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If the divestment movement were so foolish, congressmen wouldn’t pay it any attention

<h5>Divest Princeton protestors outside Nassau Hall.</h5>
<h6>Rooya Rahin / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Divest Princeton protestors outside Nassau Hall.
Rooya Rahin / The Daily Princetonian

Last week, U.S. Congressman Ken Buck ’81 argued in a guest column that “divestment from fossil fuels would be a disaster,” and recommended that the University continue to “withstand [the] pressure” from student climate activists. As a proponent of divestment myself, I consider Buck’s column a win for fossil fuel divestment activists.

While Congressman Buck, a notorious climate denier, called our divestment efforts “ill-advised” and “counterproductive,” the fact that he, as a member of Congress, found the divestment movement formidable enough to warrant writing a column for a college newspaper during election week goes to show how great an impact Divest Princeton’s efforts have made.

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If the divestment movement is truly so “misguided,” then certainly Princeton University, the number-one university in the country, wouldn’t be so unwise as to consider it. Surely, if divestment advocates are really as “wrong on the science” as Buck claims, he would not feel compelled to write about it in a college newspaper. A campaign as “foolish” as the one Buck describes would barely reach a congressman, let alone spark such controversy. Instead, by writing a column criticizing the divestment movement, Congressman Buck has single-handedly legitimized Divest Princeton by a magnitude greater than their over 1,650 supporters.

It seems as though the Congressman’s interest in combating the divestment movement extends beyond concern for the supposed, baseless threat to Princeton’s scholarship fund that he cites in his column. For one, Congressman Buck represents a district which produces 85 percent of Colorado’s oil. Further, over the past six years, Congressman Buck has received nearly half a million dollars from oil and gas companies, including $63,000 from Koch Industries, a group infamous for financing climate denial groups with millions of dollars in funding. In fact, the oil and gas industry was the number-one contributor to Buck’s 2016 re-election campaign. Clearly, he has a vested interest in the continued consumption of natural gas and other fossil fuels, both financially and politically. There is no wonder why Congressman Buck doesn’t want his alma mater, not to mention its hefty $26 billion endowment, to divest from the very industry he profits from. 

Congressman Buck is no friend to the climate movement. His article opposing divestment is the latest in a steady stream of climate denial and misinformation. Buck made his views on climate change quite plain in 2010, stating, “global warming is the greatest hoax that has been perpetrated.” In 2016, he argued that a proposal to mitigate flooding at military bases was part of a “radical climate change agenda.” A year later, he led 84 members of Congress in writing a letter which petitioned the Department of Justice to federally prosecute activists protesting oil pipelines as domestic terrorists. Unsurprisingly, Congressman Buck tweeted his support for the “commonsense reforms to reduce burdensome regulations on the oil and gas industry” in August 2019. For over a decade now, Congressman Buck has ardently denied climate change, and his latest column is no exception.

Try as he might to derail the growing divestment movement at Princeton, Congressman Buck’s piece highlights exactly how successful Princeton’s fossil fuel divestment campaign has been.

Although it can be demoralizing to realize that there remain leaders of our country who continue to dismiss the growing climate crisis, the very fact that leaders of this country are aware of Divest Princeton’s campaign demonstrates how far-reaching the movement has become.

In the end, the University is left with a tough choice. Will Princeton follow the example of eminent leaders like Brown, Cornell, and Oxford, or will it align with a climate denialist who has a League of Conservation Voters score of 3 percent?

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Hannah Reynolds is a junior in the anthropology department. She can be reached at hannahr@princeton.edu.

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