The New Campus Target: ‘Big Carbon’

New York Times is featuring a debate
of sorts
, marred somewhat by structuring matters so that all six debaters
are on the same side.  The topic, “Is Divestment an Effective Means of
Protest?,” refers to campus protests against “big oil.” The arguments yielded
no disagreement on whether oil and gas companies are contemptible villains–that
is taken for granted– merely mild doubts as to whether divestment campaigns
are the best way to bring the villains down.

debaters treat action against oil and gas companies as a natural extension of
the divestment campaigns against apartheid and the tobacco industry, though
keeping a modern economy going with fossil fuels until something else is
available does not seem as obviously worthy of student contempt. There is
truculent chatter about defining “Big Carbon” as a group of “pariahs,” plus the
mandatory elbowing of the Koch brothers. To environmentalist Bill McKibben, the
best known of the Times debaters, this is just “simple morality — if it’s wrong
to wreck
the climate
, then it’s wrong to profit from the wreckage.” Another debater
calls for “disrupting business as usual and calling out climate hypocrites like
President Obama, who talks big but so far has done little.” The level of
assured righteousness is noticeably high.


  • John Leo

    John Leo is the editor of Minding the Campus, dedicated to chronicling imbalances within higher education and restoring intellectual pluralism to our American universities. His popular column, "On Society," ran in U.S.News & World Report for 17 years.

    View all posts

One thought on “The New Campus Target: ‘Big Carbon’”

  1. Bad ideas have bad consequences. The next time anyone gets together to ‘debate’ oil and gas divestment, be sure to turn off the heat. Let them consider the consequences of their silly ideas first-hand.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *