Bill McKibben encourages students to divest

February 6, 2013

Bill McKibben, the co-founder of 350.org, spoke at Cooper Union’s Great Hall last night.

Presented by NYU Divest, the event was called “Divesting From Fossil Fuels: A Conversation with Bill McKibben and NYC Students” and focused on McKibben’s non-governmental organization 350.org, the Keystone pipeline and an upcoming rally to discontinue its construction. McKibben’s campaign against fossil fuels includes the Climate Forward Rally on Sunday, Feb. 17, during which McKibben, 350.org and people from across the nation will convene in Washington, D.C., in front of the White House to persuade President Obama to discontinue the Keystone XL pipeline. In conjunction with this protest, NYU Divest is encouraging the university stop investing in the top 200 publicly-traded fossil fuel companies.

McKibben, who was showing photographs from 350.org rallies or group gatherings, compared the battle between environmental advocates and wealthy fossil fuel

companies to balancing a scale.

“Washington is   just  about  power … On the one hand, Exxon has piled huge amounts of money so the scale tips in their direction. We have to pile enough bodies and passion and energy on the other side of the scale.”

Even though topics were solemn, the audience often raised their hands to cheer, clap and laugh. After receiving a standing ovation, McKibben shared the stage with student panelists inc-luding NYU alumna Belinda Rodriquez and Columbia University senior Joe Shortsleeve.

Shortsleeve asked what else could be done, noting that many people believe university divestment alone cannot sustain a movement. McKibben responded that he believes more non-violent disobedience must be increased.

“We’ve learned from 25 years that asking isn’t getting it done, so we better do a little bit more than just repeat the same thing over and over,” he added.

NYU professor of environmental science Julianne Warren said she was excited about New York City’s involvement in the divestment from fossil fuels because the diversity of the city meant a stronger community. This compassion from the city seemed to reflect McKibben’s own personality.

“Some have called him a rockstar, but that is almost the inverse,” Warren said. “His whole effectiveness comes from humility and love … that accounts for the type of worker he has become.”

According to Warren, NYU Divest is currently working on convincing the university’s Board of Trustees to stop investing in fossil fuel companies and to reinvest in more sustainable energy sources.

A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Feb. 6 print edition. Jordan Melendrez is deputy managing editor. Email her at jmelendrez@nyunews.com.

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