(This letter was recently sent from a Carleton alumnus to President Poskanser, regarding his decision to withhold donations to Carleton until the Board of Trustees votes to divest from fossil fuels. Instead, as he notes, he is contributing to the Carleton College Fossil Free Fund. He has given us permission to share his letter so that others can consider taking this action and sending similar communication.)
Dear Alumni Office and President Poskanzer,
I am writing to inform you that I have ceased donating to Carleton until the college pledges to divest its endowment from fossil fuel holdings. I would therefore like to inform you that I have just donated to the Carleton College Fossil Free Fund. I intend to continue donating to this fund until Carleton divests, at which point my prior donations will be available to the college, and I will be pleased to resume donating directly.
Climate change is the great moral crisis of the century. Hundreds of colleges/universities, cities, religious institutions, and foundations around the world are awakening to the realization that fossil fuel companies not only have a business plan that is reckless, but they are also using their political power to deceive the public and block meaningful action. We will look back on this period in much the same way we do the campaign to divest from apartheid South Africa. Carleton stands for so much that is right in the world, and it has taught so many to think critically, rather than passively accepting the status quo. I do not want to see Carleton standing on the wrong side of history any longer.
I was a member of the college’s Environmental Advisory Committee as a student, and I know about all of the great things that are being done to make the campus more carbon-neutral and environmentally-friendly. These are commendable measures that should continue, but they are in no way an excuse for refusing divestment. The social license that Carleton provides to fossil fuel companies through its investments do far more damage than our wind turbines or composting program could ever offset. Avoiding divestment by not wanting to be too “political” is simply not a honest position. When you are investing in and profiting from companies that are fueling disinformation and obstruction, that is in itself a political act — and one that Carleton should not be proud of. And if the intention of continuing investment is to maintain a voice a shareholder, one need only to look at the example of the the first family of oil, the Rockefellers, which tried and failed for years to get Exxon to take climate change seriously — before choosing to divest.
There is no tweaking around the edges that can make fossil fuel companies responsible actors worthy of investment; their basic business plan is incompatible with a safe climate and stable society. Simply put, wrecking the planet is wrong, and it is wrong to profit from that wreckage.
I look forward to the day when I can continue to donate to my beloved alma mater. I am absolutely certain you will find overwhelming support and praise when you choose to do what is right.
Class of 2012