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SHORT TAKES


January 28, 2013

The New Campus Target: 'Big Carbon'

The New York Times is featuring a debate of sorts, marred somewhat by structuring matters so that all six debaters are on the same side.  The topic, "Is Divestment an Effective Means of Protest?," refers to campus protests against "big oil." The arguments yielded no disagreement on whether oil and gas companies are contemptible villains--that is taken for granted-- merely mild doubts as to whether divestment campaigns are the best way to bring the villains down.

The debaters treat action against oil and gas companies as a natural extension of the divestment campaigns against apartheid and the tobacco industry, though keeping a modern economy going with fossil fuels until something else is available does not seem as obviously worthy of student contempt. There is truculent chatter about defining "Big Carbon" as a group of "pariahs," plus the mandatory elbowing of the Koch brothers. To environmentalist Bill McKibben, the best known of the Times debaters, this is just "simple morality -- if it's wrong to wreck the climate, then it's wrong to profit from the wreckage." Another debater calls for "disrupting business as usual and calling out climate hypocrites like President Obama, who talks big but so far has done little." The level of assured righteousness is noticeably high.

Comments (1)

Marty Murphy:

Bad ideas have bad consequences. The next time anyone gets together to 'debate' oil and gas divestment, be sure to turn off the heat. Let them consider the consequences of their silly ideas first-hand.

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