Divestment Campaign Targeting Fossil Fuel Industry Could Advance Global Warming Fight

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Posted Dec. 4, 2013

Interview with Todd Gitlin, professor of journalism and sociology, activist and author, conducted by Scott Harris


In the winter of 2012, Bill McKibben, the author of a dozen books about the environment and founder of the grassroots climate change campaign group 350.org, launched a 21-city tour focused on organizing university students and faculty to pressure their institutions to divest their portfolios of fossil fuel stocks and other investments. McKibben was inspired by the international anti-apartheid divestment campaign of the 1980s that was an important part of the movement that helped topple South Africa’s racist government.

In the year since McKibben’s tour, at least eight colleges and universities have voted to divest: San Francisco State University; Foothill-De Anza Community College in Los Altos Hills, Calif.; Unity College and College of the Atlantic, both in Maine; Hampshire College in Massachusetts; and Sterling College and Green Mountain College, both in Vermont. Meanwhile organizing is moving forward on other campuses and in some cities, independent pension funds and religious groups to begin the process of divestment. However at well known universities such as Harvard, Brown and Cornell administrators have rejected their students’ demand to divest.

Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Todd Gitlin, a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University, and an activist. Gitlin, a former president of the activist group Students for a Democratic Society and veteran Vietnam War protest organizer, assesses the importance of the fossil fuel divestment campaign, as discussed in his recent article, "How to Reverse a Slow-Motion Apocalypse, Why the Divestment Movement Against Big Energy Matters.”

Todd Gitlin is the author of 15 books, including "Occupy Nation: The Roots, the Spirit, and the Promise of Occupy Wall Street."

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