(This letter was sent by one of Divest Carleton’s founding members to the Sierra Club regarding their recent ranking of ‘green colleges.’ )
To the editor:
As a long time Sierra Club activist, I am appalled that your magazine would again rank “green” colleges without reference to their record on fossil fuel divestment. We now know that to avoid catastrophic climate change, the majority of carbon reserves already on the books will have to be left in the ground. But the fossil fuel companies continue with basic business plans that ignore this reality and seek to burn it all, find more, and then burn that. To protect those plans they “invest” millions in candidate support and lobbying to prevent significant political action.
It is not “cool,” but flat our wrong for colleges to continue to profit from these companies, essentially creating a vested interest in their success. There may have been a time when the “on-campus” indicators were a useful way to identify green colleges. That time is now gone. By publishing these rankings the Club gives opponents of divestment ammunition which they can use to argue about what is really “cool” and “green.”
On-campus actions are laudable and necessary, but more is needed to address climate change.Think of it this way. If every college in the top 100 meets its most ambitions “on-campus” greenhouse gas reduction goals, it will not make even a ripple in total emissions. But if all 100 divested their fossil fuel holdings, it would significantly change the moral and political climate surrounding fossil fuels, and could well spark a grass roots movement powerful enough to seriously address the dire threats that we face.
My hope is that you will write a correction or retraction or, perhaps publish a new list which recognizes divestment as a crucial indicator. In any case, please, in next year’s rankings, make up the green list based on divestment support and relegate on-campus greening to side articles which identify some of the more creative actions, as was done with divestment in this issue.
Brett A. Smith