Class of 2016 protests with “no class gift” call

Members of the Class of 2016 sent an email to their fellow graduates last month, calling on them to protest the Board’s refusal to divest from fossil fuels by withholding contributions to the traditional “class gift.”  The result was the smallest class gift donation in recent memory, and a powerful rebuke to the college from its newly-minted alumni.  Here is the text of their email:

Dear Class of 2016,
You have all recently received emails from the Senior Gift Committee. We would like to ask that you first consider a number of concerns with this program.
Divest Carleton would like to urge you to stand against Carleton’s fossil fuel investments and withhold your senior gift. The college has deliberately chosen to invest part of its endowment in direct holdings in major fossil fuel companies. These companies have a strong influence on our national government and continually pump out misinformation campaigns to keep the public from uniting to tackle climate change. They further take advantage of their political power to harm and exploit the communities in which they do business. By keeping these stocks, the college is consenting to the actions of fossil fuel companies and endorsing an economy based on unsustainable forms of energy.
For this reason, we are asking you not to contribute a senior gift to Carleton College. Instead, send a message that you will not support Carleton’s decision to make investments that threaten the ecological well-being of our planet. Our hope is that this year’s senior gift has the lowest participation rate of any year in the recent past. In this way, we, the class of 2016, can deliver a clear message that the college is acting out of line with students’ values, and we won’t be satisfied until the college ends its explicit support of an industry destroying our environment and exploiting marginalized communities around the world.
With these concerns in mind, we would like to highlight that this is a complex issue and there are a number of ways donating to Carleton, especially in the form of a contribution to financial aid, that can positively impact current and future students. It is not our intent to cause an increase in tuition or a decrease in aid which is essential for many students. That being said, the senior gift is primarily a symbolic measure, and the administration seeks high participation both to demonstrate the support of its students and to add them to its donor pool. If you would like to support divestment by withholding a senior gift and at the same time donate to the financial aid fund, you can simply go this link and make a normal donation: https://apps.carleton.edu/giving/
If you would like to withhold your senior gift to the college or restrict it solely to financial aid, then consider sending an email to the Senior Gift Committee (mwinburn@carleton.edu). Below are two templates which you can use or adjust as you see fit.
In solidarity,
Divest Carleton
* * *
TEMPLATE 1: GIFT WITHHELD
Dear Senior Gift Committee,

I, a member of the Carleton class of 2016, am choosing to withhold my senior gift this year. I have made this decision because the Carleton administration and Board of Trustees have made official decisions and statements which are perpetuating the existence of the fossil fuel industry and working against the international climate justice movement. This issue is one of the greatest challenges my generation faces and for this reason I will not show support for Carleton in the form of a senior gift.

Regards,
(your name)
* * *
TEMPLATE 2: GIFT RE-DIRECTED
Dear Senior Gift Committee,
I, a member of the Carleton class of 2016, am choosing to mark my donation explicitly for financial aid at Carleton because I support all students from all backgrounds receiving this education. However, I am also marking my gift exclusively for financial aid use because the Carleton administration and Board of Trustees persist in holding investments in fossil fuel companies. Climate change is one of the greatest challenges my generation faces and for this reason I will not contribute to an endowment that is invested in fossil fuels.

Regards,
(your name)

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Dr. David Loy returns his Honorary Degree in protest of the Board’s vote against divestment

Two years ago we posted the text of Dr. Loy’s speech on the occasion of the awarding of his degree.  He spoke eloquently then about the moral obligation to engage in the ecological challenges of  our time, and specifically called upon Carleton College to divest.  The Board has refused.  Here is the text of his letter delivered on Earth Day 2016.

22 April 2016

To: the Board of Trustees

Carleton College

Northfield, MN 55057

In June 2014 Carleton College presented me with an honorary degree for contributions to the understanding and practice of Buddhism in the modern world. Although I continue to be very grateful for that honor – all the more because Carleton is my alma mater – I am writing this letter to return that degree, as a way to express my disappointment with the November decision by the Board of Trustees not to divest from the fossil fuel industry. Your unfortunate decision rejected the recommendations of the Carleton Responsible Investment Committee (CRIC), and I urge you to reconsider it.

