Excerpt from this week's Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) e-newsletter, written by Ron van der Veen:
Like so many of you, I spent several intense days at AASHE’s annual
conference in Los Angeles last month. And as usual, I went away sobered
by the great challenges ahead of us and inspired by this incredible
international kinship we belong to. Reading this week’s AASHE Bulletin
in the midst of the uncertainty we face reinforces my hope that higher
education is our greatest hope to shepherd a new national spirit of
sustainability and social justice.
There is one article this week that particularly caught my attention.
It is about Unity College’s Board of Trustees voting to divest from
fossil fuels. President Stephen Mulkey announced, “the Trustees have
looked at the college’s finances in the context of our ethical
obligation to our students, and they have chosen to make a stand. I can
think of no stronger statement about the mission of Unity College.” I
was so intrigued I went online to find out who these radical extremist
Trustees were. What I uncovered were attorneys, bank vice presidents,
entrepreneurs, a wife of an Air Force officer, educators, people in
non-profits, political consultants—in other words, pretty normal people.
Awesome, Unity College. First institution of higher education in the US to commit to fully divesting its endowment from fossil fuels.
Excerpt from Unity College President Stephen Mulkey's public statement:
Those within higher education must now do something they have largely
avoided at all costs: confront the policy makers who refuse to accept
scientific reality. We must be willing to lead by example. Like
the colleges and universities of the 1980’s that disinvested from
apartheid South African interests – and successfully pressured the South
African government to dismantle the apartheid system – we must be
willing to exclude fossil fuels from our investment portfolios. We must
The colleges and universities of this nation have billions invested
in fossil fuels. Like the funding of public campaigns to deny climate
change, such investments are fundamentally unethical. The Terrifying Math of
the 350.org campaign is based on realistic, reviewed science. Moreover,
in our country it is clear that economic pressure gets results where
other means fail. If we are to honor our commitment to the future,
divestment is not optional. This is especially true for Unity College,
where Sustainability Science, as developed by the U.S. National Academy
of Science, guides our academic mission.
I am proud to be a part of the 350.org program of divestment, and I
am especially proud of the Unity College Board of Trustees for their
willingness to make this affiliation. Indeed, the Trustees have been on
the path of divestment for over five years. The Trustees have looked
at the College’s finances in the context of our ethical obligation to
our students, and they have chosen to make a stand. I can think of no
stronger statement about the mission of Unity College.
Our college community will lead by fearless action. We will confront
policy makers who continue to deny the existence of climate change. We
will encourage those who work in higher education to bravely step out
from behind manicured, taxpayer funded hedges, and do what needs to be
done. We will not equivocate, and we will meet those who have been
misled by climate change denial in their communities.
The time is long overdue for all investors to take a hard look at the
consequences of supporting an industry that persists in employing a
destructive business model. Because of its infrastructure and enormous
economic clout, fossil fuel corporations could pump trillions into the
development of alternative energy. Government subsidies and stockholder
shares could be used constructively to move these corporations to behave
More about 350.org's program of divestment here.