SwatTalk sessions are recorded as permitted by the presenters.
with Greg Brown, Vice President for Finance and Administration
"The Importance of a Learning Mindset" with Phil Weiser '90, Colorado Attorney General
Recording from Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019 coming soon.
Getting Green Done: President's Sustainability Research Fellowship Program
with Prof. Joy Charlton and Aurora Winslade, Sustainability Director - may 13, 2019
Video and transcript coming soon. View the presentation slides.
- Read the transcript.
Environmental Justice and Education
with Prof. Edwin Mayorga and Melissa Tier ’14, Sustainability Program Manager - April 30, 2019
- Read the transcript.
Peter Jaquette: Good evening everyone. My name is Peter Jaquette. I'm a member of the Alumni Council, and we are sponsoring a series of what we're calling SwatTalks, alumni webinars presented by Swarthmore faculty, staff, alumni and students. Tonight's program is the second in our series on sustainability.
Peter Jaquette: Before we begin, I just want to let everyone know that this presentation is being recorded and it's going to be available at some future time, which we don't know yet, but it will be available for others to watch and listen. And we would like to take your questions after the presentation. Please use the chat box. It should be on the right hand side of your Zoom screen to type in your questions and we'll have plenty of time for questions.
Peter Jaquette: So, let me just get going here. Our topic tonight is Environmental Justice and Pedagogy for the Public Good. And we've got presentations, a discussion from Edwin Mayorga, Assistant Professor of Educational Studies, and Melissa Tier, who's a sustainability program manager and also class of 2014.
Melissa Tier: Hi everyone.
Edwin Mayorga: Hi everyone.
Melissa Tier: So, as Peter mentioned, this is a series. We've had one talks so far led by Nathan who you can see on the screen and Professor Betsy Bolton on energy decarbonization and the carbon charge, and we will make those recordings available. And we have one more session after this on May 13th called Getting Green Done, The President's Sustainability Research Fellowship led Professor Joy Charlton and our director of sustainability, Aurora Winslade. So, let's jump into today's presentation.
Edwin Mayorga: We also wanted to take a moment to go through a land recognition, and so to begin, we want to acknowledge that we're presently occupying the traditional territory of area's indigenous people wherever you may be, and in our specific location we're speaking of the Lenni Lenape people specifically. In making this land acknowledgement, we express our gratitude and appreciation to those whose territory we are on and we honor the indigenous people who have been living and working on the land from time in memorial. As we contemplate our relationship to the environment and working towards sustainability and environmental justice, the impossibility of freedom or justice on stolen land should never be far from our thoughts and actions. So, we want to just make sure that we take that with us as we go through our presentation and discussion today.
Melissa Tier: Thank you. We want to begin with a framework for sustainability that really incorporates the intersection of conversation that we plan to have tonight and it's also a framework that the office of sustainability regularly uses in our work and in our presentations and education.
Melissa Tier: So, at the very start, at the baseline of our framework is this idea of basic rights for all, the idea of equality and that permeates all sustainability work and should be at the forefront of our work. We need to do that though within the context of the resources available on our planet. So, the space where sustainability operates is this middle ground between achieving equality for all and acknowledging and working with the limitations on the resources of our one planet.
Melissa Tier: So, we'll be operating with this framework throughout this presentation. We're going to talk a little bit more about what environmental justice means, break that down a bit. And then in the second half, we'll be moving into two ways to operationalize this framework, one from myself an officer of sustainability, and another in Edwin's teaching.
Edwin Mayorga: So, in thinking about and working with our framework that Melissa presented here, some of the key questions that are driving our thinking are focused primarily on this notion of environmental justice, and in thinking about and working towards that, we're asking who's suffering soonest from environmental change, environmental processes, the relationships between people and the land, we're also asking who's suffering the worst impacts of these kinds of changes that we're experiencing as a world? We also ask who can't afford or can't access adaptation. So, the development of relocation or new technologies, we wonder who has access to that, who doesn't?
Edwin Mayorga: We're also thinking about who is causing the most environmental harm, whether it be certain buildings, infrastructures or networks and arrangements of different kinds of technologies or conglomerates of industry? These are the kinds of questions we're also asking, and finally, who has access to levers of power with decision-making? If there's questions around access and affordability, there are also questions of power that are not too far behind or better yet, underlying these kinds of questions and issues, so we're looking at that as well.
Edwin Mayorga: And key for us is really recognizing that already marginalized communities are most vulnerable to environmental harm and that they provide a key role in crafting solutions. And so really in asking these questions, we're particularly wanting to center communities that have been historically and in our present day, marginalized from both the levers of power as well as being disproportionately affected by climate change and environmental processes.
Edwin Mayorga: And then along those lines and continuing to work with the notions of environmental justice, we just wanted to share the general definition of environmental justice as a starting point but also it being just that, a starting point for the kind of work that both Melissa and I are trying to accomplish from our various vantage points. But the EPA describes it as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies. And as congressman John Lewis noted, a right of all and not a privilege for a few. So, that's our kind of baseline position or point of departure, and Melissa will take us a little bit further into some of the other thoughts that we've been working with.
Melissa Tier: So, I wanted to bring up a commonly cited set of principles, set of definitions for environmental justice that come from 1991 from the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit that I believe occurred in DC, and was this great coming together of a lot of different movements that were starting to think about environmental justice or really had for several decades, and it was a really important conference that occurred to bring together these different trains of thought and movements.
Melissa Tier: And so there are 17 principles, and the first one we think really encapsulates so much of the rest. I'll read that one. First principle is to affirm the sacredness of mother earth, ecological unity, and the interdependence of all species and the right to be free from ecological destruction. The remaining 16 principals articulate a number of different rights. So, just to note some of them, clean air, land, water, food, and also the right to safe work environments. Many different types of self determination for all peoples and that they can participate as equal partners in decision making at all levels. These principles also lists the right to receive reparation for damages as well as acknowledging special legal status for native peoples.
Melissa Tier: Back to you.
Edwin Mayorga: Yep. Now, tied to our notion of environmental justice is a working notion of environmental racism, and specifically here we're drawing from the Energy Justice Network who describes environmental racism as the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color, environmental justice then is the movement's response to environmental racism. The other, just kind of quickly is, understanding environmental racism is also a recognition of it as a form of structural racism. So, it being an issue that is systemic rather than a kind of individualized understanding of prejudice or racialized prejudice, what we're really trying to think about here is the structural dimensions to that. And so specifically, making that time are the link between environmental change and how that becomes a site in which structural racism circulates.
Melissa Tier: I want to talk a little bit more about this interplay between race and the environment. As Edwin was saying, we're looking at this structural forms of oppression or of mistreatment, and so there are different ways that that comes about, both traditionally and in the modern age.
Melissa Tier: So, let's look at a little bit of the history of environmentalism or traditional environmentalism coming out of preservationists and in conservationist movements embodied by the man we have on the left side of the screen here, who is, as you may have guessed, John Muir, embodying a really individualist focused environmentalism, one that's about a man, a white man going into the woods and being away from society, enjoy nature that is very, very separate from concepts of what human society was thought to be at the time. And a lot of John Muir's writings and other writings of the time separated the beauty of the woods from the horribleness that they perceived to be kind of increased population density and increasingly urban environments, and also disregarded the people who were originally from the land that they were describing, and John Muir particularly was one who was extremely dismissive of indigenous populations in the places that he loved.
Melissa Tier: So, that history is very present in environmentalism and I think is rightfully challenged by a different trend of environmental justice that came, and a little bit separately starting in the 70s and into the present day from the traditional environmentalist movement that sort of eventually came together primarily through a consideration of toxicity, which is something we're going to talk about later in this presentation.
Melissa Tier: But what we want to counter with is some alternatives of how environmentalism could be moved forward, and that's through an environmental justice lens and one that's much less individualistic but focuses instead on the collective, on how we can protect our earth and the people on the earth together and in a way that meets that baseline of basic rights for all.
Melissa Tier: So, on the right hand of the screen we see here the Dakota Access Pipeline Resistance at Standing Rock. These are water protectors. And as you can see, an example of Standing Rock, there was really a primary focus or a primary leadership from people of color, from women, from a diversity of peoples, very unlike this traditional framework that some of us may have grown up with and is worth challenging so that we think about who is framing environmentalism and who has the opportunity to speak and be leaders. And we at Swarthmore, we want to make sure that we have a diversity of leadership and of participation from all students and all employees of the college as well.
Melissa Tier: So, how does environmental inequity play out? And we just wanted to list a couple of common ways. This is probably definitely not an exclusive list, exhaustive list, but we were just talking about race in the environmentalist movement. We continue to see to this day that those who are in positions of power, even in environmentalist organizations are predominantly white, and that's an issue. That's another structural issue where minority populations are not represented in the institutions that need to speak for them but need to be of them as well. But then there are many other ways in which there are environmental inequalities that show up in our cultural structures. A lot of them relate to health, so we're going to be talking more about toxics and pollution when we talk about waste. We see this in the built environment as well as in access as Edwin was talking about with our key questions, who has access to green spaces? And when there are toxics and pollution and all of that, who has mobility to leave their communities or to move away from the worst of the toxicity?
Edwin Mayorga: And as we're moving along here, we also, while we're thinking about environmentalism and environmental justice very broadly, that climate change is one of those key dimensions to this. And so continuing to think about how this is part of our conversation and our action and how we are thinking as well about policy, and so making sure that we are continually cognizant of some of the consequences of climate change, just to kind of list off a few things with respect, and how it links then back to environmental inequities and environmental racism, but specifically thinking about where and how heat waves, droughts, storms and hurricanes are being experienced, or the rise of the sea level, ocean acidification, longer fire seasons, the loss of biodiversity, and how that then attaches and maps onto increasing and amplifying inequality that have already existed structurally. And so that's certainly part of what we're paying attention to here.
Melissa Tier: Great. So as a reminder where we are right now, we've walked through some aspects of this framework and shown how environmental justice, social justice is central to creating a just and sustainable world, just and sustainable communities.
Melissa Tier: So, I want to now show an example of how we make use of this framework in a particular domain, and I'm going to start with one of our big areas of work at the college, especially in recent years, which is to look at our waste systems and look at environmental justice or environmental injustices that exist within our structures. So, let's talk through waste at Swarthmore.
Melissa Tier: More a little bit pulled out from Swarthmore college itself, just to give you the context of the area. We see that in Delaware County, which is of course, where Swarthmore is, much like in places around the country and around the world, there is a clustering of waste facilities in already vulnerable communities. And we see that right here in Delaware County and actually almost infamous case of this, along the Delaware river in Chester, in the city of Chester and into Marcus Hook.
Melissa Tier: On the screen what you can see is just a snapshot of some of the clusterings, some of the waste processing facilities that are clustered in that area. If you can see the orange reddish colored one on the right side of that image, that's Covanta, the incinerator, which we're going to be talking about a bunch, which is where Swarthmore sends its trash to be incinerated, but there are many others such as Delcora and other refineries right in this area and have huge toxic effects on this community on which is predominantly, at least in this day and age, predominantly made up of people of color surrounded by communities that are predominantly white and predominantly much more affluent than Chester.
Melissa Tier: So, we're interested at the college in both actually changing systems so that we are not sending our trash to incineration, but also modeling how waste structures, waste processing, waste behavior can be done differently as our students learn it here on campus and then leave to other locations after graduation. So, we have what we call Material Use Hierarchy which we really spread widely among the student body and employees of the college, and our number one effort is to reduce our waste, to not even produce it in the first place is always key. After that is to reuse items. So, reduce and reuse are our closely related behaviors. But if we do have to produce waste, we are always prioritize diversion away from incineration. And here in Delaware County, we are required to send our trash to incineration, we don't have a landfill option, but incineration or landfill, we want to avoid both because of their toxic effects on populations and ecosystems that are in the immediate area.
Melissa Tier: So, we look toward compost and recycling with a priority on composting because it really is better for the earth. It's creating something. It's creating soil in a low energy way that produces very little, not none, but much, much less toxicity to the surrounding environment, unlike recycling, which is highly energy intensive, has complicated end markets and does have a bit more toxic pollution from its production.
Melissa Tier: So, zero waste, so as we call this our zero waste goal, and it certainly goes beyond diversion, and we're going talk about why we've come to focus a fair amount on diversion and the improvements that we've made. But zero waste is about imbuing a sense of environmental justice into our risk behavior, decision making and behavior, it's about reducing our waste as much as possible and then avoiding incineration to the greatest extent possible.
Melissa Tier: Here on the screen you see Vanessa Meng, she's a research fellow with our office, and over the past few years she's done an incredible job of leading us forward with some of our zero waste policy and implementation. So, just wanted to thank Vanessa and the many, many other students who've worked with us on these efforts.
Melissa Tier: So, I've mentioned that we've focused a lot on diversion and I want to explain why. Every year we do an annual waste characterization off campus where we randomly select a number of buildings and we pull all of the waste types out of each of those buildings, so compost, recycling, and trash, and we sort them. We sort the waste. We go through all of it. It takes about a day, and we see how well we're doing, how well the community is doing with sorting our waste into the right categories. So, this data, this is from 2018. What we found is that about 45% of our waste is currently being sorted into either compost or recycling. So, people are producing waste and the waste that they produce, they have to put it in a bin. We have compost pretty much everywhere at this point, which we'll talk about in a moment, but only 20% or so is going into the compost stream, 25% or so going into recycling.
Melissa Tier: What's really interesting though is when we resort the waste, we find out where it could've gone if people had just put it in the right bin. And then the contrast is really quite shocking. What we see is instead, nearly 80% of all of our waste once produced could actually be diverted away from incineration. Nearly 50% of it could be compost and a significant amount recycling and a real minority of our waste needs to go into trash, as in isn't compressible, isn't recyclable. So, even not looking at reduction or not looking at changing the items that we provide here on campus, a vast majority of our waste could be diverted. And so that has become really important to us because it's such a low hanging fruit of behavior change, and accessibility in understanding how to sort waste.
Melissa Tier: So, in all of our efforts around zero waste in recent years, and it's been about three years that we've been very focused on this commitment, it's been a great partnership with the many, many different departments, many different student groups. We now in fact have a zero waste student club called Sync Up for Zero Waste that started this past year, and of course, many departments on campus, including communications facilities and our environmental services department. Here's the department of environmental services, and they really are the leaders in managing our waste and knowing what the day to day operations look like and being essential players in the movement of our waste. And so they have helped to formulate all of our implementation in these past two years by knowing on the ground information and being passionate about the best ways to move forward with improvements.
Melissa Tier: So real quick, very, very rapidly just so you are aware and you're welcome to look through in a little bit more detail, but just to explain where our three waste streams go. Our trash, as we've mentioned, goes to the Covanta incinerator in Chester. Our recycling, it kind of can shift which exact facility our recycling can go to, but for the most part of recycling is going to Gold Medal and Philadelphia. And then our compost goes very locally to a family-owned commercial composter in Media called Kitchen Harvest, and that's where the actual compost process happens offsite as opposed to about a decade ago when compost first started up the college and was cooked here on campus. We now send it off campus.
Melissa Tier: All right. I want to talk for another moment about the incinerator just to give you a little bit of a better sense of what it means for trash to go to incineration. So, here we have Swarthmore College on the map, you can see at the top, and only about 15 minutes away is Covanta on the Delaware River in Chester. But there's a huge difference, you can experience it as you drive from Swarthmore to Covanta, huge difference in air quality because of all of the waste processing facilities in this general area. This is a picture of the outside of Covanta. It's hard to see from this picture, but it is immediately adjacent to residences. There are tons of houses right here, it's on a main street, but there are trucks rolling by here, so they suffer from the air pollution from incineration, there's incredible air pollution from the trucks that are rolling through at pretty much all hours of the day, all week.
Melissa Tier: So, usually when I share this in person, I ask who has actually been to an incinerator, so think about if you have or not, but it's quite a remarkable experience, and I have a picture here to help give you a sense of it. This is the inside of Covanta. This is the tipping floor. So, this is where trucks bring their trash and then it is moved across this huge multi football fields space up onto ramps that bring the trash up to be incinerated.
Melissa Tier: You can see here on the top right corner that is a full-sized truck, just to give you a sense of scale, although of course, you can't from this picture get a sense of the sound and the smell and how really horrible it feels to your body to be there. We bring our students there and our interns there every summer, it's also very hot at this time, and one thing that they always say as they are watching trash move up ramps under their feet is that they can see how the trash doesn't need to be there. It could be composted, it could be recycled, it would be so easy to divert it into other locations if not, of course, to just not reduce it in the first place, to reduce our consumption.
Melissa Tier: Just for contrast, here's a picture of those same students at Kitchen Harvest, our compost facility. Obviously, they feel much safer on it. They love playing on top of the compost, and they've removed their face masks, and their helmets, and their earplugs and are enjoying the really beautiful soil. And it does not smell with our wonderful compost facility.
Melissa Tier: So, we've been doing a lot on campus. It's certainly not just about our sorting behavior, there's been a lot going on. You can see on the right some new signs that we've made. We have them for each of our waste streams, but compost of course, is particularly important to educate our community in how to sort waste. There's been a lot identifying targets for reduction. We've developed what we call the Worthmore Free Store, a free store available to all students all times of year. And we do a lot of zero waste and environmental justice education at orientation. And then excitingly, we've also installed standardized waste bins across campus, which look like this. They all have compost at every place that we've installed this. Here it is in the science center, here it is I think in my building in the Lang Center, every single waste station has compost, it also as recycling trash, and our new signs, it's color coated all the way down to our liners of our bags. And so we try to make it as easy as possible and as accessible as possible to sort waste properly.
Melissa Tier: This process, as I've mentioned, has involved so many different people in occurred over many, many years, and we think that it's really, at least, starting to be a model of how we can build more sustainable communities together and move away from the destructive and unjust systems that are embodied by the incinerator and by unnecessary over-the-top waste consumption. So, I hope that's a useful example of this model and I'll turn it over to Edwin for one more.
Edwin Mayorga: Yeah. So, just really briefly, as Melissa has unpacked a lot of the work that's done on campus, I wanted to speak a little bit about, or very briefly about, the kind of public ... As we're helping our students deepen their perspective and expanding their skills, a key aspect to this really is putting that learning into action and part of that is being able to engage the public, and part of that is through teaching. And so really, what I'm interested in is, or what I have been interested in as an educational studies scholar is thinking about environmental justice, and specifically in environmental justice pedagogy for the public good.
Edwin Mayorga: And so just very briefly, and I can go to the next slide, Melissa, thank you. I just wanted to share a little bit about my own background and how I've come to only begin to think about some of these things. This actually happens to also be Know History, Know Self week at Swarthmore, which is a week looking at and thinking about both the past and the present and the future of critical racial and ethnic studies here on campus. And that's the kind of framework that I apply and use in most of my research and my teaching. And so really, this work around environmental justice has been putting that kind of tradition and perspective in conversation with what we think about as environmental justice, and an example being People's Curriculum for the Earth that if you happen to have gotten a chance to read some of the articles, the article by Bill Bigelow that I shared, that Melissa and I shared, comes from this book.
Edwin Mayorga: And really, going back to that first principle of the environmental justice meetings, which is an affirmation of the sacredness of mother earth, ecological unity, and the interdependence of all species, and the right to be free from ecological destruction. And in there really for me, is seeing that this notion of ecological unity has a lot to do with, or includes notions like liberation and abolition and ways of rethinking our relationship as well to the land. And so these are the kinds of things that I think about, and specifically I draw ...