My personal involvement with Buddhism includes a commitment to engage Buddhist principles with the social and ecological challenges of our day. Today no issue is more important than climate change, which is the most urgent aspect of an ecological crisis that threatens the survival of a large percentage of the earth’s species – perhaps including our own. Scientific research has determined that between two-thirds and four-fifths of fossil fuels already accessible cannot be burned without catastrophic results. As the Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said publicly, “the vast majority of reserves are unburnable.” Nevertheless, oil, gas and coal corporations are committed to selling them all – and actively prospecting for more. This emphasis on profit over sustainability is morally reprehensible, and challenges all of us to do what we can to counteract it. More than 500 cities, banks, universities and other institutions around the globe, representing well over $3.4 trillion in total assets, have already pledged to divest. It is time for Carleton College to join them.

You, the Board of Trustees, have justified the decision not to divest by referring to your financial responsibilities, and by asserting that the college should not “seek to define, promote, or enforce morality.” Frankly, I am astonished by both of these arguments.

The Board has stated that divestment would have a “negative impact on long term investment returns”, but this prediction is difficult to defend, since the future of fossil fuels is increasingly recognized to be questionable. As the recent COP21 agreement in Paris demonstrated, governments are finally realizing that most fossil fuels – coal, oil, natural gas – must remain in the ground. From an investment perspective, what economists call “stranded assets” is increasingly likely, hence a continual decline in the value of such corporations. It was no coincidence that, on the first trading day after that agreement, the stocks of fossil fuel corporations tumbled while renewable energy stocks soared. According to some sources, California’s pensions systems lost more than $5 billion on their fossil fuel holdings in 2014; the Massachusetts state pension fund lost $521 million last year; New York City’s largest pension fund lost about $135 million from their oil and gas company holdings. And earlier this month the government of Saudi Arabia announced its intention to sell all its petroleum assets.

Saudi Arabia sees the writing on the wall … why don’t you, the Trustees entrusted with planning for the future of the College? How much have Carleton College’s fossil fuel investments declined over the last two years? How much might the value of the portfolio have increased if it had been invested instead in the renewable energy industry? Although I am not an economist, it seems to me that this is an obvious and serious challenge to any argument that invokes “financial responsibility.”

Return on investment is, however, not the most important issue. But the other argument offered – that the college should not “seek to define, promote, or enforce morality” – is naïve if not disingenuous. Deciding not to divest does not mean that the college remains morally neutral, because any such policy decision has moral as well as ecological and economic implications. Once you know there is a choice, the choice cannot be evaded. Like it or not, the question where to invest means that the College cannot avoid taking a position on this matter. To continue to profit from the sale and promotion of fossil fuels is to remain complicit with the damage they are inflicting on the earth’s ecosystems, and on the consequences of that destruction for the future of all its inhabitants.

As Martin Lucas wrote: “The moral case is simple. As long as universities like McGill [and Carleton College] don’t divest, they remain caught in a glaring contradiction: betting their prestige on preparing young people for the world while betting their dollars on making it uninhabitable.”

In contrast to your stated position, then, it seems to me that both the financial argument and (more importantly) the moral argument support divestment. It is imperative that the College not only continue previous commitments to sustainability, but also take a leadership role on this specific issue, which is part of the greatest ethical and political challenge of our time. So I hope that you will reconsider your decision regarding divestment from the fossil fuel industry. In the meantime, however, I feel a responsibility to return the honorary degree that you awarded me in 2014.

 

Sincerely yours,

 

David Loy

Class of 1969

The students respond to the Board of Trustees

January 11, 2016

 

An Open Letter to the Carleton Trustees: Divest From Fossil Fuels

Letter from Divest Carleton Students in response to Trustees’ 11/12/15 Memo to CRIC Regarding Divestment

Dear Carleton Board of Trustees,

We, the students of Divest Carleton, are writing to you to express our dissatisfaction with your response to the recommendation to divest from fossil fuels made in September by the Carleton Responsible Investment Committee (CRIC)*.

First, let us acknowledge the steps Carleton has taken toward environmental stewardship that were outlined in your response to fossil fuel divestment. These steps represent effective climate leadership and demonstrate heartening dedication to environmental responsibility. However, reducing Carleton’s carbon footprint and aiming for carbon neutrality do not relieve Carleton of its duty to align its investments with its values. As long as reasonable opportunities to fight climate change remain within our means, it is both prudent and necessary to take them.

The call for divestment at Carleton has been made by a quarter of faculty, nearly 40% of current students, over 500 alumni, the Carleton Student Association Senate and CRIC. Surely, then, it merits much more consideration than your cursory and unsatisfactory response grants it.

