Bill has an oped in today’s Boston Globe about the state of student activism — and the growing excitement around this divestment campaign as it spreads across the country.
Student activism is alive and well
By Bill McKibben
I MET with students at Northeastern University recently, and they were gung-ho about going to work on climate change: They’d gone way past their old focus on recycling to start demanding that the college divest its holdings in fossil fuel companies. They were nerving themselves up for a real fight; it was fun to see. But once the formal session was over, a student lingered by the edge to ask me, somewhat timidly, a question.
Ralph Nader, it turns out, had been there not long before. And he’d said that today’s college students lack “fire in the belly.” Indeed, according to published accounts of the talk, he’d said, “It is harder to get a rise out of college and university students today than any time in my 45 years of activity.” Did I think this was true, she asked. Was it all hopeless?
I’m certain Nader was trying to inspire, not discourage — why else would he still be out on campuses? But, in my experience, it’s not true. At least in the climate change movement, where I’ve spent the last decade, young people are the leaders, and they’re doing a powerful job.
They’ve convened huge We Are Power Shift gatherings — not just in the United States, where they’ve drawn 10,000 young organizers at a time, but in many other countries. They’ve convinced more than 700 college presidents to sign a pledge to make their campuses carbon-neutral. And, in just the last few weeks, they’ve launched far more difficult divestment drives on more than 100 campuses. I find myself inspired by young people all over the planet. At the same time, I am disappointed by the failure of older people to exhibit much concern for the planet their kids and grandkids will inhabit.