Edwin Mayorga: And you can go to the next slide, Melissa. Specifically, I'm a practitioner of Participatory Action Research, and a version of Participatory Action Research called Par Entremundos, or between worlds, which is if you're familiar with Participatory Action research, the basic idea is that from a kind of critical race and ethnic studies perspective, that we are all holders of knowledge, that we bring with us a variety of traditions and ways of being and doing and knowing that are very much connected to the land, our relationship to the environment, how we protect and serve as stewards of the environment.
Edwin Mayorga: And so what that then looks like as a pedagogy draws from a variety of traditions, and I'm just listing here a few very quickly, which has kind of popular education, Paulo Freire, if some of you are familiar with, this Freirean notion of practice, which is the linking of theory and practice, the traditions of critical race theory, Latinx Studies, decolonial and abolitionist kinds of theories and practices, as well as South American Liberation Psychologies, and an appreciation and a grounding in the social movement in histories and theories of social movement. And again, as I was saying a moment ago, how those then inform our relationship to the land, the kind of practices, histories and visions of the future that we can develop together.
Edwin Mayorga: And just quickly, again, this brings us back to our framework for sustainability where in the pedagogical approach that I'm trying to develop, inviting our students to think about what kind of impacts they have on the planet, what a kind of liberatory and ethical space for humanity looks like, and that we take seriously conceptualize how we think about what we mean by basic rights and what that means and in our relationship to the earth.
Edwin Mayorga: And so, what I'll close on is actually just very briefly talking about the Tri-Co Philly Program. So, this is a pilot program. Many of you may not be familiar with our program, but it's a pilot program of three semesters where in partnership with Bryn Mawr and Haverford, we have created a program for students to immerse themselves in Philadelphia in a variety of different ways, both through coursework, field experiences, a kind of full curriculum and a number of other kinds of related excursions within the Philadelphia area. And so it's a three semester pilot. The first semester is currently underway. And then the second semester which is coming up this coming fall is a sustainability focused semesters. So, I'm teaching what's called the core course, so it's the course that all of our students that are in the Tri-Co Philly Program needs to take.
Edwin Mayorga: And so I decided to focus my course on Philadelphia education, but thinking broadly about the city of Philadelphia and thinking about what sustainability and environmental justice and fighting for Philadelphia Education would look like, and also engage the students in a practice or an approach to thinking about how we can teach about sustainability issues to the larger public.
Edwin Mayorga: And so the image right there actually is an example of one of the groups that I'm interested in connecting our students with across our Tri-Co groups of students to connect with, which is a teacher action group, Philadelphia and the caucus of working educators, which are educator led groups. And one of the reports that they recently developed, or a kind of visual campaign that they were developing is using this report around the toxic situations of the schools in Philadelphia and connecting it to questions around a tenure real estate abatement program or policy that the city had instantiated. And so they've been visually trying to demonstrate the kinds of conditions that the schools are in and then thinking about within that same zip code, what kinds of building development is happening. And so those are just being one example of what we'll be exploring in the course.
Edwin Mayorga: And really, the idea is to draw from the various courses that the students will be taking. I'm also teaching alongside Victor Donnay from math at Bryn Mawr College, and our own Giovanna Di Chiro in Earth and Environmental Studies here at Swarthmore, as well as Josh Moses from Haverford College. And so our students, in addition to taking my class, will be taking this other course, and they'll be in various field experiences in these other courses. And so the idea is, or what I'm trying to do here is use my course as a way both to expose the to Philadelphia and the urban development of Philadelphia and its schools and the political issues that are affecting it, but also to then have us facilitate with the students, a development around pedagogy.
Edwin Mayorga: So, thinking about how they're taking what they are learning and then turning that into, what I hope to end the semester on is a kind of curriculum about and for the city, and so really having a series of lessons that the students will develop, and I hope, actually be able to implement in their various fields sites, to then curate together into a kind of curriculum that I hope people are able to then use so that it's not just kind of sitting in a digital kind of dustbin, but rather that it's something that people will find accessible, and user friendly, and will then be able to have some open access kinds of resources that they can then use either in their classrooms, in a K-12 kind of situation, or in community organizations, or by libraries, so that the conversations around sustainability, the development of the city and environmental justice can continue on in various places across the city. So, I'll stop there.
Melissa Tier: 20 minutes, a little over to take your questions. We're happy to go back to any slides just to hear from you. For now, just a reminder of our third session that's coming up in two weeks. It's on a Monday instead of a Tuesday. But in the meanwhile, we're happy to have a chat.
Peter Jaquette: And just a reminder, if you have a question, please type it in the chat box and we'll address it to our presenters. While we're waiting for some questions to come in, maybe I could ask one. There's been some publicity and in the news about recycling and how China's higher standards for covered materials has caused recycled materials to back up in the US, and I think some proportion is a half of Philadelphia's recycling is now going to the incinerator in Chester. Is this something that's unique to Philadelphia or you see it elsewhere in the country?
Melissa Tier: Yeah, it's such a great question and I'm glad we have some time to talk about that because I just kind of glanced over it. Yeah, there's been, almost years now, some real confusion in America about recycling. But I really liked the way that you phrased it, Peter, it's that China has increased its standards, it's upped it's recycling standards, it's saying America and other countries who have been sending their recycling there for years, your streams need to be cleaner. You need to have less contamination in your recycling streams because we want to actually be able to turn the materials sent to us into new materials. So, with those increased stringent rules, America just had his wake up call saying, our recycling streams are not clean. They're very messy and it's really just offloading our terrible recycling systems to another country and in a very unjust way on a global scale.
Melissa Tier: And so we have a reckoning right now in this country with how to actually manage recycling. It is not unique to Philadelphia, although 50% is particularly high. That's going on because the recycling facilities in the area are struggling to get a clean enough stream from their clients to be able to ship when Philadelphia's recycling was particularly bad.
Melissa Tier: The college feels certainly more confident than where Philadelphia as a whole city is. We have much more fine control over wherever cycling goes. We're able to talk to our hauler very directly. We're able to communicate to our recycling facilities, so we have a better grasp of where our recycling is going and ensuring that it's making its way to recycling eventually, and not without any hiccups, but we're in a much better place. Philadelphia though was working to really think about how to like incentivize recycling facilities to do a better job, and I'm hoping that this means we're going to really rethink recycling and also look towards alternatives like composting.
Edwin Mayorga: Yeah. I was just going to add very quickly, I think from an education perspective, is how do we ... Because one of my concerns has been with regards to this focus on recycling and not having the clean enough recyclables in order to actually send them off and whatnot, is I think to the point that you've made at the very end, Melissa, in your comments, which is I think we have historically kind of put all our eggs in the recycling basket rather than thinking more comprehensively about an environmental plan, a sustainability plan that is inclusive of many other things rather than focusing solely on recycling, which is actually probably the least effective in terms of the kind of impact that I think people are trying to envision in having a clear sustainability plan.
Edwin Mayorga: And so, the question that I ask myself then is if that's the case, what kind of teaching do we need to do in order to initiate a shift in our thinking and in our kind of framework? And that, to me, actually has to start very young and in families and communities in libraries and in those kinds of context where you're engaging families in conversations about what are your practices? How do you go about that? What is your vision as to how you connect to this larger issue of sustainability? Because I think there is a sense that climate change or environmental issues are important. I think sometimes it's hard for us as individuals to fully see our connection to the larger policy issues and institutional kind of city level or even kind of campus level mechanisms in which, I think from my perspective, we all need to be participating in those. But it's one of the heavy lifts, in my opinion, that need to be addressed from kind of infancy all the way through the lifespan from an educational perspective.
Peter Jaquette: Thank you, Melissa and Edwin. Another question here, and there are several questions that may be relate to this, is to compare Swarthmore and the other two colleges in Tri-Co in their sustainability programs and the interest from the college's student bodies in the program. Let's hear a little bit about that.
Edwin Mayorga: Yeah, I'll speak quickly on that. So, the intention with the Tri-Co program, the Tri-Co Philly program is to roughly equal representation across the three colleges. And so last I heard from Calista Cleary, who's our coordinator extraordinaire is like jumping between all three colleges. I believe we're at about six Haverford students maybe and then eight Bryn Mawr students, and we're trying to have about a cohort of roughly 21. And then I want to say it's another seven from Swarthmore. Somewhere along those lines. I may be misquoting her, but the idea is to have representation. And the interest has been comparable across the three institutions, and I think it's been interesting because our semester in particular is the sustainability one, the other two semesters are not focused in that way.
Edwin Mayorga: And so I think the nice thing about that is that in being different, the different semesters we've been offering appeal to different sex of students across the three colleges, and so I think that's been a really good thing. And so the interest has been fairly steady and it's just a different crew of students or subgroups of students that have really jumped on into it.
Edwin Mayorga: And then the other question was about the schools having programs roughly comparable. I wasn't sure what that meant.
Melissa Tier: Well, if I could jump into this one.
Edwin Mayorga: Oh, yeah, I'm sorry. Go ahead, Melissa.
Melissa Tier: No, no problem. Just that our environmental studies program, which now has a minor and a major is a Tri-Co program. So, it's co-designed with faculty in all three schools and the students and their requirements work with all three institutions and they shuttle back and forth to take classes at each other's institutions. So that I think is very neat.
Peter Jaquette: Okay, great. We have a question about the draft climate urgency plan and the first category of actions in that plan, in particular, the environmental justice aspects. Thoughts about that.
Melissa Tier: So, I think this is going to take some explanation. I appreciate the question. So, we've been working really at a college level institutional policy making level to create a response to and commitment to what it means to respond to the crisis and urgency of climate change. That's very much in the works. So, we've been working on and getting a lot of community input on it throughout the semester that will continue. So, stay tuned on that.
Melissa Tier: But what whoever asked the question is or I think referring to is that we have a series of statements about what our priorities and commitments are that are in draft form right now, and the very first one is a commitment to environmental justice. And then I think the point there is to foreground that and all the things that we've been talking about tonight, and credit to Carr who brings this up a lot, that we heard a really great ... It was said in just a really great way by the current provost, Sarah, that we need to focus on environmental justice as we work on climate solutions because why else are we trying to change things if not change them for the better for all people. So, that has to always come first as we think about what systems can we create in the future that will not lead us again to the very crisis that we're in today. Hopefully that answers the question.
Peter Jaquette: Great. Thanks, Melissa. Another question we've got is, to what extent can we expect public school teachers to develop their own local environmental curriculum? What's more effective, the individual teacher or the school board?
Edwin Mayorga: Great question. I think my sense is that ... This is more anecdotal than what I've collected in terms of quantifiable data at this point. But anecdotally, I think there are individual teachers that have been doing this environmental curricular work on their own, and I think that while that may be wonderful for the individual groups of students that they work with, I think what Jack is asking here is really ... or the point I think they're leaning towards is the question of the effectiveness of having a school board support a kind of development of environmental curricula. And in fact, in Philadelphia School District, there is a green initiatives program that is a district-wide initiative. And so that is both in the curriculum but also seeking to develop more sustainable approaches to just kind of the practices around building and trash, similar to what Swarthmore is developing and enacting.
Edwin Mayorga: So, from my perspective, I think that's much more effective, it's also a tall order because of the size of Philadelphia School district. Previous to this I was in New York City, and New York, that's 1.1 million children, it's over 100,000 children, young people in the school district here, and so it's a lot of different moving pieces, but I think if we don't have a kind of institutional approach, I think individual teachers' efforts will ultimately in vain. And so for me, it's really about how we can get school boards and schools as entire communities or ecosystems to shift in their policies and practices.
Peter Jaquette: Thank you, Edwin. There are a couple of questions about materials here, so maybe Melissa, that's up your alley. I was really impressed with going through the waste streams and really finding out what's there. And we've got a couple of questions about composting. What are examples of materials that should be composted that aren't? And then a question about materials that would be or should be reduced.
Melissa Tier: Yeah. Yeah. Great questions. Happy to just give a couple of examples. So, I pulled one off my desk just as a nice one. So, we've been really making use of these reusable utensils. I just have the knife and the chopsticks here, but there's a fork and a spoon as well. We gave those out for the first time at new student orientation, so all new students have that utensil set, comes in a nice case that says [Footprint 00:53:06]. And we also have been giving them out to staff and faculty at different events, like we have a spring gathering for employees at the college, we gave those out last year. And I really truly have been seeing them used. They come [inaudible 00:53:21] and students keep them on their backpacks. I've see them using [inaudible 00:53:25]. They don't need them in triples because we have metal utensils there, but I do see them all around campus.
Melissa Tier: I think another way, another waste item that we've done a lot of reduction for is plastic water bottles. So, although we don't have a ban, we've really shifted a lot of culture on that. For example, during events like orientation, Garnet weekend, and alumni weekend, we've moved toward exclusively using water coolers, hot moments of the year, but we no longer offer water bottles at most times during those events, instead there are water stations throughout campus. So we work really hard on setting up so that we don't have to use plastic. I think there's a lot more in terms of reduction that we need to work on, and that's going to be a priority going forward.
Melissa Tier: I just have a note, a side note that a lot of our reduction efforts are related to our energy systems, and you should definitely go check out, when it's available online, Nathan and Betsey's talk about our energy systems and reduction there.
Melissa Tier: Compostables. Most of our single use items on campus that we offer as opposed to kind of purchasing chips or something, but our single use items are now compostable. We've made that move over a couple of years. So, all single use utensils, cups, our clamshell containers for salad or sandwiches or something, soup containers, it's all compostable, and we've done a lot of work to find those items to make them accessible to purchase. The more that we've purchased them, they've actually come down in price. A lot of compostables are not actually more costly to produce, there just isn't the demand for them, so they can be pricey. But we have seen an influence that we've had on that market locally, so that's very interesting.
Melissa Tier: The one that gets me right now is some of our to-go lunches that we bring from outside caterers, students pick them up because they're running between classes. We've got them in the science center in the Kohlberg coffee bar, and the vendors that we work with right now are offering those in plastic containers, and I'm really dead set on getting those switched to compostables.
Peter Jaquette: Great. There are a couple of questions around, I'd say, getting this message out to other institutions, particularly other institutions, the educational institutions in the region. I'm just thinking of local school districts. Is the Swarthmore Wallingford School District interested in these kinds of issues or are other school districts that are connected with the college?
Edwin Mayorga: Yeah. Melissa, did you have thoughts on that?
Melissa Tier: Feel free to go first?
Edwin Mayorga: I mean, I was going to say, I think what I do hope ... So, I personally haven't been part of any moves towards kind of sharing some of the work that we've been doing on the campus in the high schools directly to this point, but my hope is that through this course, through the Tri-Co Philly Program that we would be able to start thinking about those things. And really for me, it's really how do we develop good partnerships between Swarthmore and other institutions, whether they be K-12 or other higher education institutions, or other community institutions and spaces, and really thinking strategically about how our resources and skills are not things that are just going to be imposed on people, but rather how do we really cultivate partnerships and trusting relationships with those communities so that we can actually share information, share knowledge, expertise, and experience, and perspective in a way that everyone benefits.
Edwin Mayorga: And so I think that's one of the things that I hope that the class can start to cultivate in both our students and in myself working with my other colleagues, even within the Tri-Co, and then some of the different field sites that we'll be partnering with.
Melissa Tier: Yeah. I mean, just to add on, we definitely do you see partnerships starting to develop. I think it's mostly in the local area surrounding Swarthmore as opposed to students and their vast networks going off in and bringing these. Though of course they're starting to do that, it's just hard for us to keep track of. But just a fun example I heard, a student who is applying to an internship with our office wrote in her application that she recently was in Upper Darby, a nearby town in Delaware county, and she had some food and something that like technically is compostable, like maybe the plate really was compostable where she was, and then she was walking around this town and there are no compost bins. And she's a first year student and it just sort of shocked her, although she didn't grow up with compost bins around but she'd gotten so used to it so quickly at Swarthmore that it really was a very stark contrast once she left campus.
Melissa Tier: So, I would imagine that's happening for a lot of students to see, "Okay, Swarthmore isn't doing zero waste perfectly for sure, but it's making really good moves and how can we start to bring that to other locations?" And we do have a lot of students who are working on creative projects right now about how can we share some of these models in the borough of Swarthmore, with some of the restaurants or other organizations that are in town. We have another group of students who have just, just started working with community activists in Chester to reactivate a network that existed particularly in the 90s. Actually if you read the reading about Chester, it was mentioned the Campus Coalition Concerning Chester or C4, that has really just been reinstated as of a couple of weeks ago, and students are moving fast and being creative with how to partner with local residents. That's not in the schools per se, but I think there's a lot of collaboration of community members directly with them, as Edwin was saying, building ideas together.
Peter Jaquette: Well, thank you very much, Melissa and Edwin. We've just about run out our hour, and it's only 7:00 PM here in California back on the east coast. I appreciate your spending late into the evening with us all. And I just remind our listeners that we've got another session coming up on May 13th with Aurora Winslade and Joy Charlton and I hope you'll come back and hear that presentation.
Melissa Tier: I'm so sorry. Someone caught on the chat that we have the wrong description for Joy. She's an anthropology professor, so we'll get that straightened out [inaudible 01:00:38].
Edwin Mayorga: But thank you all for participating, and yeah, and I will say that if anyone ever wants to get in touch, you can visit myself on Twitter @eimayorga, or email me at E-M-A-Y-O-R-G-1, firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. I don't know if Melissa, there's a good way to get in touch with you if they have questions.
Melissa Tier: Yeah. You can email email@example.com and that reaches everyone in our office.
Peter Jaquette: Great.
Edwin Mayorga: And thanks so much, Peter.
Peter Jaquette: Have a good evening.
Melissa Tier: Thanks all.
Edwin Mayorga: Take care everyone.
Energy, Decarbonization, & the Carbon Charge
with Prof. Betsy Bolton and Nathan Graf ’16, Climate Action Senior Fellow - April 16, 2019
- Read the transcript.
Peter Jaquette: Well, welcome, everyone to our SwatTalk, the first SwatTalk on sustainability in a series of three talks that we'll be holding over the next several weeks.
Peter Jaquette: Tonight's talk is on energy, decarbonization, and the carbon charge. And we're going to be hearing presentations from Betsy Bolton who's Professor of English and Environmental Studies. And Nathan Graf, Swarthmore alum, class of 16, who's a Climate Action Senior Fellow.
Peter Jaquette: Let me just let you know that this talk is being recorded and we'll be available for playback at some future date at some future web location. And if you have questions, please submit them in the chat box which you should see on the side of your screen. And we'll be going through the questions after the presentations. So why don't we take it away?
Nathan Graf: Perfect, thanks so much, Peter. So, hi, I'm Nathan, I'm, as Peter said, I'm from class of 16 and co-hosting with Betsy.
Betsy Bolton: Hello, everyone. So excited to be here with you.
Nathan Graf: Excellent. And as Peter mentioned, this is the first of three webinars. Our second will be co-hosted by my colleague Melissa Tier, class of 14, and Professor Mayorga on environmental justice and education. And two weeks thereafter, this one on a Monday, not a Tuesday evening, Aurora Winslade, Director of Sustainability, and Professor Charlton will be talking about the President's Sustainability Research Fellowship Program. [inaudible 00:01:44] along class and internship for students to take on large sustainability projects at the college.