Unfortunately, the response refuses direct interaction with the arguments CRIC presents. For example, following a thorough review of studies of the effects of divestment on endowments, CRIC predicts that “the financial risk of fossil fuel divestment from Carleton’s direct holdings is bound to be relatively low, if not negligible.” Your reply is “we believe that reducing the universe of possible investments will have a negative impact on long-term investment returns.” No evidence is given to support the applicability of this belief to the case of fossil fuel divestment in particular. Given the weighty reasons to believe the contrary — that divesting from fossil fuels will be an economic boon — and the number of high-profile funds divesting for financial reasons, we can only conclude that the Board has not yet met its duty to give full consideration to divestment.

Despite the fact that CRIC dismisses shareholder engagement as “far less effective than divestment,” your letter continues to treat it as an appropriate strategy without so much as acknowledging the arguments to the contrary. Shareholder resolutions cannot hope to change a company’s core business practices, and insisting on trying signals a commitment to business as usual rather than the transformative changes we so clearly need.

The letter’s failure to acknowledge CRIC’s ethical arguments is even more concerning. CRIC details its ethical concerns about the fossil fuel industry at length, and states in conclusion that “it is ethically problematic to hold these fossil fuel stocks in our endowment.” Your reply begins with a half-truth – Carleton “has a long history of not taking positions on issues that are not clearly academic” – and proceeds to explain that Carleton occupies a “delicate niche” which seeking to “define, promote, and enforce morality” could disrupt. But surely any such niche a school like ours could occupy in society requires of us that we at least act ethically, if not enforcing that others do; and since you nowhere contest CRIC’s claim that divestment is a moral act, these worries about Carleton’s proper place do not seem relevant. Though you consider the worth of divestment as an instrument for change, nowhere do you respond to the simple argument, often made, that it is unethical to own the companies in question and therefore we ought not to.

You characterize divestment as a “moral and/or political statement,” which it undoubtedly is. But as CRIC points out, and you do not acknowledge, so is refusal to divest. Continuing to hold fossil fuel stocks is a tacit statement of support for the industry’s extractive practices, political agenda, and egregious misinformation campaigns. While we agree that it may not always be proper to “insert… Carleton into public and political debates,” as you say, at this point there is clearly no way to remove Carleton from the conversation about climate change. The College entered that one when it made itself a shareholder of fossil fuel companies, and when it publicly acknowledged the threat of climate change by signing the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. Carleton cannot avoid being a participant in global issues, but we can at least be sure it participates responsibly and morally.

Finally, you dismiss fossil fuel divestment as inappropriate to Carleton’s mission. To the contrary, we fail to see how investing in firms which fund damaging misinformation campaigns can be construed as appropriate to an educational mission. If the principal aim of Carleton really is to “create and share knowledge,” as you say, it is deeply concerning that we are condoning the opposite with our investments.

In conclusion, we do not believe that the Board has given fossil fuel divestment the diligent consideration expected of it. Additionally, it has allowed what discussion has taken place so far to proceed in a secretive and exclusive manner.  We therefore request that the Board reexamine CRIC’s recommendation, and do so with a greater commitment to transparency and inclusivity.

Sincerely,

The Students of Divest Carleton

 

*CRIC’s report advocating for divestment and the Board’s response letter can be found here: https://apps.carleton.edu/governance/cric/divest/

One alumnus ‘divests’ from Carleton

We received this letter — which has already been sent to President Poskanzer — from the author, with permission to publish it.  He has suspended his monthly contributions to Carleton, and taken the college out of his will, as a result of the Board of Trustees’ vote against divestment.

 

November 26, 2015

Dear President Poskanzer and Carleton community:

It is with profound disappointment that I write to the president of my alma mater and to the Carleton community after reading the recommendation of the CRIC Report on Divestment of September, 2015 and the response to this recommendation published earlier this month by the Board of Trustees. Please let me detail my disappointment in the shortsightedness of this decision of the Trustees.

In the Board of Trustee’s report, I read “We believe that reducing the universe of possible investments will have a negative impact on long-term investment returns”. With the wealth of investment opportunities available on the marketplace today, I feel that limiting investment portfolios to those companies not directly involved in the destructive change of the earth’s climate need not have a negative financial impact on the college’s endowment. I have limited my retirement investment substantially by investing only in companies who business practice I consider socially responsible – divesting from producers of all dirty fuels, as well as companies who manufacture military arms, and other industries of my choice. Yet, despite this limitation on my portfolio, my investments have outperformed the S&P 500 stock market average consistently for 15 years! This was done without the input – for which the college must pay – of any financial professionals.

