Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Updated: Friday, March 8, 2013 12:03
In 1990, Harvard University and the City University of New York publically rescinded their investments in Big Tobacco. By giving the finger to an industry with such enormous power, these institutions painted that industry as decrepit, immoral and corrupt, and encouraged others to do the same. And they did: among the many followers were the University of Michigan, the University of Toronto and Northwestern University.
From that success, the movement to divest from fossil fuels takes inspiration — on campus, that movement is spearheaded by Tufts Divest. Member Cooper McKim describes Divest as “an unabashed group of passionate, young climate activists,” urging Tufts to rescind its fossil fuel holdings. Having only begun this year, the organization has firmly integrated into the activist network on campus and instigated an escalation strategy, increasing their visibility and impact more and more throughout the term.
This strategy was heightened Monday with a demonstration in the lower patio of the Campus Center: three speakers and a march to Ballou Hall, chanting for the Board of Trustees to meet the demands to preserve the sanctity of our environmental future. “I think it was a great showing of student power and student support on campus, a really clear indication that we’re gaining in traction,” recalls Kit Collins, who protested on Monday. “It’s one small step in an effort to build campaign momentum.”
The Tufts endowment exceeds $1 billion. According to their website, Divest is “asking Tufts to request that all of its fund managers apply a negative screen for the 200 publicly traded companies that hold the vast majority of the world’s carbon reserves.” But contributing to the fossil fuel industry is only the tip of the inhumane iceberg of Tufts’ investment practices.
In 2010, a group of students calling themselves “Jumboleaks” produced online a “List of direct holdings” of the Tufts endowment. As went widely reported, infamous megacorps Monsanto, Nike and Goldman Sachs made the list. But it didn’t end there. There’s predator drone manufacturer Lockheed Martin, complicit in the deaths of thousands of innocent Pakistanis killed without prejudice by the CIA. Bank of America, whose sale of toxic loans into the secondary mortgage market ripped $1 billion and counting from the hands of U.S. taxpayers, also commands a handful of our university’s investments. Not to forget the shame-bodies-make-money retailer Macy’s, nor Hewlett-Packard, who profits from the illegal occupation of the West Bank by providing tracking systems and computers to the Israeli government and IDF to use at checkpoints.
The issue at hand isn’t simply that our investments in these corporations are so significant that to divest would mean to tear them down. Rather, as is the case with most activism (especially supply-side activism), the loud conversation beginning around these corporations, where we begin to fully understand and communicate their sins. Given the interconnectedness among college campuses — and in the world at large — movements like these spread like fire and can, given time and passion, engulf injustice. None of this oppression stands alone: all of Tufts’ immoral investments share the thread of injustice, and are united by solidarity.
But today, Tufts Divest targets Tufts’ anti-principled, anti-sustainable investments in the fossil fuel industry. Alongside their peer organizations nationwide, they are building a force to move mountains. “Next year, when we go to Congress, we will have a movement so big and a public [and] so outraged that we will get the legislation that our generation needs,” activist Ben Thompson declared at Monday’s rally. “Legislation that says that one day, we will sit our children down to our tables ... [and] take pleasure in picking out each word that we will use to tell this beautiful story of how we took on the richest industry in history — and we won.”
Walker Bristol is a junior majoring in religion and political science. He can be reached at email@example.com