Nathan Graf: Also, we're doing so much more at the college that we don't have time to cover in any of these three webinars. From Zero Waste work to the Green Advisors program for students and events and conferences. So there's a lot more happening than we have time to share. We're happy to take questions about this.
Nathan Graf: But tonight, we are going to be focusing on energy and climate work.
Betsy Bolton: So at least try to structure tonight's conversation around a series of questions. Why decarbonize? How do we decarbonize? Why and how should we price carbon? And how is Swarthmore specifically advancing carbon pricing?
Betsy Bolton: After we've covered all of that, speaking rather rapidly, no doubt, we'll have time for questions and discussion.
Nathan Graf: Perfect. So, as we start all this conversation, I think it's important for us to center why we care about all of this. And I think the climate movement sometimes is a challenge that we talk a lot about. Arctic sea melt and inches of sea level rise and parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere, that's very abstract.
Nathan Graf: And then sometimes, on the other end of the spectrum and then we just say, "And then the apocalypse happens and then it kind of goes to hell." So I think it's really important to center what that actually looks like for people on the ground.
Nathan Graf: Climate change is bringing food and water scarcity, displacement of vulnerable populations. This is a [inaudible 00:03:03] of [inaudible 00:03:03] refugees.
Nathan Graf: A second time after the refugee campus flooded in Kenya. It's bringing extreme weather, the wildfire season in California is [inaudible 00:03:12]. Expansion of disease. Malaria is already responsible for over 400,000 deaths every year and it is [inaudible 00:03:20] mosquito that's responsible for this expanding beyond their controls and same story for Rift Valley fever, for Zika and other diseases. And so many more impacts that I could go on for a long time about.
Nathan Graf: To just pick one of many of those impacts to zoom in on that I think gets a little bit less coverage than it should. This is a map of a Palmer index and a 3.7 degree warmed world within something about business as usual, a little bit worse than if we succeed in meeting the Paris commitment's case at end century.
Nathan Graf: The Palmer index measures how wet or dry a climate is in a region. For some context, the United States Dust Bowl is mostly at a negative four on this scale and briefly touched the negative six. You can see in the purple and the white here that there are regions that hit a negative twenty.
Nathan Graf: The Dust Bowl cost a lot of human suffering and that kind of [inaudible 00:04:14] that extreme weather on a global scale means for [inaudible 00:04:17] scarcity. That means resources worse, that means human suffering and death.
Nathan Graf: And that is an outcome that we absolutely have to do everything within our power to avoid. Which, of course, evokes the question, what do we have to do to avoid the worst of those impacts?
Nathan Graf: This is a little bit of a complicated graphic, but I think a really, really helpful one. There's a lot of numbers that you hear floating around, about we have X number of years, we have 12 years, we have 30 years, we have to decarbonize by X, Y, Z date for whatever outcome. It's important to understand that for a given amount of carbon emissions you have an X percent chance of average distribution of temperature probabilities.
Nathan Graf: So this graph shows, starting at zero, the number of years if we continue consuming at our current rate before we burn all of the carbon in our budget to have a given percentage chance of staying within 1.5, 2 degrees or 3 degrees Celsius of warming.
Nathan Graf: So that is to say that if we can ... and this is starting in 2017, so to look at this first bar here that shows 4.1 years, that means by maybe about February of 2021 if consume at our current levels which we are on a trajectory to do for the next couple of years, if we consumed out to February 2021 and then we stopped all carbon emission instantly, we would still have about a one in three chance in exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Nathan Graf: So I think there's two really take-homes from this. First of all, in this blue you can see that this is fiercely, fiercely urgent if we're going to avoid a 1.5 average degrees of warming. We can also see in the red here that within all of our lifetimes there is still hope of staying below 3 degrees of warming. There's still ... I mean 3 degrees is a catastrophe, but 4 degrees is cataclysmic, and every degree matters. So there's not a point where there's an excuse to give up and say, "Oops, we lost this fight." There's always hope and we can always get better or worse outcomes, depending on our actions.
Betsy Bolton: So here's another way of looking at the same point that Nathan was just making. They were talking in terms of time. This is more spacial. This was the forth most frequently downloaded paper in 2018, and it lays out the tipping elements at risk or the cascade of tipping points that we are threatened with if we exceed the 1.5 centigrade target.
Betsy Bolton: We're already at 1 degree Celsius global heating. Somewhere between 1 degree and 3 degrees, we're going to to lose the Greenland ice sheet, Arctic summer sea ice, Alpine glaciers, the West Antarctic ice sheet. And what we lose with that is we lose thousands of miles of white reflective ice that's taking some of the solar energy out of our atmosphere.
Betsy Bolton: And so when we lose that reflective energy, we're going to speed up our heating. And so this idea of cascading tipping points is that we move from the 1 to 3 degrees, out of that yellow zone, into the sort of tan or brown zone. And here we get a whole new range of consequences. We're already seeing the jet stream oscillate more, giving us these polar vortex experiences in the winter time. The changes in El Niño are likely to dry out the Amazon rainforest faster, turning it to a savanna that much faster than it otherwise would.
Betsy Bolton: So we're going to be confronted, depending on how slowly we move, we're likely to be confronted with multiple levels of tipping point. Second switch from one state to another state. And our societies are desperately unprepared for the kinds of massive dislocations that that would create for us.
Betsy Bolton: That means that when we're talking about decarbonization, we're talking about a race against time. As the Vox article that you will have read pointed out, our carbon budget, the carbon dioxide we can emit without crossing some of these tipping points is really tiny. It's just over 200 gigatons of carbon emissions. We've been increasing and increasing our emissions over time and suddenly, we're facing a steep cliff of decline that's going to be really hard for us to descent in safety.
Betsy Bolton: Next. Good.
Betsy Bolton: This scientist, Kevin Anderson, who's at Manchester in the UK and Uppsala in Sweden, he's working with a larger budget. He's talking about 2 degrees global warming instead of 1.5. But he points to a really important disjuncture in discussions about carbon budgets and global heating.
Betsy Bolton: He points out that the science behind the IPCC reports suggests for 2 degrees a carbon budget of about 800 gigatons. But the economical models, the economic models, are closer to 1600 gigatons. So what they're doing is they're trying to allow for a much smoother, slower, more gradual transition away from fossil fuels. They're trying to solve the problem of the decarbonizing cliff.
Betsy Bolton: The problem is that they're doing that by fantasizing, some might say, that we can sequester carbon at a massive scale. And that is an assumption that has yet to be proven. I've put back in the 66% chance for 1.5 degrees that tiny, much smaller budget, just so you can see that in context as well.
Betsy Bolton: Next slide. So the problem with carbon capture is that the technology is in its infancy. If we want to rely on it, we're going to have to improve that technology 7000% by 2040. And if the technology of direct air capture follows the path of solar panels, for instance, we're not going to get to wide-spreaded option until about 2100, which is too late for millions of people around the world, really.
Betsy Bolton: Kevin Anderson points out that part of our belief in this sort of future techno fix leads us to delay stringent mitigation right now, which means that we're emitting additional CO2, which we're going to have to compensate for later. We are making the cliff, which is bad enough already, we're making it even steeper because we're [inaudible 00:10:42] gambling on some future discovery.
Betsy Bolton: The last thing I'll add at this point is just to say that of that tiny little budget we have to reserve enough to construct, transport and install the renewable energies we need in a decarbonized economy and energy system.
Nathan Graf: Great, thank you. So I'm going to touch a little bit on what would it take, what does it actually means in technological terms to rapidly decarbonize the global economy.
Nathan Graf: And that in and of itself is a tremendous [inaudible 00:11:14] object so I'm just going to bite off a large chunk of that, a large portion of that challenge. And I think it's really helpful to summarize that you can get most of the way there in two steps.
Nathan Graf: And that is one, decarbonize electricity. And two, to electrify everything. That's probably pretty abstract, so I'm going to explain some things and we'll come back to that notion.
Nathan Graf: So our energy consumption, as of 2017, is shown here. And each of these bars represents the quantity of energy consumption and the width. And I've tagged coal, oil and natural gas that are responsible for our global heating problem.
Nathan Graf: And then this shows what we use all of that energy for. And the pink on the opposite side, here we have our residential, commercial, industrial and transportation uses for that energy.
Nathan Graf: And you see that a whole bunch of that gets sidetracked through electricity generation. So there's two things to notice on this. One, that a lot of the renewable energy goes up to electricity generation and a lot of that electricity generation can make up some fraction of each of our four end-uses. And that relatively little of the zero carbon energy sources can go directly to these end-uses. I can use solar panels to make renewable electricity and then power a car with electricity. I cannot stick solar panels on a car and make that car go for it.
Nathan Graf: So that is to say that we need to decarbonize electricity, displace all the fossil fuel from the electric grid, and electrify our heating, cooling, transportation and industrial systems to the extent possible. When, of course, there's a little bit more that we can get to here and some [inaudible 00:12:37] production industry and agriculture and that can be a subject for a webinar at a future time.
Nathan Graf: So what does it mean to decarbonize electricity? Because there's a lot of complicated information plying about this. So first of all, it's worth appreciating the current trends. We can probably get away with just scaling up renewables really, really high right now. For a long time, a decade ago the popular line was, "If we exceed 20% solar on the grid then everything's going to shut down and it's going to be awful to make." As we keep getting more and more, like it's more and more fine and now the [inaudible 00:13:09] are like, "Oh, we can probably get away with 80% now." So first of all, that's the bulk of it, it's just scale wind and solar up a lot.
Nathan Graf: For that last 20% we're also going to need a few other interesting technologies because the demand is not going to match the supply, the sun doesn't shine at night, wind doesn't flow all the time, etcetera.
Nathan Graf: And this graph here shows the electricity demand minus solar consumption in California over time. So we see during the night, the demand is pretty consistent and during the day, solar keeps eating out this belly and what's often called the duck curve. Because there's some challenges for utilities trying to manage things. So we need some technologies to help manage some of these challenges and make sure that we're getting all of our electricity from renewable sources.
Nathan Graf: Some of that can be dispatchable supply that we can turn up and down with demand, that we can control. That could involve fossil with carbon capture and storage. Well that comes to another impacts, I could include nuclear energy. We're [inaudible 00:14:03] include energy storage, [inaudible 00:14:05] during the day, [inaudible 00:14:07] during the night.
Nathan Graf: We can do overbuild if we have a lot of extra wind farms, even if the wind's only blowing a little bit, we can still generate enough electricity if we have enough wind farms.
Nathan Graf: We can extend the grid. Our viewers from the West coast I think are still enjoying some last hours of sunlight. That could be used to generate electricity that can benefit those of us on the East coast who are now enjoying the night outside.
Nathan Graf: And the demand response, we can change our demand patterns to match those supply rather than the other way around and that makes it more easier to increase the number of renewables with less dispatchable supply. And energy efficiency makes all of this cheaper.
Nathan Graf: So with that in mind, what is the role of Swarthmore College in helping to accelerate this transition to decarbonize electricity and electrify everything? We can model our solutions locally. We can do this for ourselves. We can contribute to local and regional efforts and discussions about policy. We can engage our local community both on campus and in Chester and Philadelphia, the [inaudible 00:15:11] Swarthmore. And we can prepare our students, as all of [inaudible 00:15:15] and we make sure that all those continuing to flow into the alumni body are informed, inspired and equipped with the tools to fight the climate challenge.
Nathan Graf: So, Betsy, did you want to say a word about this or shall I?
Betsy Bolton: Just keep going, I think we need to move.
Nathan Graf: Great. So in 2010, we were thrilled that President Rebecca Chopp committed Swarthmore to bubbling up transformation by achieving carbon neutrality by 2035. Betsy was among our working group in, I think, 2011, 12, that tried to knot out some of the first steps for that and that the times at the discussion as well. We have 16,000 tons of emissions per year now and we need to get to zero by 2035, so we drew some straight lines.
Nathan Graf: Now we're in a phase as 2035 is getting pretty close, where we are working through ... we're calling it the Roadmap to Zero Energy Master Plan which is identifying what does a carbon neutral system look like, how is that going to happen, who is going to do it, how are we going to fund it and all of those really fun challenges.
Nathan Graf: So to start with where are Swarthmore's emissions currently, so it's worth ... this is from our [greenhouse gas 00:16:20] in 2016. And we know a lot of our emissions are from five major sources. Our Electricity, naturally. Our natural gas consumption, what we burn to heat in a cooler, air and water. And our transportation that's both commuting and professional travel and students' city abroad travel to a small extent. And then there's these two other categories that we don't have a really handle on. That is our procurement. What are the emissions that go into creating the food, the technology, the supplies, the furniture and all the stuff that we have on campus. And construction, particularly cement and steel, but also the construction process and all the other materials that go into making our buildings.
Nathan Graf: So we're going to touch on ... these last couple are really complicated. I'm going to talk a little bit about some of how we're thinking about these first couple, electricity and natural gas. I'm going to just say a few brief words about the other ones.
Nathan Graf: So it's helpful to start with what does that fossil-powered system look like. So this is Swarthmore's energy system circa 2000. So first of all, we have electricity needs and that's coming mostly from nuclear, coal and natural gas, just pulling from the grid. And we need to heat our air and water. And we have two parallel systems that do that, both powered by natural gas. We have these giant boilers. Here's a picture of some students in front of these two boilers and the heat plant just south of the railroad tracks. Those boilers generate steam that pump up to the steam tunnels and then they go up to heat our buildings. And we also have some buildings that just have local natural gas boilers in their basements.
Nathan Graf: We also need to cool our air and water. Similar to the steam loop, we also have a chilled water loop that a lot of our buildings are on. And that chilled water loop gets chilled water from an engine-driven chiller from natural gas and two electric chillers. And we also just have some local air conditioning window units, too, that are already electrified.
Nathan Graf: So with this system in place, what does it mean to decarbonize it?
Nathan Graf: So to parallel our modeling, the transformation we need in society, decarbonizing electricity is first. So we are looking to transfer to renewable energy. Here is a map of some of our on-site solar potential. And in the other here ... and here's a picture of one of our students, an engineering student who was doing some measurements to figure out how much energy we can generate. And what had been concluded is we can probably get about 15% of our electricity demand if we covered all of our parking lots in working solar.
Nathan Graf: So, good, we should do it, and we're working on it, but it's not quite going to be enough on its own.
Nathan Graf: So we are also working towards an off-site aggregated utility-scale renewable project. That's a lot of words. To break that down briefly. Off-site, so it's not going to be on campus. But it will be feeding into the grid that Swarthmore draws from.
Nathan Graf: It will be aggregated. That means, Swarthmore is too small to justify a utility-scale project on its own. We only consume about 15,000 megawatt hours per year of electricity. So to get to that utility scale, we are partnering with Lafayette, Muhlenberg and Lehigh in combining all of our demands so we can benefit from the economics of scale and get a cost intended project.
Nathan Graf: We are reviewing, lately got 60 proposals on our RFP that we are reviewing next week to see if we can move forward towards a contract which is really exciting.
Nathan Graf: So having decarbonized electricity that ... then we still need to heat and cool our air and water. And that has to be electric. So some of our system ... we already mentioned that we have the electric chillers and the local AC units, that's already electric. That's really easy.
Nathan Graf: And then, fortunately, we actually have the same system that can electrify both our heating and cooling demands, and that is heat pumps. There's two kinds of heat pumps. There's air source heat pumps. So if you have a window AC unit and you add a little bit ... you change the technology a little bit, you can also turn that around. So you can load the cooler air outside and the warm air inside and then in turn. That technology's getting better and better all the time.
Nathan Graf: There's also ground source heat pumps where instead of pumping into the air, you pump it into the ground. And that's what this graphic shows. So you can pump heat into the ground or you can pump the heat into the building, out of the ground and then turn.
Nathan Graf: And that solves both of our problems with one stroke. And that is what a decarbonized energy system can look like.
Nathan Graf: And then in a small break of our Electrify Everything rule, we can also get a little bit of supplemental heat from solar thermal panels on some rooftops.
Nathan Graf: So that's the system that we need to build. Now the question is how we go about doing that. Just to briefly touch on some of the other challenging areas. We know less about how we're going to get to our carbon neutrality by 2035 in ... [inaudible 00:20:34] some of that professional travel, supporting public transit and teleconferencing. I don't have a good solution to zero carbon study abroad travel. We can support no-carbon commuting. We can electrify the campus vehicles, we can expand the EV charging on campus.
Nathan Graf: Construction's real hard. Getting concrete and steel and the construction process to zero carbon, that's ... some of those new technologies we're going to have to wait on, some of them are just really expensive right now, but we are working towards it. We are trying really hard to make the new dining hall construction to be net zero energy which would be really exciting.
Nathan Graf: And procurement. For technology, furniture, a lot of that is on a case-by-case basis at minimizing as much as possible. A really big first step could be a plant-based diet and low or no meat in the dining hall. It's a possibility. But it's a lot of work that we are going to have to figure out by 2035.
Nathan Graf: And all of this is going on a ... sustainability and facilities and finance initiation are really working on a collaboration to map out some of that plan and hopefully we'll have at least the first chapter of an energy [inaudible 00:21:44] systems ready to go by the end of this calendar year.
Nathan Graf: Betsy is going to talk a little bit about how we pay for this process and how we incentivize that decarbonization both at Swarthmore and across the nation.
Betsy Bolton: Thanks, Nathan. So yeah, I want to set a little larger national context and then focus in on Swarthmore. And in order to do that, I'm going to try to cover quickly the social cost of carbon, different kinds of carbon pricing, their challenges and then Swarthmore's approach.
Betsy Bolton: So to start with, we need to think about the social cost of carbon. And part of the way that economists tend to think about this, I'm told by my friends, the economists, is that pollution is a negative externality. It's a negative consequence of production or consumption that is born a third party to the transaction. So people who aren't, say, driving a gas, gasoline [inaudible 00:22:47] are still paying the price of those emissions. Or people in smaller and in developing states who are being hit by major cyclones did not benefit from the industrial revolution that fed the climate change that is now bringing on some of those extreme weather incidences.
Betsy Bolton: So the challenge is, can we put a price on those negative consequences and build that price into the market so that higher prices would come to reduce emissions? As people decide they can't afford the real cost of those carbon-intensive goods and services. So the social cost of carbon is trying to add up all the quantifiable costs and benefits of emitting one extra ton of CO2 in monetary terms.
Betsy Bolton: And economists make different integrated assessment models that address socioeconomic projections, how they think the weather is going to change the climate, I'm sorry, is going to change. What are the benefits and damages? What is the cost of adapting to this changing climate?
Betsy Bolton: And then discounting. How do we value future benefits and costs in today's money? And this is where these models have quite a range because you can either say, "I really value my present experience highly." In which case you've got a relatively high discount value and you're not going to put a lot of money into trying to avoid climate change. Or you can say, "I value future generations pretty highly." In which case you have a low discount number and you're going to put a lot more money into trying to mitigate climate change.
Betsy Bolton: So under the Obama administration, the social cost of carbon was figured to be about 30 dollars a ton. The Trump administration has attempted to just kind of get away from the social cost of carbon. The IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in their October report proposed for 2030 a carbon price ranging from 150 dollars per ton, which is hugely higher than what we have now, all the way up to 5,500 dollars per metric ton. So that gives you some sense of the range and the difficulty.
Betsy Bolton: So if we could decide or agree to a carbon price, then we have to figure out how to bring that price into our markets. And some of the strategies people use are a carbon tax, cap and trade, carbon dividend and, or a shadow price. So let's talk about each one of those briefly.