As a trained scientist, I do not have any doubt that investment in fossil fuels is harmful for life on earth. The vast majority of climate scientists (a number of whom are Carleton grads and even friends of mine) agree that the use of fossil fuels is the primary driver of global warming. As trained a theologian, I know that investment in companies that profit from this destruction is both unethical and immoral. Most followers of almost every religious tradition, having considered this issue carefully, would agree with this assessment. Apparently, Union Theological Seminary also agrees also: their trustees recently voted unanimously to begin divesting the school’s entire $108.4 million endowment from fossil fuels. This schools president, Serene Jones, has called the irresponsible investment in the fossil fuel industry ‘sinful’.

Not simply myself, but many of prominent financial professionals and institutions have chosen to divest from non-renewable energy resources, not primarily because of the morality of the divestment but rather, because such investments are predicted to sour in the long term. Perhaps it will surprise some of the trustees to learn that Stephen Heintz, head of the foundation started by John D. Rockefeller, believes this also. In a recent article, he is quoted as saying this: “We are quite convinced that if he were alive today, as an astute businessman looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy.” For this reason, the Rockefeller family, along with a coalition of hundreds of other institutions and individuals, has announced a total of $50 billion in divestments from the fossil fuel industry. Please tell me why the Carleton Board of Trustees believes their financial decisions are better than the decision of Mr. Heintz and the many other institutions which have chosen to divest from this industry.

I consider my personal investments an important expression of my ethical beliefs. They are another means through which I act in our society today. I am sorry that the Carleton College Board of Trustees does not feel the same way regarding the college’s investments and that the college has maintained its investment in companies that profit from the destruction of our earth and all life within it.

In the Board of Trustees response to the CRIC Report on Divestment, I read “there is no consensus that divestment will not have meaningful fiscal costs”. This statement is, in fact, incorrect! I know that this statement is incorrect because I have ceased my monthly contribution to Carleton College because of their continued investments in these destructive companies. I have also removed the college from my will. I prefer to make donations to organizations that promote the vitality of life on Earth. Because Carleton College, as an institution, has considered and rejected the call for divestment from fossil fuels, I find that my investment in this world’s future is better made elsewhere.

I am greatly disappointed by my alma mater,

Kevin Pettit

Divest Carleton Alumni Respond to the Board of Trustees

The alumni of Divest Carleton have sent this open response to the Board of Trustees regarding their vote to reject the recommendation of their responsible investing committee.  (The student response will come at the beginning of Winter Term, and we will post it here then.)

If you are interested in signing on to this response, just indicate that in the comments section.  As we use the response in future outreach, your name will be included.

To: The Carleton College Board of Trustees

From: Divest Carleton Alumni

Date: December 7, 2015

Subject: Response to the Trustees’ 11/12/15 Memo to CRIC Regarding Divestment

We at Divest Carleton want to express our disappointment with the Board’s rejection of CRIC’s recommendation that the College divest its fossil fuel holdings. We believe that the Board’s November 12 memo did not seriously address the arguments made by CRIC in its report, opting instead to briefly rehash old arguments. The memo presents a self-satisfied “business as usual” perspective which is unacceptable in the face of climate chaos.

In the face of this rejection, Divest Carleton is committed to continuing to engage the Board on this issue and to help organize alumni, faculty, staff, and students to continue to press for fossil fuel divestment. In this connection, we ask that the Board read and respond to the comments in this memo and provide us with an opportunity to meet with you to discuss this issue at your February Meeting. We anticipate that the students of Divest Carleton will have similar comments, but given the late Fall Term release of the Board statement, we expect those comments to come early next year.

The Board based its rejection of divestment on four points:  financial returns, moral and political issues, effectiveness, and, finally, alternatives to divestment. We believe that the arguments surrounding each of these points are flawed and unpersuasive, as described below.

