I remember when I was at Princeton, walking past Nassau Hall there were often students marching and chanting “Divest!” to demand that the University divest from companies doing business in South Africa under the apartheid regime. Although I felt some sympathy for their cause, I thought they were too radical and idealistic. Now in retrospect I recognize they were on the right side of history, just as the students of Divest Princeton will be on the issue of fossil-fuel investments.
Entering Princeton at the time of the 1970s oil crisis (when oil reserves were wrongly forecast to run out in 20 years), I chose to study mechanical engineering because I wanted to work on solar energy. After graduation, much to my disappointment I was unable to find a job in that field. (Energy companies advertising their research and development on photovoltaics and solar thermal collectors were engaged in an early form of greenwashing.) So it’s taken around four decades, but climate change has finally led us to acknowledge the urgency of ending fossil-fuel extraction and use, and making the difficult but crucial transition to renewable energy.