Betsy Bolton: A carbon tax is familiar. It's got some stability of pricing. So you say, "This is what the carbon tax is going to be and this is how much it will grow each year." So people know what they'll be paying. Companies can plan. People like that stability. It's relatively simple in design. We know what taxes are like. And the revenues created by that tax to fund fossil-free energy systems. And that's a big priority as we've been trying to say. Has some drawbacks. Nobody likes a tax. William Nordhaus got a Nobel Prize for his work on carbon taxes [inaudible 00:26:00] for climate economics. And he said, "Surprisingly, people don't actually like to increase their costs." The Gilets Jaunes protests in France show some of the social difficulty that can come from a tax. Even at Swarthmore we couldn't call it a tax, as far as I'm concerned, it's a tax. But it's called a carbon charge. So people ... a tax by any other name would smell sweeter, that's my take away from that.
Betsy Bolton: The next option is cap and trade. And people have practiced, they have experimented with this. There's a cap and trade system, an Emissions Trading Scheme, ETS, in the European Union, in the Northeast. We've tried it in various places. And the benefit here is what we want to do is cap emissions. And that's what this program does, is cap emissions. It says, "This is as much as you can emit." And then it sells allowances. It distributes allowances. And companies who can reduce their emissions faster have some unused allowance. And they can sell that to another company who can't reduce their emissions as rapidly. So it creates a market in those allowances.
Betsy Bolton: There are a couple issues here in practice. There's been some volatility of pricing. And I suspect that if real costs started to hit, if somebody really cranked up a cap and trade system, we get protest there as well. Some people argue that it's dubious, ethically speaking, to make money from trading carbon emissions. I'm with whatever works at the moment, myself.
Betsy Bolton: Third option is carbon fee and dividend. So the fee part is still a tax. But after you've gathered those revenues, the idea here is that you redistribute them as a dividend and you send them out across the population because it's actually consumers ... companies will pass on their costs to consumers. So consumers will be responsible for those additional costs.
Betsy Bolton: So the carbon dividend program is good for lower income people. Largely, because their not burning as much carbon and so about 70% of the US population, they would get more back from a dividend than they would pay in the carbon fees.
Betsy Bolton: But also, it doesn't grow the, say, federal government. It doesn't contribute to command and control regulations and that makes it popular on a more fiscally conservative governmental side. Republicans tend to be happier with that piece of this puzzle.
Betsy Bolton: Drawbacks. In Washington State, carbon dividend motion did not pass. There was intense lobbying against it from fossil fuel companies who tended to pick at how exactly were those dividends going to be redistributed. And so we need to figure out how to communicate and negotiate those things better.
Betsy Bolton: The next slide just sort of summarizes some of these issues. We're just going to blow past this and keep going.
Betsy Bolton: You may have, if you're following the news, you may have read recently there are number of commentators saying, "Forget carbon pricing, it's just not working." So Paul Krugman said, "Green New Deal doesn't have a carbon tax. That's a good thing they're being pragmatic. Move on." David Leonhardt in a piece last weekend, not this past weekend, but the prior weekend, he said, "We lack the political will for carbon pricing." He quoted it. Christiana Figueres, our alumna, who said, "Let's not wait for what the economists think is perfect. Let's settle for politically feasible."
Betsy Bolton: So what we need for carbon pricing is political will. And that's what we at Swarthmore are trying to contribute to.
Betsy Bolton: It's worth noting, however, that across the globe, there are many versions of a carbon price in action, despite what Krugman or Leonhardt or anybody says. China is implementing an ETS scheme, an Emissions Trading Scheme. We've got a carbon tax and Emissions Trading Scheme going in Canada. I don't have time to dwell on it but we can talk about that in greater detail later, perhaps.
Betsy Bolton: I think that brings us to Swarthmore and our Carbon Charge, or at least to the Carbon Reading Group of a few years back. We were kind of a motley crew. The economics department runs a kind of voluntary reading group every summer. And because I'd been talking with Steve Gollob about things that we could do about reducing carbon, they let others of us join, so there's Ellen Magenheim and Steve Gollob. Tao Wang. Jennifer Peck, who's our environmental economist. Ayse Kaya from political science. There's me. Lee Smithey who's a sociologist, now runs our peace and conflict studies. Leonard Nakamura who is an alum who's been very strong on promoting a kind of voluntary carbon tax. Melissa, a student. Ralph Thayer who came to tell us how really things work in facilities and what we needed to take into account.
Betsy Bolton: So this group of us came up with a set of goals that we wanted the Carbon Charge to accomplish. We wanted to model global carbon pricing. We wanted to fund emission reduction work. We wanted to educate and engage our community around carbon pricing. We wanted to build momentum for state, national and global carbon pricing.
Betsy Bolton: And the way in which we did that was we developed a proposal, presented it to the President who asked us present to the President's Staff and board member David Singleton. We took it to the faculty for a full-faculty vote. A rough sketch of the program that emerged from all of that.
Betsy Bolton: So we took campus green house gas emissions, multiplied those by a social cost of carbon. To come up with a fee on department budget. So that's the tax model. Departments and offices can also make voluntary contribution. So the English department, for instance, this year proposed a 6.25 tax on our budget. So that money goes into a carbon fund which is then pushed out into green house gas emission reduction projects and education and engagement projects.
Betsy Bolton: We also instituted a shadow price. Because new construction and if we aren't thinking about carbon pricing tends to ... we make decisions that are based on first costs or immediate costs, rather than longer term costs.
Betsy Bolton: So if you compare geothermal as opposed to natural gas, it looks at the first cost level as if the natural gas is much cheaper. So that's the decision we would have made. If you build in the lifecycle cost of maintenance and operations, it's a closer comparison. But only when you add in the social cost of carbon over the long run does geothermal become the least expensive option for the longer haul.
Betsy Bolton: Just a spin through. I know we're past time, so I'm just going to spin through one of our first president sustainability research fellows, Aaron Metheny, asked Val to endorse the Put A Price On It campaign, which she did. She not only endorsed it, but she also became a kind of a leader in that discussion. David Gilbert, our alum, gave us some video about this. He did a segment in Years of Living Dangerously about this move and Val joined with some other college presidents to create and invite others to join the Pricing Carbon Leadership Circle.
Betsy Bolton: Next slide, Nathan. So Aurora, who came on board partway through this whole process, was essential in connecting the Carbon Charge to a Green Revolving Fund that helped those funds go further. And Nathan was here to shepherd things through. Safe Climate PA, over to you?
Nathan Graf: Yeah. So Betsy talked a lot about ... so we are doing this project to reduce our emissions. But part of the goal was also to build momentum for state and local and better action, and to engage our students. So we have done a lot of work with students on this program. And this is an event that we co-hosted in Harrisburg that we had a day-long training for 60 students across Pennsylvania, training them in carbon pricing one-on-one and how to advance the price in carbon.
Nathan Graf: Then a lot of those students came back and they developed a Swat Put A Price On It working group that has published a weekly newsletter of [inaudible 00:35:13]. You can see one of them here on the topic on Swarthmore's carbon pricing, and a topic on the national price. They co-hosted a panel to explore the role of Swarthmore in the global climate challenge and invited speakers to campus and were pretty active. It was pretty exciting.
Nathan Graf: And that brings us back to our goals for tonight's discussion. Betsy, do you want to say anything more here?
Betsy Bolton: No, I think it's time to wrap up and turn over to questions.
Nathan Graf: Amazing. So we are going to have some time for questions until the top of the hour. Before we dive into questions, an alum, John Goodman from class of 60 requested two minutes to talk about something that he's doing about climate change. And well I'm the [inaudible 00:36:03] but I'm not sure if I can unmute him. Melissa or Peter, would you be able to find John's phone number for a sec and unmute him? Or-
Peter Jaquette: Okay, I think I've unmuted him. John, are you there? I guess not.
Nathan Graf: Maybe let's answer a couple of questions first and then we can come back to John in a couple of minutes. Well, we think [inaudible 00:36:27].
Peter Jaquette: So let me just remind, folks, if you want to ask a question, type it into the chatbox and we'll pass that on to our panelists.
Peter Jaquette: Before we get any questions, let me just say, I've been working with the PSR Fellows, the Sustainability Research Fellows, for a couple of years now. And I'm just hugely impressed with the program and the ... it really, to me, is an example of sort of the best of Swarthmore. It is doing things on the ground. It is also a great educational opportunity. The students who do this are learning so much. Many of them are going on to great graduate programs in sustainability or being able to take sustainability out into their careers. So I'm a big fan.
Peter Jaquette: Let's see, John.
Peter Jaquette: So do we have any questions from the floor, as it were? The virtual floor. Okay. A couple of questions. What are some examples of behavior change that we'd like to see as part of this?
Nathan Graf: Bets, did you want to take that one [inaudible 00:38:09].
Betsy Bolton: Why don't you dive in and I will follow up?
Nathan Graf: Yeah, for sure. I think some of the ... maybe to focus on ... I guess to stick out the Swarthmore scales, since there's a lot of changes and a lot of spaces, I think the shadow price we're excited ... or applying that to new construction projects so we hope that will change decisions about materials. We're applying that to the campus utility systems that we're looking at as we're looking at different ways on the Road Map to Zero. We want to get to zero emissions, but we're also accounting for ... zero emissions by 2035, but also looking at what are the invented emissions and the products that we're using in the meantime, and the material sourcing and so forth.
Nathan Graf: On an individual level, I'm really excited about behavior change to ... the students are engaging with elected officials and engaging with our community. So educate and expand understanding of the systems. I could talk about individual users of buildings and thermostats and waste sorting. Those are all good. I'm not sure if they would be super useful for our alumni to know about how our building and thermostat systems work.
Peter Jaquette: Okay, I believe I can unmute John Goodman now. So let's see if that works. John, are you able to talk to us? Maybe Nathan, you can do that.
Betsy Bolton: Let me take a little pass at that question. If that's okay. Unless we need to get to another one. I just wanted to say that from a faculty perspective the fact of the Carbon Charge ... so when we were trying to create the Carbon Charge, we really wanted to have feedback built into the system. But we are unable to monitor tightly enough to link individual departments to their actual carbon outputs at this moment. There's an exciting piece of project right now that's trying to think about plug monitors so that we could make closer linkages. I know that Lang Performing Arts Center is a building that's been under discussion there.
Betsy Bolton: From a faculty perspective, just having the discussion means that we're also talking about can we go to our professional societies and promote the idea of video conferencing or a merely neutral conference model. So that we are doing less traveling. That's not directly covered by the Carbon Charge, but it's a behavior change that we're happy to see coming along with these discussions.
Peter Jaquette: Okay, we've got another question here. We haven't talked very much about energy storage, for example Tesla Powerwall or more broadly speaking, batteries. Could you touch on that?
Nathan Graf: Yeah, I can talk about that. We are exploring on-campus storage. There's a lot of benefits. First of all, we keep getting power outages. We did again two nights ago. We think storage can be really helpful for [inaudible 00:41:10] purposes and for helping the grid accommodate a larger amount of renewable energy.
Nathan Graf: Storage is still pretty expensive right now at the commercial scale. It's a lot cheaper at the utility scale. But Swarthmore can't ... we're not consuming storage at the utility scale. We're hopeful ... there's a recent order by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, order 841, that requires that by this December, all grids are going to have to have a storage participation model, which means it will be paid for all the many, many services to the grid that storage provides, which we hope will change the economics a lot. Also, the price is declining really, really rapidly.
Nathan Graf: So we're not quite there yet. We're still looking at some options. It's a little expensive now. We hope it will be more financially feasible in the near future.
Peter Jaquette: Great, thank you, Nathan. Another question. Now think a little more broadly. Swarthmore has got a goal of being carbon neutral by 2035. If every other organization, like Swarthmore and others, in major emitting countries achieved the goal of carbon neutrality by 2035, would that be enough to avert climate disaster?
Nathan Graf: I think that goes back to [crosstalk 00:42:27].
Betsy Bolton: My family calls [inaudible 00:42:32] the profit of doom. I think it's one or two back, still, Nathan.
Nathan Graf: Yes.
Betsy Bolton: Yeah. So that slide argues that we need to be carbon neutral by 2026. Remaining quota used by 2026. So what is carbon ... or climate disaster? I mean if you're hit by a cyclone in Mozambique it's climate disaster. We are in climate disaster. Is it better than nothing? It is absolutely better than not having this commitment. Would I love to see Swarthmore make a commitment to carbon neutrality for 2025? Sure. Is that even viable? It's complicated. Nathan? Are you cheerier than I am?
Nathan Graf: I'm not. I think that summarizes my feelings accurately.
Peter Jaquette: We've got another question. We touched on lobbying, state and federal legislators. Could you talk a little bit about that?
Nathan Graf: Yeah, for sure. I do not lobby a staff, a staff of the college. Separate things. But on my own time I do spend a lot of time with a group called the Citizens' Climate Lobby that I think does some really, really valuable work, particularly advancing the carbon fee and dividend model. And they are good with ... a pretty lean staff, of about 30 staff, but 100,000 volunteers across the nation. Twice a year they have delegations of like 1,000 volunteers who descend on a capital and meet with literally every member of the house in Senate. And they've been building those relationships with both Republican and Democrat offices for years and have been doing a lot of really valuable work.
Nathan Graf: I have been surprised in my like handful, maybe dozen, lobby experiences. One, congressional staff are ... even when their bosses aren't super on-board with the climate change, staff get it. They know what's going on. Also the staff tend to be still on the younger side and see a little bit of a personal stake in the future.
Nathan Graf: And I've been really surprised by the extent to which ... I think I can say that. I think a lot of folks who aren't out there yet, publicly, will still acknowledge or are excited about some climate solutions that work for them and reflect their values, and are looking for political cover in the moment when they think they can get out. And I think having someone who can explain that to them and have the conversations about ... like here is that person [inaudible 00:45:17] this policy can be really effective in bringing some folks on board and I think a lot of Republicans come out for climate who weren't previously out for climate.
Nathan Graf: I mean I'm sure, through climate impacts and also people protesting, but also through someone having a conversation with another. Like, "Here's the next steps that you can take." And I think that's really important.
Betsy Bolton: Again, in terms of our students, we have a number of currently Swarthmore students who are in leadership roles with the Sunrise Movement. So you'll have seen them in the New York Times, down lobbying in Washington.
Betsy Bolton: We also, in the Environmental Studies Intro, I've got students meeting with the legislative director of one of our state senators tomorrow. So we're trying to build skills, build familiarity. They're pretty nervous. So just low stakes, trying to start a discussion and learn back and forth, about what kinds of legislation might move forward this.
Betsy Bolton: In this case we're talking about trying to make recycling more rational in our region. Also thinking about insulation, trying to minimize energy loss through weatherization.
Peter Jaquette: Thank you, Nathan and thank you, Betsy.
Nathan Graf: I think John just poked in the headset. John, can you try speaking and see if we can hear you?
Nathan Graf: I'm afraid not.
Peter Jaquette: Okay.
Nathan Graf: Should I be calling John on my cell and just hold it up to the computer? It's unorthodox but I've seen it work before. So maybe we'll do one more question and then we'll-
Peter Jaquette: Okay, yeah, let's do that. There was one more question here from the floor. What scale of a ground heat exchange system are we thinking about at the college?
Nathan Graf: Sorry, what scale?
Peter Jaquette: Yeah.
Nathan Graf: Yeah. We barely [inaudible 00:47:16], we hope to cover all of our major buildings that are on the scene. There've been a couple more that we'll connect to a hot water loop. We already have a field through the Whittier building and for the new PPR apartment dorms that were just built.
Nathan Graf: We think the size ... Cunningham fields. Just across from Chester Road, I think are the biggest. May take half the Cunningham fields. We might supplement it with some panels on Mertz Lawn. So pretty big, but it's not like we're wrapping up the entire campus for it.
Peter Jaquette: Okay.
Nathan Graf: And maybe one more question. Because I was answering that [crosstalk 00:47:55].
Peter Jaquette: Yeah. Here's a question. Is there any [inaudible 00:48:06] as the alumni to greater effort and have there been any attempts to survey the alumni on support for carbon pricing?
Betsy Bolton: I love that question. Let's think and talk about it right now, right here. You know what I mean? This is ... Leonard Nakamura was so important for the creation of the Carbon Charge program. I can remember making a presentation to the alumni council the first year that I [inaudible 00:48:39] Environmental Studies and people were like, "We have this big community, use us!" But trying to work out the specifics or the details, we don't want to create survey fatigue in anybody. We would love input how best to engage our wonderful alumni and all their many skills and brilliant ideas. So please e-mail me directly or the Sustainability Office. If you have ideas on that, would love to hear more.
Melissa Tier: And maybe if I could jump in on this one. Hi, everyone, I'm Melissa Tier, I'm the Sustainability Program Manager and a class of 14 alum. Just wanted to say that so many of these initiatives that have been described in this session and will be described in the upcoming weeks, are really very new. There's been a lot of exciting work with close partnership with many different campus community partners, including alumni. But I think we're really feeling ready at this stage to be broadcasting that in better and more engaging ways with the alumni population.
Melissa Tier: So just to echo Betsy's plan. We want to hear from you. We want to figure out new ways to engage with you all and to just share what we're up to. And I hope you'll continue to join us for these sessions. This is our very first alumni webinar.
Nathan Graf: And I do have John here. John, do you want to take it away for two minutes?
John Goodman: Sure. Hello. Can you hear me now?
Peter Jaquette: Yes.
Betsy Bolton: Yes.
John Goodman: Okay. Thank you, Nathan. I'm John Goodman, I was Swarthmore class in 1960 and I'm a physicist and author and an inventor. And I have just two things I want to say to you today.
John Goodman: My first one, I'm calling a word of warning. And you can see it on the screen right now. And it's actually ... the other one is going to be a word of hope, because I hate to just be a downer.
John Goodman: We've often been told that you should think globally and act locally which is good advice for many problems. But when it comes to dealing with global climate change, I strongly believe that the better advice is think and act globally on this existential crisis. Local action alone just won't be sufficient. Don't believe anyone who says as soon as solar and wind power have gotten so cheap, we can quit using fossil fuels, especially if they are speaking only [inaudible 00:51:00] local solar or wind energy sources and especially if they don't talk about the energy storage that's needed and which is pretty costly.
John Goodman: In fact, right now, it makes that sort of green energy overall more expensive than using dirty energies from fossil fuels. People who are generally focused on the short term work with their wallets and that is why I think we are not making more progress here.
John Goodman: On to the second slide. Take the solar panels off of your roof and raise it up to 100 kilometers above sea level and keep it pointed at the sun. It will supply you with about ten times as [inaudible 00:51:36] as it would on your roof. Same solar panel, same [inaudible 00:51:40].
John Goodman: And if you put wind turbines in the jet stream, they all work far better than [inaudible 00:51:45]. If you distribute these energy sources all around the globe, half of them will always be in the sunlight and if they are connected together efficiently, then we really can rely on solar or wind power 24/7 with no batteries or other energy storage required.
John Goodman: And the great good news is this is possible. The book you see at the left side of the screen is one I wrote five years ago. Here's many of the details. Please do continue to push for a price on carbon that sends a good energy, good [inaudible 00:52:16] signal. But a better [inaudible 00:52:17] signal comes from lowering the cost of green energy dramatically. And also push for research and the building of a prototype of this new way of dealing with the problem. Once it's built, people will know and then it will be easy to get it done.