  1. Financial Returns: The Board “believes” that divestment will have a “negative impact on long term investment returns.” But this belief is not supported by any evidence the Board presents. As the Board memo recognizes, there is just as much evidence that divestment will have no impact or a positive impact. We believe, in fact, that there is more evidence arguing for a positive impact. The bottom line here is that continuing to invest in a product that is scientifically proven to be harmful to human and ecological well-being and which is the subject of tremendous global reduction efforts is not consistent with fiduciary duty and seems foolhardy rather than prudent. Such investments leave the college vulnerable to the significant risk of stranded fossil fuel assets that can never be burned.
  1. Moral and Political Issues: In its charge to CRIC regarding divestment, the Board challenged CRIC to demonstrate that fossil fuel divestment clears a “very high” ethical bar, further stating that  ”… new questions about socially responsible investing do periodically arise, and the wisdom/propriety of fossil fuel divestment falls within CRIC’s purview.” We believe that CRIC successfully established that divestment does clear a high ethical bar and that it is precisely a “new question” that warrants College action. CRIC’s arguments centered on the unprecedented scope and magnitude of climate change impacts on human and natural systems, on the fact that the College has already acknowledged the reality and scope of the problem, and finally on the demonstrably unethical behavior of the fossil fuel industry in terms of its basic business plans to burn all the carbon it can find, and its efforts to impede progress on addressing climate change through electoral campaign support, lobbying, and public misinformation activities. Significantly, the Board did not challenge any of these points, making no attempt, for example, to explain, criticize, or justify industry behavior.

In its subsequent response to the CRIC recommendation, the Board changed the argument a bit. It dropped the notion of a high bar without a mention and essentially completely ruled out College actions on moral grounds (high bar or not) by stating that “Nondenominational colleges and universities like Carleton are not … religious organizations that seek to define, promote, and enforce morality.” With this blanket elimination of any moral stand by the college as an institution, the Board relieved itself of any responsibility to look in detail at the issue of fossil fuel divestment. This is a very bad argument for a variety of reasons:

First, it is not possible for the College to maintain ethical neutrality in this case.  Continuing to hold fossil fuel stocks is not an ethically neutral position. The explicit decision to continue to hold fossil fuel stocks is just as much a moral and political decision as divestment. Holding these stocks gives tacit approval to the behavior of the industry and creates for the College a vested interest in the continuation of a fossil based economy.

Secondly, this argument is based on a selective reading of Carleton’s historical stance on ethical issues. The College has recognized the importance of moral issues in endowment decisions previously when it divested from stocks in companies acting immorally in South Africa. Further, by creating CRIC and giving it the mandate to provide advice on the ethics of company behavior, the Board acknowledged the importance of this aspect of endowment decision making. In reality, the Board’s exclusion of ethical issues from endowment decisions calls CRIC’s role into question, since CRIC’s mandate clearly implies an ethical dimension to these decisions. In addition, there is the fact that the College has already acknowledged its responsibility to take action on climate change. This responsibility was presumably not motivated by economic factors but rather by moral considerations. The significant campus greening activities listed in the Board response reflect this moral responsibility. Divestment is an extension of this responsibility, applying it to financial holdings in addition to on-campus greening. Moral obligation and good citizenship do not stop at the Endowment door.

The Board’s position that ethical matters are best left to religious institutions is both unrealistic and contrary to Carleton’s stated values of good citizenship and the fostering of a strong sense of social responsibility. In 2001 the Board stated: “Carleton strives to be a model of environmental stewardship by incorporating ideals of sustainability into the operations of the College and the daily life of individuals.” The idea of Carleton as a model of good citizenship and sustainability is much more consistent with our tradition than the idea of the College as an institution unwilling to take a moral action on a critical social issue.

  1. Divestment as a Strategy for Change: The Board challenges the effectiveness of divestment as a strategy. We disagree. We believe that as part of a global movement calling into question the economic and moral standing of the fossil fuel industry, divestment might well have a significant effect. The moral challenge to businesses operating in South Africa certainly played a role in ending apartheid. Decisions made for ethical reasons can sometimes have important political implications. The divestment movement is growing and now includes divestment commitments from more than 500 institutions representing over $3.4 trillion in assets. The expectation is not that any single divestment decision will make a difference but that through the action of many, financial and moral pressure can be exerted. As a highly regarded and widely respected educational institution, Carleton has the possibility of being a true leader in this movement and of actually making a difference.

Carleton has already expended significant resources on efforts to reduce its carbon footprint. These are laudable actions, but, just like divesting alone, they will not by themselves seriously affect total greenhouse gas emissions. The impact is way, way too small. Even if, in fact, all of the colleges and universities who have signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment met their carbon reduction goals, it would still amount to an impact too small to make a difference. But if all of these schools committed to divestment and made visible statements about the problems with fossil fuel companies and carbon budgets, this might well have an impact on public perceptions and on political decision making. Like any other tool, neither the greening of college campuses nor divestment will on their own solve climate change. The College no doubt recognizes this, and still chooses to push forward on-campus carbon footprint initiatives because it is the right thing to do. The same principle applies to investments. Even if it proves ineffective, it is still the right thing to do.

