Monday, January 14, 2013

Matthew Isles, Arts and Sciences, 2001

Divestment will not alone bring our nation's policies in line with what is needed to avert catastrophic climate disruption. Neither will it delineate the necessary adaptive courses we must pursue to cope with the climate disruption that is already baked into the planet's cake. Nor will divestment cause fossil fuel companies to reassess their business models, given the relatively small collective size of university endowment investments, the current profitability of that sector, and the growing influence of state-affiliated fossil fuel extractive and processing interests. 

However, divestment will send a powerful political message that aggressive political action is necessary to accomplish these aims. On the boards of trustees and in the administration of the myriad universities being targeted by fossil fuel divestment campaigns are civic, business, religious and opinion leaders. 

By alerting these figures that current students and graduates of the institutions they make decisions for are opposed to facilitating climate disruption through endowment investments in fossil fuel companies, two goals can be achieved. First, endowment funds can be redirected away from polluting fossil fuel companies and towards more sustainable energy companies in wind, solar and other sectors. Second, the influential leaders on trustee boards and administrative front offices may become convinced of the need to lobby their peers in government and business to seriously confront climate change through more aggressive policy. 

It is useful to recall to mind the Tufts motto, "Peace and Light." There is no question but that peace, the world over, will be threatened by a future shaped by climate disruption (in fact, the Pentagon has been projecting that for some years now). Further, to be a beacon of light from the Hill in Medford, Tufts must demonstrate the wisdom to follow a path towards a safer, sustainable future. 

Divestment is but one tool in the tool box of an effective campaign to address global warming, just as voting is but one tool in the tool box of democratic civic participation. Let us put the tool of divestment to work at Tufts University.

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