Swarthmore Students' Fossil Fuel Divestment Sit-In Inspires Climate Activists Nationwide

Posted April 1, 2015

MP3 Interview with George Woodliff-Stanley and Sarah Dobbs, student activists with Swarthmore Mountain Justice, 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 related investments. McKibben’s organizing drive 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.

Fast forward 2½ years, and more than 25 colleges and dozens of cities, towns, religious denominations and foundations in the U.S. and around the world have voted to divest from fossil fuel investments. The progress of the divestment campaign comes as the U.S. government continues to be blocked from taking even minimal action to address climate change by the Republican Party, whose majority of members in Congress deny that man-made global warming constitutes a threat to the planet’s environment.

This spring, the Student Divestment Network has called for an escalation of actions demanding divestment on campuses nationwide. Leading the way are students at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, who on March 19 launched the first in-the-nation indefinite occupation of their college’s Finance and Investment office. Students active in the group Swarthmore Mountain Justice are demanding that the college’s board of managers enter into good faith negotiations leading to an immediate freeze on new fossil fuel investments, followed by a staged withdrawal over five years and an investment of 1 percent of the endowment in renewable energy. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Swarthmore College student climate activists George Woodliff-Stanley and Sarah Dobbs, who talk about the goals of their group’s ongoing sit-in and similar actions taking place at colleges and universities across the country.

Learn more about the growing fossil fuel divestment campaign and Swarthmore Mountain Justice by visiting swatmj.org.

Related Links: