Thursday, November 15, 2012

Unity College Board of Trustees votes to divest from Fossil Fuels

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 divest.

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 responsibly.

More about 350.org's program of divestment here.

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