SHORT TAKES


December 7, 2012

Swarthmore Activists Don't Live Up to Their Own Hype

It may be moral preening, but some students are trying to launch a campaign against colleges with endowment money invested in fossil fuels. The New York Times recently reported on one such effort by Swarthmore students. The Times seems to have thrown its weight behind the protesters by puffing them up as "the vanguard of a national movement."  

Their attempt follows on the heels of successful efforts at Unity College in Maine and Hampshire College in Massachusetts. According to the Times, the Swarthmore students view themselves as successors of the 1980s divestment campaign against apartheid South Africa; as one leader put it, like their predecessors, today's climate activists wish to fix a "seemingly...intractable problem."

The case provides a fine example of the campus left's confusion, as the students' actions in no way match their grandiose rhetoric. The article notes that the students have limited themselves to "a petition signed by nearly half the student body, small demonstrations and quirky art installations." This pales in comparison to the strenuous efforts of the activists in the South Africa effort, who, as the Times reminds us, engaged in "strikes, sit-ins and the seizure of buildings." One would think that the cause of global warming, which to these students poses an equivalent if not greater threat than apartheid, would merit similarly drastic action. Instead, Swarthmore's students "are...having talks with their parents about how far to go."

The article suggests that the campaign could "escalate" when 150 climate activists come to campus for a February conference. If they're anything like the Swarthmore students who wave the banner of climate justice, fossil fuel companies have little to fear.

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