happy and humbled to be here today. I was touched and moved by the request that some of us, as faculty at the College, consider a small gesture like fasting as a way of expressing our frustration and displeasure with the College’s decision not to divest from fossil fuels and its now more than $2 billion endowment.

Let me clarify something. I’m not on a hunger strike. That would mean that I would continue to fast until and when the College decides to divest from fossil fuels, and well, my prospects would probably not be good. That would probably take a long time, though I hope it won’t take a long time for the College to divest. So, this isn’t a hunger strike; this is a fast. Some of you have asked about this. Many spiritual traditions, many people and communities who come out of a moral heritage, think about fasting as a way of registering their frustration with institutions like Swarthmore College that don’t do the right thing. In my case, that means that I’m just not eating food. I [could not] take water. That’s a whole other thing. I wouldn’t do that, but I’m just not taking food for this week. My thinking behind this is my decision not to eat is a small gesture to the College, to say to the college, “you’re doing the wrong thing.”

Most of you here today are students, and as students at Swarthmore College, the mission of the college is to prepare you for the future, to provide you with education and support and counsel while you are at Swarthmore and then beyond to enter the workplace and to engage work environments, your social relationships, your friends, your communities, in a way that is ethically self reflective. But, the college, in this regard, is in deep conflict with itself. Because, while its mission is to provide you with education, to enable you to go into the future, in fact, it is heavily invested in the very industry that is destroying all of our futures, that is destroying, in fact, the very life support systems that make our existence on this planet habitable and fruitful and wonderful in the first place.

I think of fossil fuels as the most ass backwards, ignorant, completely ill-informed way to conduct business. The United States was a whale blubber economy in the 19th century, and in the early stages of the industrial revolution. I was born in 1956, so I grew up in a world in the 20th century dependent on fossil fuels, and the fossil fuel industry provided the energy the United States coveted for its own mission. It’s the 21st century! We’re not a whale blubber economy anymore, and we shouldn’t be a fossil fuel economy either. We have renewables at the ready: sun, and wind, and water, and landscapes. We have renewable energy at the ready that we can tap to fuel our future without destroying the planet in the process.

I grew up in Los Angeles, but my mother’s family is from coastal Mississippi. And Hurricane Katrina, to talk about another hurricane, in 2005, swept through the Gulf Coast of the United States and killed close to 2,000 people. My mother’s family, my extended family, lost homes and livelihoods, and resources, not their lives, because they had the ability to leave the area just ahead of the hurricane, but the material conditions that supported their existence for many members of my family were wiped out.  Hurricane Katrina would have been most likely a typical hurricane churning through the gulf, as has happened over many generations. If it hadn’t been for climate change during that cyclone, that tropical disturbance would not have become a killer storm. Climate scientists say that the ambient temperature of the Gulf of Mexico has risen about 1 degree Fahrenheit over the past seventy or eighty years. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but what that water does, it is the perfect environment for taking what would be a tropical disturbance, and as in the case of Katrina, convert that disturbance into a killer hurricane. Katrina made landfall in 2005, late that summer or early that fall, as a category five hurricane, and then people like members of my family did have … [ video stops] …


“How could Swarthmore College, a Quaker heritage institution, not think as critically and thoughtfully about its own moral and economic future as the Rockefellers do? I don’t understand it. It’s a contradiction of our mission, our values, and our heritage.”


…made a series of terrible decisions, and one of those decisions over the last eight years has been the refusal to divest from fossil fuels. Fossil fuels, coal and oil, and gas, fuels like that have been divested, even by people like the Rockefellers, a very wealthy white family in the United States, who made their fortune on fossil fuels. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, three or four years ago, divested from fossil fuels because they realized that the very economy that they had relied on for their incredible wealth was destroying the planet. How could Swarthmore College, a Quaker heritage institution, not think as critically and thoughtfully about its own moral and economic future as the Rockefellers do? I don’t understand it. It’s a contradiction of our mission, our values, and our heritage.

So, that’s why I’m here today. I hope to be here throughout the week. I teach on Wednesdays, so I may not be here on Wednesdays, but tomorrow, Thursday, and Friday I’m here at different times. I would love to meet with some of you to talk about the College, to talk about its future and ways that we could strategize together to help the college do the right thing, to divest from fossil fuels in its endowment.

Thank you.

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