John Goodman: There's far more to say, more than I can say now. I put into the comment screen some links as the webinar marks plus a way for you to ask me questions. And now I turn you back to your regular webinar.
Peter Jaquette: Thank you, John.
Betsy Bolton: Thank you.
Nathan Graf: I will add those comments in a second as my computer is loading my e-mail real quick.
Peter Jaquette: So let me ask another question. And maybe Betsy, you could take the lead on this. How do you see the recently or newly formed Environmental Studies major playing a part in advancing Swarthmore's carbon-neutral agenda?
Betsy Bolton: From Dakota. Well, isn't it wonderful that we have an Environmental Studies major now? So there are lots of different ways to keep the students, to keep our new majors involved in the process. So Kyle Richmond is one of our first Environmental Studies majors. He's an honors major and PSR fellow and he's been instrumental in developing the Power Purchasing Agreement that Nathan spoke about earlier today.
Betsy Bolton: We have students working on engineering projects, on economic pricing projects. We've got people trying to tackle lots of different pieces of this puzzle. We need more faculty on the ground to keep up with the wonderful students that we have. So if anybody knows anybody who has any funding to endow our position, we would love that.
Betsy Bolton: So we are excited about what we're able to do. And we have dreams of what more we could do with some more resources.
Peter Jaquette: Thank you, Betsy. We talked about Swarthmore and our efforts on sustainability and particularly on carbon. What are some of the other colleges and universities who are really pushing hard on this?
Nathan Graf: Oh, I can take it. I mean yes. Yeah, I can take that one. Yale beat us by ... they have a very robust internal Carbon Charge program. It's very impressive. They charge every department and office in proportion to their carbon emissions. We are working with facilities to get [inaudible 00:54:51]. It's quite challenging. But it's a lot of fun.
Nathan Graf: Vassar is also an early adopter of shadow pricing. Smith College right now also is [inaudible 00:55:00] shadow price of 70 dollars a ton. And we've been doing a lot of work with Smith, Vassar and Yale together to host events to share this solution with other institutions of higher education.
Nathan Graf: A couple of them that are moving really fast. Whitman College. You see L.A. and the University of Arizona and University of Maryland all have charges for air travel. And the University of College London is ... I guess they may have decided, too, recently. They've just published a white paper exploring what an internal carbon charge would look like and I think they're moving towards decision now.
Nathan Graf: I think the University of Utah just passed a resolution in the Faculty Senate, I think, calling for a price, an internal Carbon Charge program. And we're in contact with a lot of other institutions that are exploring.
Nathan Graf: And I think over the past few months I've gotten maybe twentyish faculty staff and students from other schools who have been asking me to learn about Swarthmore's program because they want to explore at their own schools [inaudible 00:56:06].
Peter Jaquette: I think this [inaudible 00:56:10] with another question that we have, asking to hear a little bit more about the Carbon Pricing Leadership Council and what impact that's having on the national discussion on climate change.
Nathan Graf: I can take this one, too, I think. So the Climate Leadership Council is a group of Republican older statesmen who are advocating for a variation of carbon fee and dividend. There's some differences from the Citizens' Climate Lobby proposal. CCL has a faster ramp or CLC just wants a 40 dollars a ton and keep that more or less flat with tracking ... I think increasing by like 3% a year.
Nathan Graf: The other thing that they get a lot of fame for is the regulations trade. They make the case that if you're pricing carbon, the EPA shouldn't also be regulating emissions for their carbon impacts. The [inaudible 00:57:10] that would make is it's pretty narrow. Notably, it's only regulating emissions for their carbon impact, so you can still regulate [inaudible 00:57:19] or health impacts, for example. And they're exempting the vehicle sector for reasons we don't need to go into. And notably, the EPA has never and is not making any motions to regulate carbon from most industries.
Nathan Graf: So that really only affects the Clean Power Plan on the electricity sector which is kind of dead right now. So there is some case, so that's a worthwhile trade. I would submit that 40 dollars ... for me, 40 dollars a ton is on a boundary of ... I'm not sure if the regulations of 40 dollars a ton is more effective. But to align with the 2 degree scenario, we need a lot higher than 40 dollars a ton and some complementary policies. Or we need 40 dollars a ton and a whole lot of complementary policies, which can be some extra regulation or other policies. But it's complicated. But they are serving as a liaison to getting a lot of conservative support for a climate solution which ... find me conservatives who support any other climate solutions. It's pretty hard.
Peter Jaquette: Thank you, Nathan.
Betsy Bolton: A little more cynical, though, about the impact on congress. I feel as though the fact that the Green New Deal does not include any carbon pricing plan, that's not a good signal for where we are right now in terms of carbon pricing.
Nathan Graf: I think that's accurate, yeah.
Peter Jaquette: Yeah. We have a question about the discount rate. I think we talked a little bit about how impactful a discount rate is on decisions here. Can either of you a little bit more about that?
Betsy Bolton: Let me take this. Let me start it, Nathan, and you run, all right? You run with it.
Betsy Bolton: The two major figures I associate with the different discount rates are Bill Morehouse who favors a higher discount rate, so more value for the present moment. And Nicholas Stern who says we haven't [inaudible 00:59:20] in the system and so we really need to value the future very closely to the present [inaudible 00:59:27]. There's so much that could happen. And so I felt like that was connected.
Betsy Bolton: So those are the two [inaudible 00:59:36]. Morehouse said that 3.5 degrees of global heating was optimal in terms of growing the economy. I don't think he says that anymore. And that's where Nathan, I think, he came out with a paper saying, "I'm going to update this," or something, didn't he?
Nathan Graf: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah. That's right.
Betsy Bolton: Run with that.
Nathan Graf: I think that's ... I'll just drive home ... one more thing I'll add to that is that I think the social cost of carbon is often ... the EPA reports the social cost of carbon at 1.5 discount rate and a 3% discount rate and a 5% discount rate. The 3% just because it's in the middle. A lot of people report it's like 40% of real social cost to carbon.
Nathan Graf: The EPA is very clear that there's no good justification for one or the other. If you change the discount rate from 3% to 1.5%, that 40 number jumps up to like 110, I think.
Nathan Graf: So even very, very small fluctuations in the discount rate, which is more or less entirely arbitrary, can have really, really tremendous impacts on how your social cost of carbon gets better. So I think that's worth noting and part of why I personally found have economic models [inaudible 01:00:46] what carbon price do we need to align the global economy with the 2 degree scenario, rather than a question of what is the social cost of carbon. Both of them have big error bars but I think that the 2 degree scenario is a little bit more defined than what is the social cost of carbon, sometimes, because it's so abstract.
Peter Jaquette: Thank you very much to all of our panelists. To Nathan, Melissa and Betsy. And listen in in a few weeks time when we have the second of our series on sustainability.
Nathan Graf: And one more kind of thought. If there are questions that you have that you didn't put in the chat bar or that we didn't get to, you can see the e-mail at the bottom of the screen there. Sustainability@swarthmore.edu. We'll be thrilled to answer your questions by e-mail or have a follow-up conversation with you all.
Betsy Bolton: Thank you so much for hosting, Peter and thanks everyone for tuning in.
Peter Jaquette: Until next time. Good night, all.
Betsy Bolton: Good night.
Melissa Tier: Good night.
Peace and Conflict Studies
Denying Refuge: Refugee and Asylum policies under the Trump Administration
with Alex Aleinikoff '74 - march 5, 2019
- Read the transcript.
- So pleased to offer the third of our series of Swat talks by the Alumni Council. These have been organized by various Alumni Council members and I have to give a shout out to Julian Harper and the Alumni Council team who have been been working on these Swat talks. My name is Laura McKee, and I am here in Chicago, Illinois, and my co-host from the Alumni Council is Dan Feinberg. Do you wanna give a wave Dan? And we're so pleased to have Alex Aleinikoff here with us today. Alex is a class of 1974 and is a scholar on immigration, and the host of a podcast called Tempest Tossed which you may recognize from the poem on the Statue of Liberty. So you can get Tempest Tossed on all the podcast sources that you would normally search for podcasts. Doctor Aleinikoff is a professor at the new school focusing on migration and mobility, and also the author of a couple of books including a forthcoming book tentatively titled The Arc of Protection: Reforming the International Refugee Regime with Leah Zamore. His book Semblances of Sovereignty: The Constitution, the State, and American Citizenship was published by Harvard University Press in 2002. I'm gonna turn over the mic and the screen to Doctor Aleinikoff and we're really looking forward to hearing his talk. So I believe he's already live there, and I'm gonna mute myself.
- Thanks Laura, I hope you are hearing me? Yes, good. Thanks. Great, well hello to everybody. Hello to all the Swatties out there. My great pleasure to be with you tonight in this interesting form of communication. I hope it, hope it goes well. You apparently can see me, I can't see you but I hope there's some people listening cause I've seen you sign in from these different places around the country. And it's actually, I'll be saying a bunch about this but it is interesting that in our refugee program in the United States before it has really come under serious attack from this administration, the refugees were resettled all around the country. My guess is that a number of you probably are with community groups that have taken refugees in over the last number of years, and it's been a real strength of the program that people have come in and been able to settle in local communities, so that those communities could get, could begin to understand the refugee situation. Work with the family, and learn about the tradition of this country, welcoming refugees. I wanna talk about the time this year that Trump's attack on refugees and asylum. The seekers, and I'll break that up into discussion, both of the US refugee program and the asylum seeking in the United States. These are two separate ways the refugees come into the country. The refugee system selects people from overseas and brings them in. They're selected, and processed, and brought in through this formal program. Asylum seekers are people who show up at the border and request political asylum where they're inside the country already, and ask for asylum. The standard to judge both under international law and under US law is the same, whether they meet the definition of refugee, but they're two very different ways to come into the country. They have different histories, and I'll talk about both because the Trump Administration has really tried to undermine both of these routes in, in a way that has cost the US its leadership on these issues around the world, and I think it's done very serious damage to the system we have here. So, let me start with the global story, a bit in the US overseas refugee program, and then I'll talk about the asylum seeking process at the border inside the United States. So, I'm sure many of you are aware that we have the highest number of refugees and internally displaced people around the world. Highest number since World War II. The international agency, UNHCR, puts the number at about 68 million people. That's about the population of the United Kingdom. It's a huge number, and about a third of those people are refugees, meaning they've crossed an international border. They've fled from their home state to another country, usually right nearby, right next door, 25 million or so, and about 40 million are displaced within their own country. They are called internally displaced, or IDPs occasionally. They likewise have been forced in their home. These are 68 million people who have been pushed out of their homes because of conflict or violence, and it doesn't include another 10 or 20 million people a year who are displaced because of national disasters and increasingly because of climate change, which is leading to the flooding of seas or the desertification of large areas of land. This is really going to be the story over the next 10, 20 years, is going to be forced migration due to climate change more than even conflict and violence. We don't have a system that's really ready to deal with this yet but we maybe can get to that in some of the questions and answers here. The United States helped create the International Refugee Regime in the 1950s and it's been a top financial supporter for the International Regime for many, many years. Until the Trump Administration, the US resettled more refugees than the entire rest of the world, combined. More than 50% of the worlds resettled refugees were resettled in the United States. Now, of the 25 million refugees in the world, probably less than 200, a 100 less, 150,000 a year are actually resettled. Most refugees stay in the countries to which they flee from their home state next door. There's a significant resettlement program and that's what the US used to lead. Let me just give you some of the numbers here to give you a sense of what has happened to our program. In the last year of the Obama Administration, President Obama set the number for refugees to come into the country, and this is set by a presidential statement with consultation by Congress, where the president sets these numbers. Obama set the number at 110,000 for 2017 fiscal year. Trump came in and it's sometimes forgotten, but part of the executive order he issued that the so-called Muslim ban that stopped people coming in from Muslim dominant, Muslim majority countries on regular Visa's, he also put a hold of the refugee program and reduced the number for the year to 50,000. Actually about 54,000 came in because there were court cases that put the ban on hold for a little while, and people were able to come in, but this one for 110 thousand under Obama, Trump cut it, and in that year actually only 54,000 came in. Then in fiscal year 2018, the number was set at 45,000 by the Trump Administration and the actual number that were admitted was only about 22,000, because even within the 45,000 is the maximum the president, the administration, would bring in, but they were so slow in the processing. They slowed it so far down that they actually only took in 22,000. So now we're going from 110,000 under Obama, to 22,000. In fiscal year 19, which we're currently in, the fiscal year goes from October 1st to September 30th, we're in fiscal year 19. The number now set is 30,000, and we're unlikely to reach that number because in the first five months only 9,000 refugees have come in. Now this is really, at a time of the most number of displaced people since World War II, for the US to be reducing it's admissions by, may well be by 70, 80% by the time we're done, is just a shame. I mean it's certainly, but for the 70, 80, 90,000 refugees who will not be resettled into the United States is a real human cost and to their family members, but also for the leadership of the United States around the world, because the world notices what the United States does and how it's handling refugee resettlement. It's not as if the rest of the world is gonna step up and take new numbers. It may embolden countries that are not interested in resettlement. Now, one thing that's interesting here is that the Trump Administration has not reduced its funding to international agencies that help refugees. So it's funding for UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, is about 1.5 billion dollars. That's a lot of money. It's about 40% of UNHCR's overall budget. Very important to the international system, and you may wonder what happened at the, why they are cutting refugees coming in but still funding. The strategy, really, seems to be consistent with what a number of the Western European countries are doing as well. The strategy seems to be, let's take care of refugees where they are. Where they, the country, the so-called country of first asylum. Let's take care of them there and then we don't have to bring them in to our country. So, 85% or so of refugees reside in the Global South, in countries of first asylum. As I said, resettlement numbers have gone way down. The clearest example that this is the White House strategy, is an interesting anecdote here, that the White House asked the Department of Health and Human Services to write a report, and in that report to look at the cost of taking care of a refugee in the United States versus the cost of taking care of a refugee overseas, in this country of first asylum. HHS prepared it's report and it didn't just do that, it also looked at the benefit that the refugee brought to the United States over the length of time that the refugee would likely be in the United States. The HHS data showed, oh clearly it's more expensive to take care of someone here than in Ethiopia or Kenya, or other, or Pakistan, or Iran, other countries of first asylum, but the study also showed that over the long run, refugees returned much more to the country economically than they took in the original, initial benefits they got from the government. Well, Stephen Miller in the White House didn't like that result and they buried the report, but it came out through leaks from the State Department and elsewhere, so we know that this report actually exists. You can tell from the way that the question was framed, that it's all an attempt to keep refugees where they are in their countries of first asylum. The most recent thing the US did here, the Trump Administration did, which is again, I think not a healthy sign for the overall system, was to not approve the Global Compact on Refugees. The UN spent two years debating a new Global Compact on Refugees. This was not a new treaty in terms of binding law, it didn't impose any new obligations on states, but it did have some important statements about how refugee response should be done around the world, and the importance of providing more assistance to these hosting states. There were two countries that didn't sign on to the Global Compact on Refugees. One was Hungary, and the other was the United States. So, the overseas refugee, the system, the Trump Administration has almost killed it and in doing so, it has done real damage to the nine national UN, I'm sorry, nine national US organizations that do the resettlement here. The way the resettlement program works is that refugees are identified overseas, they go through processing, they're brought into the country, given the state's required Visa, but then met by a voluntary agency. An NGO in the United States like the Catholics, and the Lutherans, and Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society now called HIAS, and IRC International Rescue Committee. These are large national organizations who then resettle these refugees all around the country into two or three hundred different local affiliates. Well, this huge cut in numbers, 'cause with those numbers came funding for these organizations, has meant a significant cut in these national organizations ability to fund their local efforts, and staff has been laid off and offices have been closed. Now this can be reversed I suppose, again, if these numbers go back up and federal funding follows, but it's had a really devastating impact on the system, as I said, sent a really awful message, I think, around the world about a program that we used to be totally non-partisan. There was Democrats and Republicans alike supported the resettlement of refugees into the United States, and that has really undergone severe cuts under the Trump Administration. Now, let me talk a little bit about the asylum process here. This is the second route into the country, and when people get to the border they can request asylum, if they were in the country they can request asylum, and then they're either brought an asylum officer, an immigration judge, I won't go through the whole process, but they go through a preceding where they can see if they can demonstrate that they are a refugee. The test for a refugee is established by international law, and adopted in US laws, you have to show a well-founded fear of persecution if you're returned home, and the persecution has to be on account of your race, religion, national origin, membership in a social group, or political opinion. So it's a pretty big definition. Some people think it's not big enough. It doesn't cover climate change and other things we could talk about, but it was enough to allow thousands of people to get asylum in the United States. Now, even before Trump under the Obama years, the numbers of asylum seekers, two things happening, the number of asylum seekers are going up. This was largely due to the countries in the so-called northern triangle of Central America. Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, which are countries with some of the highest levels of crime, of violence, in the world, per capita, and people were fleeing. These were people fleeing local gangs, corrupt governments, and domestic violence that the government wouldn't take steps to stop. They were coming to the United States, and many of them were getting asylum in the United States. The Trump Administration essentially viewed these asylum seekers as simply part of the flow coming across the southwest border that a wall would stop, that had to be stopped. You know, in fairness to Trump, the Obama Administration sort of thought the same thing, and they took measures to deter people from coming into the border. They provided some kind of process by which you could apply in your home country to try to come to the US, but that was a small effort, but the idea that people should show up at the border and request asylum in large numbers and they had to then be taken care of, was something the Obama Administration wanted to put a damper on, in part because it was interested in passing comprehensive immigration reform and needed to show that it was, had the southwest border pretty well controlled, but anyway. So, Trump comes in and decides he really wants to close down the border, and it's not enough simply in his mind, when he first announced his campaign, he talked about Mexico sending people into the country. But that's not really the issue at the southwest border now. The flow of the number of Mexicans apprehended at the southwest border is down 90% from what it was in 2000, when the more than a million apprehensions at the southwest border overwhelmingly, Mexicans coming to the US to work, that flow has ended. That flow has ended. In fact, in the last four or five years, there have been more Mexicans leaving the United States than entering the United States, and that outflow of migrants back to Mexico from the United States. So, what really was happening at the southwest border was a surge in these people fleeing these violent situations in Central America. So, advocates for asylum seekers said, gee, these are really serious cases, and we need to have a system that takes care of them. The Trump Administrations view was no, we need to deter them from coming. What they were really taking aim at was this policy, and I really, this is the phrase they used, a phrase I don't like, but they called it catch and release. What they meant by that, was that in the old days when Mexicans would come to the border, they'd be picked up by the border patrol, and they would accept voluntary return immediately back to Mexico, but when you have asylum seekers they would say No, no, we don't want to go back to our countries, we want to ask for asylum. So they'd be detained for a short period of time but then because there was inadequate detention space or a court said they should be released, they were let go into the country. The Trump Administrations claim was that people were abusing the asylum system by coming here asking for asylum, being released into the country, and not showing up for the hearings which is not accurate. People do, in fact, show up for their hearings but that was certainly the view that there was this hole in the enforcement effort at the southwest border, because people could ask for asylum. So, let me just briefly mention five or six different things the Trump Administration has done that has really damaged our asylum system in this country. First of all, they changed the substantive rules. So, there have been a long effort by advocates to recognize as an asylum claim, the ability of women who have been subject to domestic violence at home, but the government has been unable or unwilling to protect them, they could raise an asylum claim if they could demonstrate that they were being abused on one of these protected grounds because they were a woman or because they had spoken out in some way about issues, and they were really horrible cases of domestic abuse that had been protected through our system. One of the last things that Jeff's sessions did before he was fired by Donald Trump, was to issue a decision that basically said we're not gonna recognize these kinds of claims anymore. I can go