Clearly, divestment is just one tool in the toolbox to approach climate change. It is not the sole tool that we have. But it is one additional thing that Carleton can do to address the problem. The tools we have used in the past have not significantly impacted the problem.

  1. Alternative Strategies: The Board suggests that support for shareholder resolutions is a “far more appropriate strategy” for effecting corporate change. While we support continued involvement by CRIC in shareholder resolutions, we are convinced that this strategy will not work with respect to fossil fuels. To challenge the unethical behavior of this industry is to go to the heart of their business plans. What is required of these companies includes a commitment to leave significant portions of their resources in the ground, to stop funding candidates and lobbyists that block effective policies, to stop funding attacks on mainstream science, to stop exploring for new carbon resources, and to shift company resources to finding alternatives to continued fossil fuel use. These requirements are inconsistent with the business plans of these companies and shareholder resolutions will not change that.

In addition to shareholder resolutions, the Board identifies the College’s research and teaching activities as effective strategies. While we support the continuation and expansion of education and research on climate change we believe that these strategies have limits. They are gradual and incremental and, given the greenhouse gas trajectory that is necessary to prevent truly calamitous climate chaos, we need actions that can have more immediate effects. We have educated students and conducted research for years, but the problem continues. Divestment adds a tool that might make a difference quickly.

Further, we believe that visible decisions made about endowment investments have clear educational implications. The refusal to make a decision about the ethics of the fossil fuel industry sends a clear message to students and the general public that climate change is not serious enough to justify a diversion from business as usual. This refusal might, in fact, legitimately be considered as a form of climate change denial. Just like the College’s action to reduce its carbon footprint, a decision about divestment becomes part of what might be called a “hidden curriculum.” Actions do speak louder than words, and the failure to act in this context raises a serious question about whether the College really believes what it says about the dire impacts of climate change.

In summary, we believe that the Board’s case for refusing to divest is inadequate and misguided. We, therefore, call upon the Board to reconsider its decision and to divest its fossil fuel holdings as CRIC has recommended. We will be eager to meet with the Board to further discuss the issue. Please contact Brett Smith (smithb55419@yahoo.com) or Peter Samuels (peterleifsamuels@gmail.com) with questions, comments, or responses.

