Cambridge, MA — Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work to liberate South Africa from Apartheid, just joined a long list of prominent Harvard alumni and current students who are calling for a week of civil disobedience at Harvard to push the university to divest from fossil fuels.
“We’re incredibly excited to have his support and the support of hundreds of others affiliated with Harvard,” said Sidni Frederick, a member of the student activist group Divest Harvard. “For us, it’s one more of many signs that the time has come for Harvard to put itself on the right side of history and divest from fossil fuels.”
Harvard Heat Week will bring together students, faculty, alumni and community members for a week of action to demand Harvard sell its holdings in the top 200 fossil fuel companies. According to event organizers, hundreds of people have already signed up to take part in the action since a letter announcing the effort was released on February 19th.
Archbishop Tutu has been one of the highest profile supporters for the global divestment effort. Last April, he wrote an article in the Guardian calling for an “apartheid-style boycott to save the planet.”
“People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change,” wrote Tutu. “We can encourage more of our universities and municipalities and cultural institutions to cut their ties to the fossil-fuel industry…It makes no sense to invest in companies that undermine our future. To serve as custodians of creation is not an empty title; it requires that we act, and with all the urgency this dire situation demands.”
Tutu received an honorary degree from Harvard in 1979. In a speech at Memorial Hall in 1984, he called on the university to divest its holdings in apartheid South Africa. In 1988, he threatened to return his honorary degree if the university did not sell its roughly $230 million in stocks related to South Africa. Tutu went on to serve on the board of overseers from 1989 until 1992, when he had to step down to attend to difficulties in his home country.