A child in Chester is diagnosed with asthma; a family is forced to leave their demolished home in the Philippines; the Niger Delta ecosystem is destroyed and indigenous groups are forcibly evicted and murdered; indigenous groups in Canada are forcibly evicted; subsistence farmers in Malawi — no longer able to survive — migrate to the city; voters in Florida are disenfranchised; a McDonald’s is built in Sri Lanka; a mass extinction of species occurs; a fertilizer plant in India explodes; a mountain in North Carolina becomes a strip mine; a historic neighbourhood in Philadelphia becomes a strip mall; a drone strike hits a school in Yemen; the richest 1 percent of US citizens consolidate more than one-fifth of the nation’s wealth; an island of discarded plastics floats in the Pacific Ocean.
All of these seemingly unrelated events are directly or indirectly consequences of the fossil fuel industry’s “business as usual.”
Fossil fuel companies actively destroy our world’s ecosystems, undermine democratic institutions at home and abroad, and poison and exploit people worldwide, moving us ever closer to the point of no return.
It is unconscionable that our beloved Swarthmore College seeks to gain financially from the destructive operations of fossil fuel corporations.
Experts have reasoned, students have implored, faculties have encouraged, and alumni have voiced: fossil fuel profits have no place in the College’s investment portfolio.
Yet, despite the growing opposition to the College’s practice, the board and management have yet to take decisive action on the issue.
In such a situation, students have had no choice but to operate outside the official, established channels of negotiation. As we have seen in the Civil Rights Movement, the anti-Apartheid struggle, and numerous indigenous peoples’ struggles, disruption of everyday affairs in the name of a just cause is an essential component of creating the just, equitable, and sustainable future we know is possible.
The majority of the students, faculty members, staff, and managers at Swarthmore College may never face the full brunt of the fossil fuel industry’s current destructive effects, nor will they suffer the acute effects of the changing climate in the future, but we must think beyond the Swat Bubble, into the future.
To invest means to gain profit when the industry profits. When the fossil fuel industry profits, people and the planet pay. There is, however, another way forward. Swarthmore can begin with divestment and then strive to regain its position as a leader among higher educational institutions’ social and environmental responsibility. It is long overdue that Swarthmore College joins Stanford, the New School, the College of Marshall Islands, the cities of Seattle, San Francisco, Madison, Oakland, Örebro, and Santa Fe, and the numerous other institutions who have said no to money laced with pollution, blood, suffering, and potential catastrophe.
Meanwhile, farmers in Mali resist GMO seeds; citizens in New York pass anti-fracking legislation; indigenous groups in Canada block a transnational pipeline; the Quechua in Ecuador continue to fend off oil companies; the women of San José del Golfo lead a 24 hour barricade to prevent mining on their land; asylum seekers and refugees — displaced by famine, war, and climate change — fight for freedom in new lands; and students occupy a college office, demanding an end to profiting from fossil fuels. Just as all the problems are connected, so are the resistance movements. Action anywhere chips away at the domination and exploitation experienced all over the globe.
It is inspiring to see these courageous students determined to ensure Swarthmore remains true to its values of social responsibility and that it uses its financial position to send a message to the most destructive industry in the history of humanity. These students’ forward thinking and commitment to their ideals make me proud to be a Swattie even when I am ashamed of my College. The question is no longer “what can we do?” but is now “what are we willing to do?”
Fight on, Swatties!
Not just a fossil fuel-free investment portfolio, but a fossil fuel-free future!
Ladulé Lakolosarah ’09