Signed

Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew ‘91

Laura Bramley ‘09

Simone Childs-Walker ‘12

Ben Cushing ‘12

Bob Dobrow, Professor of Mathematics

Kirke Elsass ‘09

Jonathan Hahn ‘12

Rebecca Hahn ‘09

Carolyn Ham ‘83

David Loy ’69, Honorary ‘15

Kathryn Olney   P‘15

Naomi Price-Lazarus ’18, Divest Carleton Student Co-Leader

Ellie Parker ‘63

Mary Reames ‘91

Sally Robertson ‘79

Peter Samuels ‘09

Soren Schlassa ’18, Divest Carleton Student Co-Leader

Marty Schotz ‘64

Andrew Snyder ‘10

Stan Siefer ‘64

Brett Smith ’64 P’91,’ 93

Katherine Smith ’66 P’91, ‘93

Bob Traer ‘65

Nancy Traer ‘64

Allison Tucker ’18, Divest Carleton Student Co-Leader

Dwight Wagenius ’64 P’91, ‘93

Jon Watterson ‘66

Peggy Day Watterson ‘66

Jim Roberts P’15

Mary Childs P’12, ’14, ’15

Susan G. Letcher, ’00

Betsy Barnum, ’73

Fernanda Litt, ’87

David Feldman, ’91

First response to the BOT vote:not with my money

Dear alumni supporter of Divest Carleton:
As you know, we have been working for three years to get the Board of Trustees to vote to divest from fossil fuels.  We have circulated petitions, done campus rallies, teach-ins and tabling at alumni events.  We’ve written letters in the Carletonian, and had articles written about us.  And we’ve made progress in moving the issue of divestment from the back burner to a focus of discussion in the Carleton community.
This fall, the Board’s own committee (Carleton Responsible Investment Committee, or CRIC) made a recommendation to the Board that they divest from direct holdings in fossil fuels.  (Read their recommendation here: http://apps.carleton.edu/governance/cric/divest/cricreport/). (Double click on the link and then click on the “Related Documents” box.)
On November 10, the Board of Trustees released their decision to reject CRIC’s recommendation and refuse to divest.  (You can read their response here: http://apps.carleton.edu/governance/cric/divest/boardresponse/)
We are not going to let the Board’s refusal be the last word.  We are going to continue to raise awareness of this issue and to take action toward it.  Look for lots of new, and more insistent, actions in the coming months.
You can help!
Right now, you are probably getting solicitations to contribute to the Annual Fund.  We are asking that you decline to contribute.  And not just that you decline, but that you send a note in that return envelope, saying why you decline.  It is important that Carleton know that they lose not only money on the bad investment in fossil fuels, but also the contributions of concerned alumni.  Please find that letter, and that envelope, and vote against the Board’s decision with your wallet.
If you want to do more, you can direct your donation to the Carleton College Fossil Free Fund instead.  (You can find a link to information about the fund and the online donation portal here: https://giveresponsibly.nationbuilder.com/carleton).  We value donations of any size, because numbers of donors is as important as amounts of donations.  We need to let the College know that there is money available to them, just waiting for a different decision, and that many, many alumni care about this.
We cannot let this drop.  The future depends on us keeping as much fossil fuel in the ground as possible, and on changing the culture of acceptance of dirty fuels.  We’ll be working on it; we look forward to your help. If you have questions or comments, or would like to do more to help, email divestcarleton@gmail.com

The long-awaited CRIC Report on Divestment to the Board of Trustees is here

The Carleton Responsible Investment Committee (CRIC) has finally issued its report to the Board of Trustees.  It comes out clearly in favor of divestment of all of Carleton’s direct holdings in fossil fuel companies, and is important reading.  No word yet on whether the BOT will take up the recommendations in the report at their October 22-24 meeting, but you can be sure we will be watching, and keeping you up to date.

CRIC_Report_Sept_2015

A Letter to Pope Francis, on the occasion of his visit to the United States

Divest Carleton was honored to be asked to sign on to this letter to His Holiness, Pope Francis.

Most Holy Father,

We write to you as young people, as constituents of Jesuit institutions, other Catholic, Christian, and religious institutions, and non-religious institutions as people of goodwill, on behalf of an entire generation. We are standing on the precipice of climate catastrophe. Since the release of your encyclical “Laudato Si” in June, we have been inspired by your call for climate justice and the awakening of the Catholic and global community to the systemic causes of the climate crisis.

We have resonated with your criticism of the lack of response from our politicians and leaders in addressing climate change. St. Ignatius of Loyola urged us to see God in all things. Regrettably, many of our leaders are overlooking this important lesson. It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been. The message that we are getting out to the world through our fossil fuel divestment work echoes your observation that “The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance. There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected.” We wholeheartedly agree with your analysis, Holy Father, and we see divestment as a means to strip fossil fuel special interests of their political power, which thus far has helped in blocking meaningful climate legislation to come to fruition. As you have taught, highly polluting fossil fuels must be replaced without delay, and that cannot happen while these interests have control of our political processes.

Additionally, fossil fuel divestment proclaims, as you did at the Second World Meeting of Popular Movements, that “there is an invisible thread joining every one of [the many forms of exclusion and injustice].” You asked: “Can we recognize it? These are not isolated issues. I wonder whether we can see that these destructive realities are part of a system which has become global. Do we realize that that system has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature?”

We answer yes. All around us, we see the frightening consequences of an extractive capitalist economy, colonialism, systemic racism, and other forms of injustice. Divestment as a tactic is pivotal to the climate justice movement in that it forces us to think of issues with intersectionality on a global scale. One can not truly address the climate crisis and environmental injustice issues without dismantling the larger system which allows these things to continue. By calling on our institutions to divest their endowments from fossil fuel companies, and reinvest those funds into renewable technology and into those communities which have been marginalized, we force dialogue on climate change in terms of a global system urgently in need of an overhaul.

Despite the colossal challenges that face our young generation, we have hope in the future and are fighting to secure a world for ourselves in which a just and stable future is possible. We have been inspired and invigorated by your witness to the Gospel, and your calls for real, structural change. We highly anticipate your September visit to the United States and the furthering of the conversation surrounding the changes that we urgently need. During your visit, we ask that you call on our universities, along with other institutions, to divest from fossil fuels. Some of America’s largest Catholic organizations still have millions of dollars invested in heavily polluting fossil fuel companies. Within a few years, this remarkably fast-growing movement has reached some incredible milestones, but unfortunately many of our own educational institutions, which cite Christian values, are ignoring your call for climate justice by refusing to divest.

Additionally, we ask that you continue efforts to divest your own “campus,” as The Vatican has an equal responsibility as our universities and institutions to cut ties with the fossil fuel industry. We wholeheartedly believe in the Catholic values of stewardship for the Earth and for oppressed people, and we are offering our institutions the chance to live out these values as well. We are doing all that we can, but we need your help so that together we can take part in the “globalization of hope.”

