Dozens of Colleges Converge To Talk Divestment

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

170 students from 77 schools will converge at Swarthmore this weekend to attend Power Up! Divest Fossil Fuels, a convergence event dedicated to the issue of fossil fuel divestment. The host group, Swarthmore Mountain Justice (MJ), has invited nine speakers and panelists who are directly involved with campaigning against fossil fuel extraction along with a number of experienced activists who will serve as “trainers.”

The event is a significant ramping-up of divestment advocacy efforts by MJ, whose leadership on the issue has made headlines in The New York Times and received airtime on CBS.

Students not directly involved with the movement are also invited to come to this weekend’s open events. “We want to bring the Swarthmore community in,” Kate Aronoff ’14, a member of Mountain Justice, said. “Divestment has connected with students in a way we haven’t seen in five to ten years.”

“This is the first time people are coming together to build a concerted movement towards divestment,” Aronoff said. “We want to build a national student movement supporting divestment.”

Dinah Dewald ’13, who was also involved in the planning process, wrote in an email, “I would really like to see the Swarthmore community, including students, faculty, administration, and especially the Board of Managers, to be really wowed by the energy and power behind this movement.” The Board of Managers will be having one of their quarterly meetings this weekend.

The sheer number of students, some of whom will be coming from as far away as California, proved to be a difficulty for organizers. “We originally thought up this event [in the fall of 2012], there were no more than a dozen other schools working on divestment,” Dewald wrote. There are now 230 colleges with divestment campaigns!”

Aronoff said the group as a whole was surprised by the large response. “We were so overwhelmed, but in an overwhelmingly positive way.” Visiting students will be given space to sleep on the floor of the Friends Meeting House.

Several events, from keynote speakers and panels to training sessions and caucuses, have been planned for the weekend. Aronoff said the goals of these events included “learning about creative tactics” and helping students “get acquainted” with various communities on the “front lines” of climate change. Another major goal will be networking with other campuses. Aronoff described this as “taking 200 movements and bringing them together into one.”

Swarthmore Mountain Justice, which was founded two years ago, was one of the first groups nationwide to specifically take an interest in the issue of fossil fuel divestment and has made more progress than most of its peer groups. Though Aronoff said that “we’re not the vanguard, we’re more the facilitators,” she wrote in an email that MJ “stands to benefit tremendously from coordinated action and strategy around divestment.”

Featured image courtesy of Power Up! Divest Fossil Fuels at studentsdivest.org

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