Divestment harnesses MIT’s most powerful asset – its reputation – to galvanize a sense of generational mission, fostering a climate change movement unwavering in its demand for bold political action.
MIT is an intellectual powerhouse – an international icon of scientific excellence and technological foresight. Imagine if instead of investing in the fossil fuel industry at the root of global warming, this great Institute were to lead the charge the other way. Divestment from fossil fuel companies is an opportunity to galvanize a sense of generational mission in an all-too-often apathetic youth who, if energized and unleashed, wield a megaphone to public opinion and an immense capacity to effect change. We can help to build an all-inclusive climate movement that inspires an impassioned electorate unwavering in its demand for an end to ‘business as usual’ leadership and revolutionary commitments to climate change action.
MIT has got it right before, divesting from the Sudanese atrocities of Darfur1. But it has also got it very wrong, deciding against divestment from apartheid in South Africa2. According to a detailed study from the University of Oxford3, the fossil fuel divestment campaign is growing faster than any previous divestment campaign4. We must get it right this time. Tell MIT to take the lead against climate change.
Our responsibility as scientists to “fight for scientific truth and an informed debate” was recently articulated5 by leading climatologist, Michael Mann (famous for his ‘hockey stick’ global warming graph that has become a vivid centerpiece of the climate wars):
In my view, it is no longer acceptable for scientists to remain on the sidelines….
If scientists choose not to engage in the public debate, we leave a vacuum that will be filled by those whose agenda is one of short-term self-interest. There is a great cost to society if scientists fail to participate in the larger conversation — if we do not do all we can to ensure that the policy debate is informed by an honest assessment of the risks. In fact, it would be an abrogation of our responsibility to society if we remained quiet in the face of such a grave threat.
This is hardly a radical position. Our Department of Homeland Security has urged citizens to report anything dangerous they witness: “If you see something, say something.” We scientists are citizens, too, and, in climate change, we see a clear and present danger. The public is beginning to see the danger, too…
- MIT News Office, MIT rejects abhorrent acts in Darfur, will divest as necessary (May 2007). [link] [↩]
- Global Nonviolent Action Database, MIT students campaign for divestment from apartheid South Africa, 1985-1991. [link] [↩]
- University of Oxford Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, Stranded assets and the fossil fuel divestment campaign: what does divestment mean for the valuation of fossil fuel assets? (2013). [link] [↩]
- Carrington, D. Campaign against fossil fuels growing, says study. The Guardian (October 2013). [link] [↩]
- Mann, M. E. If You See Something, Say Something. NY Times (January 2014). [link] [↩]