In an opinion piece in the New York Times, Kate Aronoff, a student organizer with Swarthmore Mountain Justice and a board member at the Responsible Endowments Coalition, compared her organization’s fight for disinvestment in fossil fuel companies to the fight for ending apartheid, calling the two struggles “strikingly similar.”
As in the case of the antiapartheid struggle, the path from divestment to the end of the status quo is not a straight one. But as that movement showed, leveraging universities to create a consensus among the investment world and the public at large can bring the fight to the steps of Congress. After decades of government complicity with fossil fuel’s destruction of communities and the environment, we now face a strikingly similar task.
Swarthmore Mountain Justice’s website declares:
We are calling on Swarthmore College to divest from its current holdings in sixteen fossil fuel companies, or the “Sordid Sixteen”… We refuse to stand by while our school invests in the destruction of communities and regions through mountaintop removal, the tar sands, hydrofracking, deep sea oil drilling, coal exportation, and other forms of destructive fossil fuel extraction.
The New York Times is only too delighted to run pieces decrying the evils of fossil fuel companies, but comparing the fight against oil companies to the fight against the deliberate segregation and disenfranchising of human beings is, at the very least, a crassly political act, as well as a self-aggrandizing one. It’s one thing for callow students to bloviate about their views of the world; it’s another for a news organization to indulge their navel-gazing.