through the technicality of the law here, but I won't, but it basically said for these kinds of private discrimination, either domestic violence or gang violence, which is quite prevalent in these countries in the northern triangle countries, we're not gonna recognize this substantively. So, he cut out these kinds of claims to start, and then many other things. You are all, I'm sure, well aware of the child separation policy that was first denied that it existed, and then admitted, and then the courts stopped it. This is how is happened. So the Trump Administration wants to deter asylum seekers from coming, and they figure if they take them and let them apply for asylum and release them then, the folks will be gone forever. So they adopted a policy that was called, they called Zero Tolerance. What that meant is that anybody who came into the country who was caught illegally entering the country in between ports of entry, they would be criminally prosecuted. Now, there is in our law, there is a misdemeanor offense to if you come into the country illegally you could be criminally prosecuted with a misdemeanor. If you are deported and come back in again, then it could be a felony, and those crimes were from time to time prosecuted where people who have been deported a couple of times, the government said enough, and then used criminal process system. The criminal system. But there had never been this kind of prosecution of first-time people coming across the border. The purpose here was to separate these kids, because if someone came with a kid, and they were criminally prosecuted, the kid couldn't follow the person into criminal detention while their case was pending, so the kid would be taken away. There were 2500 or more children separated from their parents. The idea was that not only would the parents be prosecuted, but the parents would, they could apply for asylum but more likely they'd wanna get home and have their kid given back to them, and get out of this process, or they didn't at, because of the moment they'd file very cursory claims that could be denied, and that was the policy. That kind of really devastating policy for these families until a court ruled that it was unconstitutional and the policy was stopped, given the public outcry. And then you're aware of the caravan. Trump saw these caravans forming, described them like almost gathering storms. They're gathering in Honduras and marching through Mexico, and this is an invasion of our country, and they're Middle Easterners that are a part of this caravan that was portrayed in this really terrible way as an invasion and dangers to the country. These were asylum seekers, predominantly. Not all, there were other people, some of them coming to enter the country and work here because of our booming economy, but a lot of asylum seekers among them, and they joined into a caravan for some protection so that they wouldn't be trafficked or run into smugglers, need the services of smugglers. The idea was they'd come as a caravan, present themselves at the border, request asylum and get into the process here but Trump didn't want people showing up at the border. So, as you all remember, he campaigned vociferously against the caravans before the mid-term elections. It didn't work. The Democrats sent the House back and it was a failed campaign strategy, but nonetheless it was the way he talked about this caravan and demonized asylum seekers and people coming here for safety rather than saying boy, there are a lot of people in this caravan who need our help. Not everybody, let's get more judges to the border and adjudicate the cases, and the people that need protection we'll take care of. The people who are coming to simply come get a job, they're gonna have to go home. None of that. He wanted to stop the caravans. He wanted Mexico to stop the caravans, in a way to send a message to them. If you'll remember, he sent the military to the border, which a lot of military people thought was a mistake because it took the military away from other possible duties they might need to do, and because it was a total waste of money. Because they weren't, first of all, military is not allowed to enforce the immigration laws under federal law, but it was simply a show. It was a show to stop people from coming. And two more things, and then I'll stop and we can have a conversation here. The other thing he did, the Justice Department, adopted regulations with the Department of Homeland Security here at the presidents request, was to say the people who entered the country between ports of entry who came over the border, illegally entered the country, and then walked up to a border patrol agent and said "I'm here to request asylum," they would be automatically denied asylum in an exercise of discretion. The idea here was people should go to the ports of entry and wait outside the ports of entry, and we'll take them when we can through the ports of entry. Well, this is pretty clearly a violation of the US law which says a person could apply for asylum anywhere in the United States. The law is pretty clear on this. This has gone to court and there's already been a preliminary injunction that has stopped the administration on this as well. I mean, one of the interesting things as you've noticed that I go through all these different policies that have been adopted, is that almost all of them, I didn't mention this about the sessions substantive decision either, they've all been stopped in lower courts. They've all been rejected as violations of law, and now the Trump Administration will take these up through the system, and they're gonna wanna try to get a favor rule decision from the Supreme Court on this, of course, but nonetheless there's been some terrific lawyering out there that have stopped an awful lot of these decisions, because a lot of them are pretty clearly in violation of US law. This is one of them. The Trump plan was, if the people come between ports of entry, they're gonna automatically go back, can't request asylum. Wait in Mexico. This became known as the Remain in Mexico policy, or this horrible euphemism, the Migration Protection Protocols. The MPP it's called by the US government, and they've worked this out with Mexico in somewhat of a surprise as a new Mexican government, new president who said that migration was a human right, and that he was going to help people get safety and get to the United States and that, he's turned around on that and is working with the Trump Administration now to adopt this Remain in Mexico policy which the Trump Administration has put in place at a few of the ports of entry. So what does this all mean? I mean, someone they try to stop the caravans from coming, if they do get to the border they're not gonna be able to enter and request asylum. They'll have to wait in Mexico and the US is taking only a handful of these asylum cases on a daily basis and people are waiting in very difficult situations on the other side of the Mexican border. Some are giving up and going home, others are recruiting smugglers to help them try to find a way into the United States some other way, which of course is a very dangerous way to try to enter. So, to summarize the system, this is really a radical attack on the international protection system. The first is a loss of the US leadership on the resettlement to the International Refugee Regime overseas, I did mention the US is still funding at a high level but in terms of resettlement, it is a way to undercut any kind of global responsibility sharing system, and basically say "Okay refugees, "stay in the country you fled in. "Go home as soon as you can, "we're not gonna help out in terms "of sharing these numbers around the world." Then at the US border, every possible way the Trump Administration could, it's tried to stop asylum seekers from getting here, and denying their claims once they're here. I think there are things that could be done. No one thinks it's a good idea for people who have to walk a thousand miles through Mexico, to try to file asylum claims here. It's dangerous, it's a long trek, it's just not the way things should work but there needs to be a better adjudication system in the United States. I haven't really talked about the fact that the backlog of asylum cases in the US now is over two or three hundred thousand cases waiting to be adjudicated so we need more resources to do that, and we probably ought to think about, and I'll close on this. We probably ought to think about how we can have a work and admissions program directly from these northern triangle countries, so people don't have to undertake this dangerous trek, so one could imagine a humanitarian program that would bring in 50, 60,000 people a year if they have family connections here or a particularly strong humanitarian case. That would actually under, you wouldn't need a caravan to move. You could wait at home and try to apply through this process. Would offer protection, it would offer safety coming into the country, and would also restore, really, I think the honor and the dignity of this country which has been so tarnished by the actions of the Trump Administration. Let me stop there.
- Thank you very much. This is Dan Feinberg, I am the co-host tonight. That was a great summary of recent developments in refuge policy in the United States. Unfortunately none of them were good developments, but it's important for everybody to understand the Trump Administrations attack on refugees. While you were talking, we had some questions from viewers. One of them was what are your thoughts on the news that came out today? There was a big New York Times article that there's been a big surge in recent months of families trying to cross the US, Mexico border. Apparently in the last few months, there's been more families trying to cross than in the prior year.
- Well I think two things about that. One, it shows the difficulties in the home country. It's a greater argument for the need for protection here, and I'm not saying, you know, every single one of these families deserves asylum in the United States. I mean, there is some evidence that people bring kids on these dangerous journeys because they think that it will help them get into the country, and then they'll see what happens. There needs to be a system that can sort out the good claims from the bad claims. You know, this is not an easy trek and if people are coming, they're coming because they're really in pretty dire straits. That should be how we start the discussion. Not that they're illegal aliens trying to abuse our system and they're criminals if they come to the country. The second thing I point out is he missed the numbers tick up a bit. The numbers are so far below what they were, as I mentioned. In 2000, I said million, there were 1.6 million apprehensions at the southwest border. There are now maybe two or 300,000, so we're down 70, 80% in terms of his claims. It's a number that can easily be handled at the border. So the fact that it's gone up slightly under Trump, it's gone up and down, but it's still so far below what it was 10 or 15 years ago. The southwest border is really under control. One other fact on this, there are now, people can be undocumented in the country in two ways. They can come in legally over the border, or they can get here on a Visa, like a tourist Visa or a student Visa, and then stay beyond the time they're supposed to be here. The data is pretty clear now, that 2/3 of the undocumented population in the last four or five years, comes from these so-called Visa over-stayers. People who come on Visa's to stay, and these are people from India and China, and from Mexico and other countries. But the real, if we're really concerned about illegal immigration, we should be worried about people who come on Visa's and don't go home. It's not the problem at the southwest border, but the Trump Administration has been able to divide the fineness as a southwest border problem, so if there's a slight surge in the number of people coming, rather than that being seen as a humanitarian problem it's seen as a horrible invasion by criminal aliens. It's such a distortion of the facts. It's such a big lie that it's just astounding that this has sort of swept the country and this is what a lot of people think is the central problem in our immigration system, and it's just not. Last point on this, the United States still hands out a million green cards a year. So there's three times as many people who come legally to the country, as those we think. Apprehended at the southwest border, that doesn't even tell us how many of those people actually eventually get in. I think if you ask most Americans, they would think the numbers were reversed. That many, many people come illegally, and a few people come on green cards. Again, this is not our system. It's not our, anyway, enough. I've gone on and on. We need another question. I'm excited about this stuff.
- I just wanna note that we actually have 64 people participating in this webinar, so thank you so much for creating a space to have this conversation, and we also have a way for people to raise their hands, and I think Dianna Tucker has raised her hand and she's been unmuted to go ahead and ask a question. Everyone, if you could please state your class at Swarthmore as you ask your question, that would help us get a feel for who all is participating. Dianna, are you there?
- Um, so we may be having technical difficulties. While we see if we can bring her back, there are many other questions. So here's one from Patty, Culinart. Americans primarily oppose to the Trump Administration policies on refugees and asylum seekers, and also isn't it true that our European allies have taken in far more refugees and asylum seekers than the US? Are Americans moved by this in terms of their thinking to do our fair share to help the global crisis?
- Alright, I'll try to answer. I'll be brief on all these questions, although they're all terrific questions and deserve a full answer. Look, one of the really good things that's come out of this, is that it's pretty clear that the American people oppose really all of the Trump immigration policies. On all the polling on the wall, on the cuts in refugees, on the Muslim ban, go down the list, majorities oppose these policies and that's a good sign, and many of them have been stopped in the courts. So yeah, I think that's right. I think Americans are primarily opposed to these policies. The Europeans have not taken in as many refugees in terms of resettlement program, but what Germany did is there were a million asylum seekers that showed up at their border, and they took them in. A million, a million. In terms of refugees, it's not just Europeans. Turkey has 3.5 million Syrians. Half a million in the city of Istanbul. Lebanon is a country of four million people. It's taken a million Syrians, and last year we took a hundred or two Syrians. I mean, it's just the world upside down here in what effort we could be putting into this. So, look, there's some other questions here about what do we do about this, what's the possibility, I mean, but I think the first thing is we need to call this out. We need to say look, this is not what we've done in the past, this is not our tradition, at least since World War II it's not our tradition. We believe in refugees, it's been a non, bipartisan, non-partisan issue to accept refugees. Then it's either gonna take court challenges or electoral change here to change these policies. The president does have a lot of authority in immigration and foreign affairs, and on the refugee numbers, and I don't think these things will change until there's somebody else in the White House, quite frankly.
- Thank you. While we're waiting on someone who raised their hand to ask a question, there was another question I think someone, perhaps, looking for a little bit of light in this rather gloomy picture. Wondering if you could speak a little bit about some of the work you're doing, really, to help refugees.
- Okay, well I wouldn't point to myself in particular. As I said, there are a lot of lawyers out there who are doing some really terrific work on bringing these cases, and there are NGO's at the border that are providing, trying to provide medical care and other kinds of assistance for people who come into the country. So there has been a really, an outpouring of effort, if people can get into the country, in terms of taking care of them. The work I've been doing has been a lot on the international system. One of the, without talking for too long about the international system, one of the real systems that's, um, okay. One of the, I think someone's unmuted so we're getting a bit of feedback here but, what's really missing in the international system is a global responsibility sharing system. A way that other countries in the world can help these countries of first asylum, so I've been trying to work with groups at the UN, and through a number of projects to try to help create a better global responsibility sharing system for the world as a whole. Most of the work in the US has been carried out by practicing lawyers, which I no longer am, I'm just a teacher.
- So, Richard Hoffman raised his hand. He has a question, and I think he's actually unmuted so let's see if this works, if he can ask his question now.
- [Richard] Somebody asked where everybody's from, or what class. I graduated in the class of 1949, that's all I wanted to say.
- That's great.
- Yes, we have, I think from what I'm seeing we have a wide range of representation, although we may skew a little bit towards gray hair in terms of the people who are attending. Kate Frew, of class of 81, wanted to know if you, if we should be surprised that there wasn't an even greater outcry about the child separation policy and the length of time it took to actually reunite the kids with their parents. Although, I don't even think that's been completed yet.
- It hasn't. I actually have a slightly different view in that I thought there really was a huge public outcry and it's what led Trump to change the policy more than the courts. It was similar to what happened at the airports with the Muslim ban. I mean I thought it was pretty quick. For a while, it wasn't even admitted by the government that they had this policy. They denied it, that there was any kind of policy. They've now shown they have these internal memos that they wanna question Kirstjen Nielsen about because she may have not told the truth to Congress when she talked about this. But I thought once it became public, there was a pretty quick outcry and a pretty quick turnaround by the president. You're right Dan, not all the children have been reunited. Many, many have but there was a number of these parents accepted return to their home countries so their kids would come back to them and they haven't been able to locate and put these kids and parents back together, so they're, last I heard about a month or two ago there were maybe a couple hundred kids that were still not reunited. But again, what happened at the airports and the outcry about separation, it shows that lawyers can do some work here, but it also shows what an organized public can do. What protests can do to rally people to object to a lot of what's going on here.
- Yay, lawyers.
- Yay, I have a lot of friends who work for the ACLU, and certainly the Trump Administration has been a very busy time for the ACLU.
- [Alex] Yeah.
- They've been hiring. We had another question, well first of all, there's a few attendees who wanted to tell me that they don't have gray hair yet and of course I'm envious, but we had another question. Someone wanted to know, ask why international NGO's haven't been helping out at the US border with Mexico, and I'm kinda curious cause this would almost seem to be a situation where other people outside the United States should be trying to help out.
- I don't have great facts on that, but my understanding was there were a number of NGO's at the Mexican side. I don't know about US NGO's down there. I know they've been on the American side of the border. So I actually don't have a great answer on that one. I don't know what access they have, what kinda facilities there are for them there, but there may be others on the line who actually could enlighten us on this.
- Also though, there was an incisive question noting, picking up on your drawing a connection between climate change and the increase in refugees in recent years. It strikes me that there's a lot in common between climate change and the refugee situation because both of them require a coordinated international response, and I was wondering whether there was any chance for some kind of international agreement along the lines of the Paris Agreement when it comes to dealing with the rights of refugees.
- Yeah, so that, people have proposed that. It's a really good question. You did get the world together, to come together and say look, we've really gotta do something. And again there weren't binding norms, there were these promises, commitments made, and in fact, the Global Compact on Refugees doesn't come close to the Paris Accord it terms of setting an overall goal of reducing the flow of, I mean, helping refugees out or working on root causes of refugees through development programs. Some of that's being done bilaterally. I mean, Europe may help particular countries in Africa to try to make conditions so some people won't have to leave but we don't have that yet. I think that's really what we need to work towards. This is what I was trying to say before, I didn't say it very well, but when the Refugee Convention was adopted in 1951 it talked about the rights of refugees for people who fled the state and settled elsewhere that they were entitled the whole set of rights. Their right to work, right to education, right to labor law protection, et cetera, et cetera. But it did not establish a system of responsibility sharing of the refugee numbers around the world, and that's what we need to get to. It's tough here because we've seen in the states that would be really major members of that system, we've had the rise of these right-wing parties, these populous parties, that have been very tough on immigration and refugee issues, and have announced they don't want more refugees coming. In Europe, because their seen as Muslim and dangerous so they're not our responsibility, so this is gonna require some political work in those countries before we can get there. I think we'll be there. I think, actually, climate on the other, and climate works two ways. One, it's the model for how countries may come together, but two, it's gonna be a cause of massive movements of people, many more probably that are now fleeing because of conflict. So, we're gonna have to deal with this problem and I think, I mean I'm always optimistic, just frequently disappointed, but I think that if we start talking about it this way, we can move to a place where we'll eventually get this kind of standing group of nations that will respond when these refugee crisis happen, which we don't have now in the world. It's very odd, if you think about it, when the Syrian crisis happened there was never a, the Secretary General, the United States, no one called together a group of countries and said okay, we got a massive movement. Three, four, five million refugees, how are we gonna solve this as a world? It didn't happen, and we need to move to a situation where that occurs, and we gotta keep workin' on it. That's one of the projects I've been working on with a number of others to try to move us in that direction.
- Thank you. We have a question from Ava, who definitely does not have any gray hair.
- Alright, hi. I mean I think what you, thank you so much for your talk and for making the time for this really important discussion. I'm actually a current student at Swat, I'm a senior, class of 19. You kinda already answered where I was going, but I had kind of a larger question about your outlook for resettlement and for refugees I asked. Given the cuts of the resettlement program, where should we look next? Should advocates pressure the Trump Administrations to rebuild the resettlement program, or is the solution, quote unquote, to the refugee problem elsewhere? You've just spoke a bit about that, but I was wondering if the resettlement program is rebuilt or not, do you think that's gonna have a huge impact on US leadership in terms of refugee issues and the refugee program in general?
- Yeah, that's a good, I'm sorry.
- [Ava] Inconsequential, basically,
- Yeah, no I think it can be rebuilt. Again, these, the numbers of refugees coming in every year is set by the president. So, a new president can put those numbers back up where they were in the Obama years. The money is there from Congress to resettle people. So I think that can be rebuilt, but I think this really is a place for popular action, it seems to me. There's one program I thought we could, that I would love actually, a movement among college campuses. Which was, so the Canadians, by the way, Canada, a country 1/10 our size now will take in more refugees in the last couple years, than the US which is incredible to me. The new Prime Minister came in Trudeau and said we're gonna fly planes, and bring in Syrians, and he did, and they got to 25,000 more than the US did last year. But the Canadians also have a private sponsorship system where groups of three, four, five people get together and say we will sponsor in a refugee and take care of them, and agree to be responsible for them for a year or two. I thought I'd work with some people, we didn't quite get this off the ground, but I thought we could have launched kind of a popular movement in this country of people saying we'll be happy to sponsor refugees in. If we put out a call saying how many Americans will be willing to take in a refugee into their home for the next six months, I think you'd get 10 million people saying they'd be willing to do that. I think you can,
- So Alan Seminat, of class of 76 actually, had put the comment out that his church has taken in two families in sanctuary, and is curious about whether the sanctuary movement received traction in policy, but included in his comments that these families have not left the church for months.
