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.
Citing the long-standing efforts of many Mountain Justice supporters, Gil Kemp ‘72 released the following statement, reprinted in whole below:
After considering the issue of divestment from fossil fuels carefully and considering the financial and ethical ramifications of our investment in fossil fuels, we decided that Mountain Justice’s strong advocacy has convinced us that divestment from fossil fuel companies is a necessary step towards maintaining Swarthmore’s identity as a socially conscious institution.
After making this decision, I began to think more about Mountain Justice’s message of divestment as a means of achieving social justice, and I thought: “Why stop at fossil fuels?” I began looking at our portfolio more closely, and I came to the conclusion that we must divest from not just fossil fuel companies, but many other companies as well.
For instance, we own shares in companies like Nike and Adidas that use sweatshop labor. We own shares in companies like Apple that use rare minerals that are extracted through environmentally damaging processes. We own shares in companies like Walmart and McDonald’s that do not pay their workers a fair wage. In the name of social justice, we cannot continue to support companies that maintain such abhorrent practices.
But then I got to thinking even further. From the pianos in Parrish to the desks in McCabe, Swarthmore uses a tremendous amount of wood, much of which comes from deforestation efforts in the Amazon rainforest. We buy tremendous amounts of meat every day for Sharples, contributing to the massacre of animals across the world – a huge injustice to animal rights. In order to fully achieve social justice in terms of our actions at Swarthmore, we cannot simply look to our endowment portfolio – we have to look at the things we buy every day.
Then, it finally hit me – think of all the energy we use every day at Swarthmore! I had been ignoring the Green Advisors all along when they tried to warn me about our carbon emissions!
As a result, I came to an inescapable yet stunning conclusion: the only way for Swarthmore to be truly socially conscious – especially when it comes to our impact on the environment – is for the College to disband altogether. I have consulted the Board, and after a brief discussion in which I laid out the obvious need for such action, the Board unanimously agreed on this course of action. We will begin the process of immediately liquidizing all assets. The final day of classes will be on Friday, April 3.
We plan for these assets to be put into a new organization operated by the current Swarthmore Mountain Justice group entitled Swarthmore Mountain Justice Organization (SMJO).
This was a difficult decision to make, but we have complete faith that this is the best course of action for us as a community to best support environmental justice. We anticipate your support in this decision, and we appreciate your approval of our actions today.
In response, Mountain Justice spokesperson Green Earth ’16 (birth name: Aaron Johnson) had the following to say: “We are thrilled to see that Gil Kemp has finally come around to understanding the importance of environmental justice. Of course, Kemp’s intransigence up to this point has caused indescribable damage to our planet, but with his actions today, he has taken the first step towards redemption in our view. Make no mistake, he has a long ways to go to atone for his previous sins, but we appreciate these first steps towards rectifying his previous patriarchal capitalist worldview.”
Featured image courtesy of http://renra.ca.