Monday, April 13, 2015
Harvard Heat Week: Day 1
One speaker quoted Thoreau "Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine." He recognized an audience member, a Harvard Divinity School student recently released from federal prison after serving two years for disrupting a petroleum rights auction on public lands: life as "counter-friction."
Within the University community, alumni are organizing to withhold gifts from the University. A Divestment Fund has been created, and alumni signed cards pledging donations to that fund, which will revert to Harvard only when it divests from fossil fuel corporations. Some dozens of alumni were planning to sit-in at the Harvard Alumni Affairs office in the afternoon, an act of civil disobedience for which arrests were expected. More counter-friction.
Harvard's administration has been adamant that endowment portfolios will be exempt from policy considerations, even one as morally urgent as climate change. President Faust has instead cited the University's role in supporting research, even though, as several speakers noted, the endowment funds support spurious pseudo-research by large petroleum corporations intent on obfuscating the science of climate change. After Heat Week plans were announced, Harvard arranged a panel discussion for this afternoon, with an array of well-known scientists and moderated by popular talk-show host Charlie Rose, presumably to dramatize its role in advancing scientific inquiry. McKibben and others suggested that decades after climate science pointed to the growing crisis, it may be time for concrete action, rather than more panel discussion. Others noted with some appreciation Harvard's ability to convene experts such as presidential science advisorJohn Holdren or IPCC co-chair Christopher Field. The panel event is a classic instance of Harvard strategy to reframe the question more favorably, while the substantive issue of divestment remains out of sight.