- Yeah, sanctuary deals with a slightly, I don't know if these were asylum seekers or people who were here in undocumented status, but again that's another, there is a sanctuary movement in the United States. It goes back, it was actually started by Quakers in the Central American difficulties in the 80's for people coming across the southwest border. There's now a new sanctuary movement. That's been a, I didn't even mention that's been another target of the Trump Administration. These so-called sanctuary cities, these sanctuaries. But again, that's another way to show support for refugees, but then you're right, you're maybe at a church for a long time. But anyway, the end of my last point was that there really could be a movement, it seems to me, for a private sponsorship program in the United States, and the argument would be this doesn't cost the government anything because they would be paid for by US taxpayers. I can imagine, at one point I was worried if that went forward it would lead to a cut in the numbers being brought in by the government, but now since those numbers are so low anyway, it might be time, seriously, to think about a real movement towards, and we have this very good model in Canada at the moment.
- Thank you, yeah well I just, I'd appreciate your talking about an example of Canada very personally, because none of my grandparents were born in this country, and when their families integrated from Eastern Europe, three out of four couldn't get into the United States. Three of my grandparents actually ended up in Canada and only later moved to Detroit. So, the better example of Canada has been around for 100 years. We had a question, someone wanted to know what could be done to really get more traction with the message that immigrants have a net economic, or a net economic gain for this country? People seem to think that immigrants are nothing but a drain on resources, but really they contribute much more than they take.
- These numbers are out there, and anyone who wants to look and find them. The problem is, I think we're in the situation now where the facts don't matter. They just don't matter. People saying build the wall, finish the wall, cheering at the saliency of this issue for many Republican voters now, is so high that the facts just don't matter. The salient, the facts, it's just a big lie that the southwest border is out of control and people are flooding across, and criminals are coming. The data is very clear that immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than Americans but those facts are out there. You know, the Washington Post does this Pinocchio test and Trump is given four Pinocchio's on what he says about migrants, but this is not what's motivating things now. I think the scariest part of this is the element of white nationalism that is in the middle of this anti-immigrant movement in this country now. It doesn't mean that all people who are question, or the immigration policy in the past, are white nationalists, but there certainly is a very strong element one can link an awful lot of what's going on with the administration with this idea that we should not be allowing large numbers of people in the country who are gonna affect the demographic make-up of this country. These people are dangerous, they're freeloaders or they undercut our working wages, it sounds an awful lot like what was going on in the 1880's when the Chinese exclusion laws were adopted due to pressure out west. Once you're into that realm, facts don't matter. What matters here are elections. It matters to, you know, and that's really what the Democratic victories in the Congressional elections, why they mattered so much. Trump had made that, his issue was the caravan, and it failed. And the Americans showed that, that wasn't their big issue. Their issue was tax policy, or healthcare policy, or something else and the House flipped. I think, short of electoral change here, so I think that this is a question of political organization more than it is of getting these facts out.
- Yes, well, and certainly there's gotta be a connection between the voting tendencies of immigrant groups and the political parties views on refugees and immigration, since there's a pretty clear voting pattern for most immigrant groups to go Democratic as opposed to Republican.
- Except Cubans.
- They are the exception that proves the rule. We had somebody also asking you to speak about sanctuary policies that are happening in the local level and state legislation trying to take action, federal action too, against sanctuary cities and states.
- Well a number of cities have said that, they're are two different things. Sanctuaries and churches are one thing, and that really stops ICE, the immigration enforcement guys, from coming in and taking people out. What cities have done is adopted policies saying they won't cooperate with federal efforts to enforce the law. Now, cities can't stop the federal authorities from operating in the cities. New York City can't stop ICE from doing it's work in the city, but they can say we're not gonna cooperate. We're not gonna ask the status of people when we hand out benefits, when someone's in jail we're not gonna ask if they're are immigrant and then turn them over to ICE when they're done, et cetera. So that's been the main way, and there's a fight about whether or not the states can do that or whether they have to answer a request from the federal government. So far, the states have been winning on this. The federal government tried to punish cities that were taking these positions by cutting off funding and one court has ruled that that was impermissible the way they did it. So that's where we are now.
- Someone noted that Swarthmore has been very active in the sanctuary movement, and that Swarthmore is a sanctuary campus. So, I'm in California which is certainly.
- Yeah so there's a risk about campuses declaring themselves sanctuary campuses, actually, that people should be aware of in the sense that, I think it's a terrific statement. It shows solidarity with people, but to the extent, to the extent, it can be understood by non-citizens in the population that the college can actually prevent authorities from undertaking actions. It can't. So people have to be clear when they say they're a sanctuary campus that it's an issue of solidarity, it's not a blanket protection against what the government can do here, so it just has to be done with come caution.
- Yes, alright well we're getting to the end of our time, but we have time for one more question, which is we have somebody wanting to know whether there's been a study about outcomes for refugees who remain in the country they first flee to, versus those who get resettled elsewhere?
- Well there's been a lot of work on that. The problem is that in most of the countries people flee to are the countries that had trouble taking care of their own citizens. So they don't offer the kind of support that they're offered in resettlement countries in the global north. A lot of aid may come in through the international community, but frequently, obviously the schools, the health service, everything else will not be anything like the resettlement countries. More importantly, many of these countries, most countries don't permit refugees to work because they see it as competing with the local citizens. So, this creates, I've called this in some things that I've written, the second exile. What I mean by that is, the first exile is when people flee their country, and the second exile is being stuck in these long standing refugee situations in countries of first asylum, where they can't work, where they don't get much aid, or they live in marginal situations. Most of them live in camps, actually, very marginal surroundings and cannot get their lives restarted in any kind of meaningful way. So, it means there's gotta be a lot more money going into these host states, but it also means that people have to be brought out of these host states through a global responsibility sharing system, which will treat people much better.
- Alright, thank you.
- Yeah, thank you so much, Alex, for sharing all your expertise, and thanks to all of the 64 participants for asking such good questions and participating. We apologize if we didn't get to your particular question, it's just that there was so much going by the screen here. So, hopefully we'll be able to engage in more conversations like this, as we roll out more Swat talks. The Alumni Council is committed to finding more presenters and to offering these throughout the year. So, if you have a suggestion, please do contact Lisa Shafer in the alumni office or any of the alumni council members and let us know who you'd like to hear from. Alex, thank you so much for taking the time. We really greatly appreciate it, and I'm sure everyone could learn more from your podcast, Tempest Tossed. So, everybody be sure to, you know, click and like and do all those social media things.
- Well thanks for the opportunity and I must say, there were an awful lot of questions and I wish we had more time, but I did see a number of my classmates online, and I wanted to give a shout-out to all of them who logged in here. It's great to see you all even just virtually.
- You all have a big reunion coming up, don't you?
- [Alex] Yeah, I guess so.
- Another round number, well and actually, am I allowed to give breaking news, Lisa? Cause I saw that Archer Dodson Heinzen is dialed into this call and this is late breaking news, the alumni council has chosen her for our award of the Arabella Carter Recognition Award from the Alumni Council, and that'll be presented at your reunion this summer, so we're all very excited about that. Very, you know, very apropos of your discussion today. Her work has centered on women of El Salvador and Guatemala for the last 25 years. She's helped build economic sustainability and reliance there, which has gotta help with a refugee crisis if you're creating a better environment for them in their home country. So, kudos to Archer Dodson Heinzen and thanks to your class of 74 for representing.
- [Alex] Great.
- Thank you.
- [Laura] Alright, thanks everybody. Have a great evening.
- Bye, bye.
- Bye, bye.
On Nonviolent Civil Resistance
with Prof. Lee Smithey and Thomas McGovern ’17 - February 26, 2019
- Read the transcript.
Jeff Klein: The Alumni Council will serve as one of the host for this evening's SWAT Talk. Joining me is fellow council member Charles Bailey. Charles, can you introduce yourself?
Charles Bailey: Good evening, everyone. I'm Charles Bailey. And greetings from Lummi Island, Washington. I'll be handling the questions later in the talk.
Jeff Klein: Great. Well, let me take just a few minutes to give you a brief introduction to Swat Talks. Swat talks is an Alumni Council initiative created to engage the broader Swarthmore community in seminars, featuring professors, students, and alumni excelling in their fields and sharing knowledge and experience. Tonight's seminar is the second in a series focused on peace and conflict studies.
Jeff Klein: A little background on the program at Swarthmore. It has a rich history, began in 1888. Swarthmore offered the first peace studies course in the world. And last year, about 10% of the class of 2020 joined the program. The program's multidisciplinary curriculum examines the causes, practices, and consequences of violence, as well as peaceful or nonviolent methods of conflict management, resolution, and transformation.
Jeff Klein: Let me now introduce tonight's speakers. Professor Lee Smithy is a peace and conflict studies faculty member. And Lee will be discussing his recently published co-edited book The Paradox of Oppression and Nonviolent Movements.
Jeff Klein: He will be joined by Tom McGovern, class of '17, a former teaching assistant for the global nonviolent action database research seminar. Tom will share this online resource of over 1,100 cases of non-violent civil resistance created by Swarthmore students.
Jeff Klein: One additional note before we get started, the SWAT Talks, including tonight's seminar, will be recorded and are available for future viewing on the college's website. So now, without any further delay, let me turn things over to Professor Smithy.
Lee Smithy: Thank you so much Jeff. I appreciate the introduction. And I'm so glad that Tom is able to join us tonight, and we want to thank you for the opportunity to participate in this new webinar series. It's a real privilege for us in peace and conflict studies to get to help kick it off. So, there's a little bit of method to our madness here overall. Last week, you heard from Professor [inaudible 00:02:32] and[inaudible 00:02:33] about experiential teaching and learning in our program. And this week, Tom and I want to present a bit about faculty and student research in our program.
Lee Smithy: And then, you will hear from Professor Denise Crosson and Zack Lash on March 26th about Praxis, and their work on social entrepreneurship. So, all faculty at Swarthmore are engaged in research in their various fields and disciplines. And peace and conflict studies is no exception. And my two primary research tracks tend to focus around peace building in Northern Ireland and in nonviolent civil resistance.
Lee Smithy: And as part of that second track, I recently published an edited book with Lester Kurtz, titled the Paradox of Repression and Nonviolent Movements. And so, I thought that sharing about that book would be a way of introducing faculty research in peace and conflict studies. And I also have the privilege of directing the global nonviolent action database, which is housed here in our program.
Lee Smithy: It was established by a former peace and conflict studies and lame Professor George Lakey, in the fall of 2009. So, we're actually starting our 10th anniversary this year. And George and I had similar interests in strategic nonviolent action. And so, when he left the college, I inherited the database and the research seminar, that in fact, I'm teaching this semester, and in which students write up the cases that go into the database.
Lee Smithy: Happily, Tom McGovern is here with us tonight to share a bit about the database. He has both authored cases as a student in the research seminar and he also served as a TA for the course. Sheila Smith, who is currently the TA, had to travel unexpectedly. She wished she could be here. We miss her. But again, really glad that that Tom could join us.
Lee Smithy: So, time is short. So, I will really only be able to have the opportunity to introduce you to the broad outlines of the topic of the Paradox of Repression, and invite you to read more yourself at some point.
Lee Smithy: The Paradox of Oppression is really one of the most fundamental concepts in nonviolent civil resistance or strategic nonviolent action. And actually there are many other terms that have been used to describe it. Gene Sharp called it political jujitsu. Richard Gregg called it moral jujitsu. Francisco called it backlash. Brian Marden, who actually wrote a preface to our book, calls it backfire. And I'd like to start just by reading three or four sentences from the very beginning of the book. It's on page two. It's right up front.
Lee Smithy: "In an asymmetrical conflict, when actors representing the status quo use force: psychological, physical, to repress their opponents, especially those engaged in nonviolent movements, the use of coercion often backfires. As civil rights activist, clergyman, and author Will Campbell writes, 'Of one thing I am certain, the Civil Rights Movement was not destroyed by hooded vigilantes and flaming crosses. Nor by chains used on schoolchildren, dynamiting of churches and homes, and mass jailings. All those things were an impetus to the movement and brought determination to the victims.'" End quote, for Will Campbell.
Lee Smithy: "Repressive coercion can weaken a regime's authority, turning public opinion against it." So, let me draw your attention to these two photographs. I hope everybody can see the slide show. The photo on the left was taken on May 3rd, 1963 during The Children's March in Birmingham, Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement here in the United States.
Lee Smithy: And the photo on the right is of Aisha Evans. It was taken on July 9th, 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, just a few days after the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile in Minnesota. Photos like these have become iconic in part because they provoke a sense of shock by presenting a sharp contrast between the violent actions of agents of repression and the discipline of non-violence activists. The photo on the right, I think in particular, reveals another major concept in this book, that I'll return to in just a few minutes.
Lee Smithy: It's called repression management. Because we argued that the strategic choices that activists make matter, not just to survive repression, but to influence the outcomes of repression. And they can essentially shift the thresholds in which backfire happens. The choreography, so to speak, of confrontations that involve repression matter, and often these moments are highly symbolic and dramatize injustices about which people are often already, at least somewhat, aware.
Lee Smithy: And both of these photos draw attention to systemic discrimination and violence against people of color in the United States. Also, Miss Evan's posture and composure signals resolve, and yet makes it clear to us, the viewers, that she's not a threat and that the police charging at her represent a disproportionate force. And in both of these cases, the battlefield, to use a violent metaphor I suppose, is one of legitimacy. When the state is seen to use disproportionate force, its legitimacy is often called into question.
Lee Smithy: In some situations, the mere brutality and the asymmetry of repression can essentially violate norms about, say, bullying. And thus, undermine the legitimacy or reputation of authorities and elites. And so, the cognitive dissonance that results from these very public asymmetrical confrontations can manifest in a number of different ways.
Lee Smithy: Within movement organizations, it can galvanize participants and it can enhance recruitment and third-party support as well. And at the same time, it can lead third parties to withdraw support for authorities, through for example sanctions or denouncing authorities or elites, and thus further undermining their legitimacy.
Lee Smithy: But repression also comes at a cost for the agents of repression. The cognitive dissonance can influence them as well, and lead them to question their own actions, to question their leadership, and to question whether or not to obey orders. And sometimes, they even defect and join the movements that they are originally tasked with repressing in the first place.
Lee Smithy: One of the most rewarding parts of this project was designing and developing it with the wonderful contributors that wrote chapters for the book. In the interest of time, I won't get to dwell on that whole dimension of the project, but I wanted to share a couple of pictures of folks who contributed chapters to the book.
Lee Smithy: Instead, I'll just share the table of contents with you. That includes chapters on a range of topics, that include how events involving repression can be pivotal moments in campaigns, because they reframe struggles in dramatic new ways. Or as I mentioned just a moment ago, Rachel McNair, a psychologist wrote her chapter on the cost of repression to agents of repression. George Lakey and Jenny Williams contributed chapters on how to overcome fear of repression through building strong movement organizations and storytelling and improper training in advance of repressive events.
Lee Smithy: And also, we have a chapter actually that Les and I wrote on what we call smart repression, about how authorities try to avoid invoking the Paradox of Repression. So, the other main concept in the book that I wanted to share is repression management, which is related to the relational nature of conflict. We argue that repression is an interaction. It's not just something that's done to nonviolent activists. They can also make strategic choices about how they engage with the public, how they engage with the agents of repression, in order to influence the outcome of the repression.
Lee Smithy: And sometimes, managing repression is about avoiding repression. If one's organization is not ready for a repression, perhaps because the organization doesn't have a deep enough leadership structure to be resilient, if leaders are arrested, or perhaps there's a great deal of fear among members, then those groups can choose to avoid repression until they're more ready. They can choose to use other methods that are perhaps more persuasive than confrontational. They can try to raise awareness through online activism, or maybe they use tactics of dispersion, like stay-at-home strikes.
Lee Smithy: Speaking of overcoming fear, George Lakey, who I spoke about a moment ago, writes in his chapter about anticipating repression. And he talks about the important work of storytelling within resistance groups. He argues that the stories that group members tell each other about their goals, their visions of their future, and the traditions that they come from, can help activists feel grounded, feel more confident, and committed to withstanding repression and importantly maintaining their own nonviolent discipline.
Lee Smithy: We also argue that strategic nonviolent activists can cultivate the Paradox of Repression and make it more likely that if repression takes place, it's significantly more likely to backfire on the repressors, and this may involve explicitly drawing that contrast between violent repression and nonviolent action. In her chapter in the book on overcoming fear, Jenny Williams, who is pictured here in the green shirt in the photograph, she talks about the way in which beatings and arbitrary arrests by police serving the Robert Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe. She talks about those beatings and arrests, but she also describes how protesters in the organization women of Zimbabwe arised that she helped co-found made their commitment to non-violence very clear.
Lee Smithy: So, when they would have a march to a police station, they would stop at every intersection, street intersection or set of lights and they would all sit down and publicly recite their pledge of non-violence. Jenny also describes how women of Zimbabwe embraced what they called tough love, and they've held for many years annual protests on Valentine's Day to make that connection with love and to make that point.
Lee Smithy: So, they draw important cultural values in Zimbabwe, and thus make it more difficult for police to engage in public repression of people, who also hold an important status in their society, as mothers. Mothers practicing that tough love. And I might add that their identity as fellow mothers also served as an important source of strength within their organization in the face of repression. And finally, creative actions can break the normal sort of law and order scripts that often work to criminalize nonviolent activists.
Lee Smithy: The second image on this slide shows German [inaudible 00:16:47] activists, protesters being arrested while reading books, to signal that they are thoughtful and informed nonviolent citizens. One of our colleagues [inaudible 00:17:00] writes in his chapter about the red shirt movement in Thailand, and they used these whimsical flash mobs that signaled fun and playfulness instead of criminality and threat. And therefore, didn't play into the kinds of scripts that the authorities would much prefer them to have played into, as threats to the general public or threats to the police themselves.
Lee Smithy: So, that's my brief overview of the topics of the book. We would invite you to visit our website at Paradox.swarthmore.edu, where you can learn more about the book and its authors. You can find a link there. There's also one here on the screen, if you'd like to purchase a copy or you can ask your public library to purchase a copy, and then you can check it out. And there's also a link there to cases in the global nonviolent action database that include the Paradox of Repression in some way.
Lee Smithy: And I'll use that as a segue to hand over to Tom to talk about student research and the global nonviolent action database. Thanks again for being here and thanks for listening.
Tom McGovern: Thank you so much for the warm introduction, Professor Smithy.
Tom McGovern: If you wouldn't mind hitting the next slide for me, that would be wonderful. Great. Thank you so much. So, I'm going to start off just by giving an overview of the database before I really jump into the research seminar constructed around it, because I think it's important to really define what the database is actually composed of. As Professor Smithy mentioned earlier, the global nonviolent action database began as the brainchild of Professor George Lakey. And then, has kind of built on that idea over the last 10 or so years, with contributions from Swarthmore students and students from a number of other universities as well, and under Professor Smithy's management.
Tom McGovern: So, what the global nonviolent action database is, is a resource both for activists and for scholars, categorizing, sorting, and describing nonviolent action campaigns. So, a campaign is defined as a finite group of people doing discrete actions over a period of time to achieve finite goals. For a campaign to be present in the database, it has to have both a beginning and an end, at which point it can be measured whether or not the goals were successful.
