On adopting a fossil fuel divestment policy

On adopting a fossil fuel divestment policy

To the Editor:

I read with some sadness, and then frankly with embarrassment, the op-ed piece by Michael Eisenson, the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the College, explaining why the Board had decided not to adopt a fossil fuel divestment policy. That reaction was heightened when I read the companion piece by Nick Gardner ’19, which earnestly made the case for real leadership by the College to bring heightened national attention to the urgent issue of climate change.

Scientists continue to warn us that we are in absolute peril as a planet, but the risk is largely met with indifference because national institutions do not raise their voices to insist that action be taken or take action themselves. No, divestment by the College will not stop global warming, but the College has the national stature and presence as one of the premier educational institutions in the country to cause some, perhaps many, to pull their heads out of the sand to see what the commotion is about. Instead, the College chose to send an incredibly tepid letter to its investment managers about the “urgent matter of global climate change,” asking them to “consider carefully the impact of potential investments for investment strategies on greenhouse gas emissions.” Really? In other words, there is a moral imperative that we hope you will do something to address, although we won’t take action ourselves beyond a few projects within our own small campus. Do we really think that upon reading that letter, they will feel impelled to consider their own investments, when the College has demonstrably signaled that it will not do so?

There is a reason that the College ranks 110th on the Sierra Club’s list of environmentally oriented colleges and universities.  Its continued insistence on avoiding any symbolic action on a national scale in the face of impending environmental catastrophe is a derogation of what should be the College’s national responsibility as a leader. We should be first in this struggle, not 110th.

John A. Tull ’65

 

  • Dan Breslaw

    Excellent letter. I’ve been working on Harvard divestment for several years, experiencing the same frustrations. What goes on in these trustees’ minds? They will surely look back on this with regret some day.