Opinion

Fossil-fuel divestment is essential to Macalester’s identity

“Our investments should reflect our values. If we value urban sustainability, we must divest.” This was the message chalked outside of Carnegie Hall last Friday, calling for the Board of Trustees to divest the endowment from fossil fuels. Other chalkings included opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), a Bakken oil pipeline currently being constructed on indigenous land and threatening the sacred water in North Dakota and the climate everywhere.

This campus has seen an outpouring of support for the Sacred Stone resistance camp in the Standing Rock reservation, which is currently victorious in slowing Enbridge’s construction and is digging in for the winter. Students here have written op-eds and travelled to the camp, and Markus Hoeckner ’17 is producing a documentary on the fight. It is clear that students stand in solidarity with this effort but it is also clear that our institution wants the pipeline built.

Macalester invests 25 million dollars in the Carbon Underground 200, the two-hundred largest coal, oil and gas companies. Instead of choosing other investments, we gave a big thumbs up to Deepwater Horizon and DAPL, saying, “We believe these are good investments and want to see them make us money.” Regardless of what is said on campus and at the Roundtable, these investments speak louder.

Fossil Free Mac (FFM) hopes that the International Roundtable and the messages we left around campus prompted students, faculty and staff to explore what it truly means to support and take part in urban sustainability. As a collective student body, we need to question the extent to which Macalester can ever truly be part of developing sustainable communities when our endowment is complicit in funding climate change. For our organization and our supporters (1,900 petition signers and counting since 2013), the hypocrisy seems quite clear; however, if you are unfamiliar with our argument, we ask you to consider the following.
FFM wants to hold Macalester accountable to its values and its mission statement. Taking action on climate is a huge part of the college keeping its word to promote “internationalism, multiculturalism, and service to society” because climate change will affect people around the globe. It is already most severely affecting those groups who are the most vulnerable—low-income people and people of color. As an institution, we cannot and should not actively fund and profit from an industry that contributes to the destruction of our planet and the further oppression of already marginalized groups. This is not just about environmentalism, this is also a call for justice.

Fossil fuel divestment is a global movement that aims to revoke the social license for fossil fuel extraction. Addressing climate change requires global collective action, and fossil fuel divestment is how institutions of civil society like Macalester can build the moral framework necessary for things like a carbon tax and war on climate change, argues Roundtable speaker and Senior VP of AECOM Chris Ward ’79.

The divestment movement is vast and moving fast. Since 2011, 595 institutions worth 3.4 trillion dollars have divested from the Carbon Underground 200 (Fossil Free). Colleges like Syracuse and Pitzer have divested for moral and financial reasons, and there are campaigns at most major universities (Are we going to let Carleton beat us?). Even the city councils of Minneapolis and St. Paul have divested unanimously. Is Macalester really less progressive on this issue than its own city? While the divestment movement will grow with or without Macalester’s participation, we are not being educated so that we can sit idly by while the world changes around us. If we don’t take a stand for the preservation of the air we breathe and the water we drink, what do we take a stand for?
Macalester wants carbon neutrality by 2025, “in order to lower our environmental impact,” and yet we are doing the exact opposite. We are aiding and abetting the fossil fuel companies which profit from the destruction of our environment. Continuing to invest in fossil fuels means that whatever reductions we make in our campus carbon footprint pale in comparison to the impact on the environment of the companies we are supporting.

Therefore, trustees, we urge you, as a part of your fiduciary and social responsibility, consider the student voices on campus and initiate the divestment process. Understand the fundamental risk that the college is taking by staying invested in unstable long term investments, and understand the impact of our continued support of climate change.
Students, please support our campaign on Facebook, sign our petitions and attend our meetings on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. in CC 207.

October 7, 2016

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