Tom McGovern: So, it mentions on the slide that there are over 1100 campaigns currently in the database. Those are the active campaigns that have been published. There are several hundred campaigns in the database that are not active, and that is because they either have not ended, they are currently ongoing, or no conclusion was reached, or they morphed into another campaign.
Tom McGovern: And so, it is a limited tool in that way, but those campaigns are very discrete entities. As it also mentions on the slide, these campaigns are categorized in a variety of ways, which we'll be able to talk about a little bit more in a few minutes. And so, they are coded based on the types of actors in them, where they are, if they are part of a larger wave of movements, the type of methods used. And they're also described in narrative form, so that readers, activists, scholars can go through and really understand who did what, in what order, and how the course of the campaign unfolded.
Tom McGovern: And they typically focus on a number of issues important to the peace and conflict studies program, and important to the Swarthmore student body. So, the database really is a reflection of the issues and campaigns that students and community members are passionate about and the program is passionate about.
Tom McGovern: So, most of the cases in the database were added over the course of the strategy and nonviolent struggle research seminar, which Professor Smithy teaches. I was a student in the seminar in the spring of 2014, and I actually took the seminar I believe the last year that Professor Lakey taught it. So, I was in the seminar with Professor Lakey and then I got to be the first teaching assistant under Professor Smithy.
Tom McGovern: So, that was a really exciting transition to see and be a part of. When I was a student, the seminar was essentially two weeks of reading to prepare, and then the next 12 weeks, every week, we each had to develop a full case and publish it in the database. So, it is a very hands-on immersive experience. The goal of the seminar is for students to go out and find campaigns that are not currently in the database and put them in the database. So, it's very interdisciplinary social science research, looking at archives, looking at interviews, looking at other types of secondary and primary sources.
Tom McGovern: The internet and the kind of proliferation of blogs by activists and other social actors has really broadened that as well as kind of publicly identify, email information, Facebook information, which students will use to get in touch with people who participated in campaigns directly. Those are certainly really useful tools, when I was involved with the database. So, it is a very immersive research experience and students oversee a research project from start to finish more or less every week, which is exciting for students who haven't had the opportunity to participate in that type of research before.
Tom McGovern: I'm going to move on from talking about the seminar now and cover a couple more things about the database before I move on to questions. Professor Smithy, if you could hit the slide for me. Thank you.
Tom McGovern: So as I mentioned, the database is a tool really for people who are interested in creating social change or people who are interested in creating scholarship on that social change. So, it's searchable in a lot of different ways. It's searchable by keyword, as you can see here. So, there are several examples of different social movements at Swarthmore, as well as citations, but really any type of keyword can be searched and it can also be searched by waves of campaigns, which are clusters.
Tom McGovern: So for example, the Civil Rights Movement wouldn't count as a campaign. I believe there are 70 to 80 different campaigns associated with it in the database. The database can also be searched by tags, which there's a visual for later on if you all are interested. Those are a series of different types of categorizations that we've developed over the course of the years. They can be searched by location and there are a number of other modifiers that the cases in the database to search by. Next slide. Thank you.
Tom McGovern: So, we track the number of users that come in and are looking at cases in the database. As you can see in 2016 and 2017, that's roughly 400,000 users per year. So, pretty heavy traffic. That number drops a little bit in 2018. Although, Professor Smithy tells me that may be because there was not research seminar offered in 2018. And so, the number of new cases being added to the database dropped pretty significantly in that year.
Tom McGovern: The course is being offered again this year. So hopefully, that number will rise again as more and more new cases are being put in to the database. Next slide. And you can also see here, as I mentioned, scholars are using this quite a bit. So, this is a page of just Google hits for people that are citing the global nonviolent action database and different cases in their own work. So, it's exciting to see people taking the work that our students are doing and using it to say something about the social world in a variety of different disciplines.
Tom McGovern: Next slide. Here are some links if you're interested in learning more. There's the link to the database. The Facebook presence of the Swarthmore peace and conflict studies program and the Twitter handle for the database are available there as well. So, thank you all so much for coming. That concludes my formal portion of the presentation.
Tom McGovern: So, I do want to open it for questions and answers at this time.
Charles Bailey: Thank you both very much. And Lee, congratulations on the publication of your book. And Tom, thank you for joining us and also as a fellow alum. Welcome to the Alumni Association. We're going to have some questions and people can submit questions through the chat. I am looking for questions.
Charles Bailey: I will begin with the question that I had, and that has to do with social media as a means for political disruption. On the one hand, we have small groups that challenge the state, like WikiLeaks. And on the other, we have large corporations and state actors whom we understand can and do distract, divide, exclude ideas and identities as you say in your book. And what is the future of the phrase we all heard at Swarthmore, "Speak truth to power?" What does this mean in the 21st century?
Lee Smithy: So, in particular in relation to social media, is that what you're looking for?
Charles Bailey: Yeah.
Lee Smithy: Well clearly, I think social media has opened all sorts of new opportunities for movement organizing, just because people can communicate with other groups of people instantaneously. And that of course allows for ... All activism involves tons of meetings and planning and it allows for a lot of that really basic logistical organizing, but it also allows for the coordination of nonviolent actions, in a live sort of situation. But I think your question is about does persuasion work, essentially? Is persuasion an important part of nonviolent civil resistance? I think that's part of your question.
Lee Smithy: And in fact, Gene Sharp, who's often considered the father or the grandfather of the study or the field of nonviolent civil resistance and who we just lost within the past year actually, sadly. He divides nonviolent methods into three different categories, symbolic protest and persuasion, nonviolent intervention, and nonviolent non-cooperation.
Lee Smithy: In that first category, I mentioned symbolic protest and persuasion, is about trying to get your movement organizations argument out there, trying to frame issues in ways that are compelling, that allow you to recruit people into your movement. And there's actually, for folks who are interested in this, and Charles, you might be interested. There's a new book by Mark Engler and his brother, whose name is escaping me right at the moment. I'll pull his book off the shelf here in the moment. Paul Engler. It's called This Is An Uprising and they've introduced just within the past two or three years a new theory about how movements and nonviolent action works.
Lee Smithy: And they argue that changing public opinion is one of the most important dimensions, that you create momentum for movements by essentially slowly and sometimes abruptly but changing public opinion, instead of just thinking about bringing down an authoritarian regime or trying to press for some kind of reform policy. By knocking over the pillars that prop up the regime, you actually shift the ground on which those pillars stand. And I think that's in part the speaking truth to power that you were asking about.
Charles Bailey: Thank you. We have a question for Tom from Robert. I can't see your last name, Robert, but he writes, "Tom, does the database provide a suggested criterion for users? When I directed a data center, we and other users found that useful."
Tom McGovern: Hi Robert. Yes, so I as far as I know, I don't believe the database provides a suggested citation. Unfortunately, unless that's something that's changed since I was a student, I can certainly see how that would be really helpful. And I imagine that's something that we will probably want to fix. I know for us, when we were citing cases internally, we typically would use Chicago style for web sources, was our preferred modus operandi.
Tom McGovern: But I'm sure that that's something that could be added to the database by the current iteration of users.
Lee Smithy: I will check into it. But I seem to remember that somewhere in there, there actually is a suggested ways to cite individual cases. And often, if you do a Google Scholar search like you saw up on the screen just a few minutes ago, you'll see how scholars are citing our students cases individually. If someone's interested in a campaign in the Ukraine, they'll cite that students work using that citation format.
Lee Smithy: And if you want to look me up on the peace and conflict studies page and email me, I'll try and find that link and send it to you.
Charles Bailey: Thank you. We have a follow-up question from Paul Cohen. Do you think the disaggregation of information sources on social media will impact the power of the paradox? If people only get information from sources that support their existing frame, it seems this might weaken the [inaudible 00:33:21]?
Lee Smithy: Well, I mean, that seems like a question about sort of movement organizing in general, as opposed to the Paradox of Repression, in particular perhaps. I think one of the things that a lot of movement trainers that I come across, they increasingly I think would say and understand that most organizing for strategic nonviolent action actually happens person to person, even in today's social media age.
Lee Smithy: Social media can serve that organizing function. The internal communication function that I was talking about earlier. But for people to actually engage together in nonviolent non-cooperation, sometimes civil disobedience, breaking unjust laws and that sort of thing, requires more trust building, relationship building among those activists. So, especially when facing repression. So, I don't think that's going to go away anytime soon. And yeah, I hope that answers your question or addresses it at least somewhat, even if obliquely.
Charles Bailey: Yeah, we have a similar question from Doug Perkins, class of '80, who turns out to be Tom's dad's Swarthmore roommate, he says. Anyway, he says, "I've used the database in my own research and found it very valuable. But the avoidance of current unresolved action campaigns seems like a limitation, as I am especially interested in the latest comparative climate and culture of activism in each country. Can you explain why you don't try to include ongoing campaigns? And is there any way to somehow include them?" And if you'll just hold with that question, and I want to pair it with one from Mike Dennis, "What are you observing with the ante [inaudible 00:35:37] protests in Venezuela and is the interaction, interchange between repression and nonviolence following patterns you've seen before?"
Charles Bailey: So, two questions here.
Lee Smithy: Tom, do you want to answer that first one and I'll take the second one?
Tom McGovern: Yeah, absolutely. So, I believe the answer to the first one is that one of the, I think, primary purpose of the database, especially in its inception, was to create something that could be analyzed in terms of effectiveness.
Tom McGovern: So, something where activists and scholars could go in and look at different campaigns and map out how effective different methods were, how effective different methods were at different points in time. Does the duration of the campaign affect how effective it is? Does the types of actors that enter and when they enter effect how effective the campaign is? But there was a goal of being able to evaluate how effective a campaign is based on those different types of variables, or at least be able to map it from campaign to campaign.
Tom McGovern: And so, because ongoing campaigns can't really be evaluated for how effective they are, because their goals have not yet been met or they have not yet failed, those were really excluded from the focus of the database.
Tom McGovern: I don't know if there's any efforts currently ongoing to change that, but that was I think the rationale behind it at the time I was a student working on it.
Lee Smithy: That's exactly right. It's the comparative case study method, so that you're comparing all cases that are completed, so that they can be compared with one another. But I would also suggest that if you're interested in cases that are new, that are ongoing, you might want to visit wagingnonviolence.org. It's wagingnonviolence.org. And also, the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict on an almost daily basis aggregates news about nonviolent civil resistance campaigns around the world. So, that second one was the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.
Lee Smithy: The second question was about Venezuela. And yes, and I'll reflect on that in the context of the Paradox of Oppression, that there are some themes that you can see going on there that are relevant. I'm not a regional specialists in Latin America or Venezuela. So, I'll comment from essentially a strategic nonviolent action perspective, and say that you may recall at the beginning of my presentation, I said that legitimacy is key here. That the battle is for legitimacy in the hearts and minds of the population.
Lee Smithy: And on the one hand, it seems that the majority of the population seems to support [inaudible 00:39:05] and have made that support visible through mass demonstrations. But the intervention of third parties also raises questions about legitimacy, and that's a theme that we see happening in other campaigns around the world, where when movements get large enough and begin to attract third party support from outside of their borders, it provides an opening or provides a way for the opponents to say you don't represent the people, you represent the third parties who are providing you some funding, for example.
Lee Smithy: And this whole standoff at the border over the aid is a very important dance that's going on at the moment. And when Maduro fires tear gas at hungry Venezuelans, he risks triggering that Paradox of Repression. But likewise, when there's clashes between the protesters attacking security forces, then that possibility of the Paradox of Repression getting triggered probably diminishes a bit.
Lee Smithy: But clearly, this is a really difficult situation. I mean, people who are starving or very hungry are right there near that aid. You can understand how it might be difficult to maintain nonviolent discipline under those kinds of circumstances. And the other thing is that ... I mentioned a little bit in my presentation about defections among agents of repression. And in fact, we see members of the National Guard leaving their posts and crossing the border into Columbia. An interesting study related to the Paradox of Repression would be the find out to what extent are those defections being cultivated there on the border by activists.
Lee Smithy: Of course, if they're throwing rocks and stones and Molotov cocktails and that sort of thing at the National Guard at the same time, that sends mixed messages and that's something that nonviolent activists are always having to think about.
Charles Bailey: Thank you.
Charles Bailey: We have two more questions, which I like to pair. A lot of the strategies you've mentioned, such as planning for repression, feel like they could also be used in a manipulative way to destroy the integrity of the movement or to lend power to authoritarian agents who are on the rise. Do you have any suggestions or observations on reducing the probability of having a campaign be overwritten based on the movements you've researched? And are you aware of particular instances, where the repressors study the database, become more effective in their repression?
Lee Smithy: Okay, for a minute there I didn't understand the question. But now I think that I do. And I think the question was particularly about the database. Is that right?
Charles Bailey: That's correct. And the use of it by repressors or potential repressors.
Lee Smithy: Got it, right. I can take a stab at that. Tom, is there anything you want to say about it?
Tom McGovern: Yeah, so I will just talk briefly about the first one. Actually, one of the things that I was really lucky to be able to do at my time in Swarthmore is under Professor Smithy, I conducted an honors preparation during my senior year on kind of integrating theories of violent and nonviolent insurgency. And one of the themes that tends to come up in most conflicts, whether they're violent or nonviolent, on both sides actors are thinking very much about how this framing occurs.
Tom McGovern: And so, while these ideas are theorized by scholars at Swarthmore and other places around how to be successful in nonviolent campaigns, these are certainly not new ideas. These are certainly things that oppressors are also thinking about. But that's all I have to say. So, I'm going to turn it over.
Lee Smithy: Well, I think this has to do with ... I mentioned during my presentation the fact that we have a chapter on smart regression. And I think the fact of the matter is that the authorities and elites, one, they understand that the Paradox of Repression exists. There's a political Instinct that sort of realizes that while policing ... If you go back to Max [inaudible 00:44:12], right, the famous German sociologist who said that what distinguishes the state is its monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force.
Lee Smithy: So, the state claims for itself the use of physical force. That's why we have armed police officers and military and that sort of thing. They realize however that they can't just go around ... Any regime can't just go around all the time using physical force and violent policing to control its population, because that will backfire. They have to modulate and come up with the right mixture of both political persuasion and policing and social services, and that sort of thing, to encourage populations to go along to get along, essentially.
Lee Smithy: So, that's a particular instinct. And the fact of the matter is that nonviolent civil resistance, particularly when we're talking about authoritarian regimes, it's a constant sort of chess game back and forth, and each side is trying to understand how the other side is strategizing and that sort of thing.
Lee Smithy: So, I think you're absolutely right, that there may well be security forces around the world reading the database. But I think those of us who study nonviolent civil resistance basically think that the greater benefit for marginalized populations around the world, freedom and liberation movements, their having access to the data outweighs that concern that you've raised.
Charles Bailey: Well, thank you. I'd like to change the subject slightly. You mentioned in your introduction that one of your areas of research is peace building in Northern Ireland. And this is also like Venezuela very much on our minds these days. Does Brexit threaten the Easter Sunday Accords in Ireland?
Lee Smithy: Right. Yeah, so it is a big question. And as everybody who's following it knows that the Brexit negotiations are revolving in part around the fact that ... For those of you who are less familiar out there, Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom on the island of Ireland. And of course, England, Scotland, and Wales are on their own islands to the East.
Lee Smithy: And so, if the United Kingdom actually leaves the EU, then Northern Ireland just became the land border between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, which is in the EU. If you were to have asked me 10 years ago, what's one of the things that could be most problematic or what could destabilize the Good Friday Agreement, or the Belfast Agreement as it's sometimes called? I might have said rebuilding the border, because getting rid of that border was an important part of the peace process.
Lee Smithy: And I've been at the border before the cease-fires were called, and it was a hardened military security border. Today, if you're driving back and forth between Belfast and Dublin, you can't tell when you've crossed the border, except that your phone usually beeps because you switch from the cell phone towers in Northern Ireland and the UK, to the Republic of Ireland cell phone towers, and that's really kind of the only way, except the fact that Republic of Ireland signs are also written in Irish.
Lee Smithy: The idea of recreating that border, even if it's just a tariff border, has real symbolic valence that will concern Nationalists and Republicans. On the other hand. I will note that Northern Ireland as a whole, the majority voted not to leave the EU. They were part of the remain crowd. And so, they're not real happy about this.
Lee Smithy: I imagine that there are some Nationalists and Republicans who probably are hoping that if the United Kingdom leaves the EU, that all of a sudden remaining part of the EU by becoming part of the United Ireland might be a more attractive option than it has been in the past.
Lee Smithy: Did that answer your question, Charles?
Charles Bailey: Thank you. And thank you for the correction. It was the Good Friday Accords. I got that wrong.
Lee Smithy: You were really close, really close.
Charles Bailey: Well, we're getting close to the end of our of our time. And I'd like to close with one question, which is could use tell us what students who major in peace and conflict studies, what do they typically do when they graduate? We have one example here, Tom McGovern. But in general, how do they use that degree as they launch themselves into their careers?
Lee Smithy: We get all sorts of ... As you would imagine, from around most Swarthmore departments. In the liberal arts model, our students go off and do all sorts of things. We have a number of students going into Finance at the moment. I have a student who I'm working with right now who's a senior, who is going to be going into maternal health care. We have students who go on and get their PHDs in peace and conflict studies. I think, in fact, Sarah [inaudible 00:50:35] may be listening in> She's an alum who is a peace and conflict studies professor at Kent State University.
Lee Smithy: Amy Capet, one of our alums who was a minor in peace and conflict studies, went on to study education and conflict and peace education as a graduate student now with a PhD, so we get some academics as well. And we have students who become movement organizers. We have students who have gone into social entrepreneurship. You're going to hear more about Professor Crosson's social entrepreneurship courses on the 26th of March. So, we get a whole variety.
Charles Bailey: Okay. Well, thank you very much. I think it's time to-
Lee Smithy: Human right law. Sorry, I'm just throwing in. Human rights law is another one that comes to mind, that some of our students, and law in general. Yeah. Sorry, go ahead. I interrupted you there, Charles.
Charles Bailey: Well, we've come close to the end of our hour and we want to, first of all, on behalf of the alumni council, thank you Professor Smithy and Tom McGovern for your time and for preparing these excellent talks, and to the participants.
Lee Smithy: Thank you.
Charles Bailey: And we've gotten a lot of questions from our participants, who also join me in thanking you. And very important subject. I think that Jeff Klein, I don't see him online. So, on behalf of Jeff and myself and ... Oh, there he is.
Jeff Klein: Here I am.
Charles Bailey: Okay. Jeff, want to make a closing remark?
Jeff Klein: No, I think that that wraps it up. And again as I mentioned, this was recorded this evening. So, if you'd like to go back or share it with other alumni or other friends, please pass that along. And thank you to both of our panelists for participating and thanks for all the alumni who joined us, and the parents, and we look forward to our next Swat Talk.
Jeff Klein: As Professor Smithy mentioned, coming up ... Is it next week, correct?
Lee Smithy: Actually, I think ... No, it's later.
Jeff Klein: It's later. Yeah, sorry. I don't have my dates right, but thank you.
Charles Bailey: Okay.
Lee Smithy: And we also just want to say thanks to everybody who attended. Thanks for the interest in the peace and conflict studies program. We're in very exciting times right now in our program. And on the slide, there's a number of links to our social media accounts and our blog. And we just invite everybody to follow along.
Charles Bailey: Great. Okay. Thank you very much.
Lee Smithy: Yeah. Thanks, Charles.