We thank you again for your love and your leadership, Holy Father.

As young people for a just world,

Climate Justice at Boston College
Boston College Alumni for Divestment
Fossil Free LMU, Loyola Marymount University
Tufts Climate Action, Tufts University
Saint Mary’s College Sustainability Committee
Swarthmore Mountain Justice
Bowdoin Climate Action
Maine Students for Climate Justice
University of New Hampshire’s Student Environmental Action Coalition
Divest Central Michigan University
Student Environmental Alliance at Central Michigan University
Take Back the Tap at Central Michigan University
Divest Chico State
Fossil Free Caltech (Teachers for a Sustainable Future)
Fossil Free UCLA at University of California, Los Angeles
Fossil Free University of Tasmania, Australia
Fossil Free Monash University, Australia
Fossil Free RMIT, Melbourne, Australia
Boston University Students for a Just and Stable Future
Fossil Free San Francisco State University
Fossil Free MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
DivestNOW! Cornell, Cornell University
Fossil Free NAU, Northern Arizona University
Fossil Free Lesley, Lesley University
Divest Carleton, Carleton College
Southwest Divestment Network, Divestment Student Network
DivestNU, Northeastern University
Fossil Free AppState, Appalachian State University
Fossil Free Reed College Alumni
People and Planet, Fossil Free UK, United Kingdom
Go Fossil Free Washington State University
Colorado College Student Divestment Committee
Go Fossil Free Ball State
Divest Barnard from Fossil Fuels
Divest Dartmouth, Dartmouth College
Fossil Free Lakehead, Lakehead University
Divest University of Washington
Fossil Free ND, University of Notre Dame
Fossil Free Warwick University, UK
Pacific University: Go Fossil Free
Fossil Free Cal, UC Berkeley
Fossil Free UC, University of California
DivestPBurgh, State University of New York at Plattsburgh
Go Fossil Free SBCC, Santa Barbara City College, California
Divest DU, University of Denver, Colorado
Green Jays at Creighton University
Fossil Free NU, Northwestern University
Columbia Divest for Climate Justice, Columbia University
Sierra Student Coalition, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Fossil Free UCSC, University of California Santa Cruz
Divest Stonehill, Stonehill College
Stonehill College, Students for Environmental Action
New Progressive Alliance
University of Southern Maine: Go Fossil Free!
Fossil Free Yale
Divest VicSuper, Melbourne, Australia
Divest JC, Juniata College
Go Fossil Free, Penn State
Fossil Free University of Queensland
Divest James Cook University
Divest WNEU, Western New England University
Oxford University Fossil Free, UK
Brandeis Climate Justice
Hamilton Divests, Hamilton College
Fossil Free MU, University of Melbourne
350.org Australia
Fossil Free WashU, Washington University in St. Louis
Fossil Free Griffith University
Divest Tulane
Fossil Free ANU, Australian National University
Operation Noah
Climate Action 350-UW (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
350 Madison Climate Action Team
University of Iowa: Go Fossil Free
Oberlin Students for Divestment
Fossil Free Queensland University of Technology
Clarkson University Sustainable Synergy
Students United for Socioeconomic Justice, University of Texas at San Antonio
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Beyond Coal
Climate Action Society at the University of Virginia
Student Environmental Alliance at Loyola University Chicago
Divest JMU, James Madison University

Beginning of the Ende

All across the world, people are taking divestment action as and where they can. Here’s a great blog about the recent action in Germany, Ende Gelande. (Here, and no further.)

Mountains, pictures, action.

“I’m so glad to see people drawing a firm line in the coalfields, and stopping the planet’s largest coal-digging machines. We’re driven not by ideology but by physics: there’s simply no way to burn all this lignite and keep the climate intact. These protesters are lifeguards for an endangered planet.”

Bill McKibben,

Photo: Tobias Mandt Photo: Tobias Mandt

I’m running and I’m running and I’m just one, just one amongst hundreds of people running to escape the batons and the pepper spray, running to break through the police line and run on and on across the field to the mine. But as we’re running and my legs are pumping and the adrenaline’s thumping I turn and see something that makes my blood turn cold and time stand still. I see a man made massive with body armour and a helmet and a baton, and I see him throw his shoulder back and form…

View original post 1,557 more words

Divest Carleton member writes to the Sierra Club

(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.
Sincerely,
Brett A. Smith