Op-ed: Stay true to Tufts principles: Divest major fossil fuel holdings
Published: Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 12:10
We write today as just a few of the hundreds of alumni who have signed a petition in support of divesting Tufts’ endowment from fossil fuel holdings. The petitioners graduated from nearly every Tufts program and have followed very different paths, today working as religious leaders, financial professionals, political leaders, renewable energy scientists, environmental advocates, EPA officials, climate policy researchers, resource management professionals, lawyers, teachers, healthcare professionals and more. In addition to the five coauthors, twelve other alumni cosigned this letter, including Rebecca Batorsky (GSAS ’12), Joelle Biele (LA ’91), Sara Carnahan (LA ’11), Rose Chaffee-Cohen (LA ’03), Daniel Coplon-Newfield (LA ’96), Matthew Heberger (GSE ’03), Adam Joyce (LA ’08), Lauren Jubelirer (LA ’86), Meg Luthin (LA ’07), Ryan Clapp (LA ’12), Benjamin M. Smith (LA ’02) and Daniel Wong (LA ’09).
We speak in one voice to the Tufts students of today: we urge you to support the referendum taking place on campus this week to support Tufts’ divestment from the coal, oil and gas companies that are causing catastrophic climate change.
Climate change is already causing destruction around the world in the form of storms, fires, floods, drinking water shortages and food insecurity. These problems affect the global poor first and worst, and if we continue to emit carbon pollution at the current pace, we will create an uninhabitable and unsustainable planet.
Many of Tufts’ students, alumni, faculty and staff are working hard to solve these problems. Active citizenship and global leadership are core Tufts principles, and we’re proud that our community is working to help slow down climate change and adapt to the effects that are inevitable.
Tufts is an institutional leader in sustainability as well. In 1990, President Jean Meyer brought 22 universities together and created the Talloires Declaration, a commitment to global leadership in sustainability. Given Tufts’ strong record of sustainability, it would be disappointing to us as alumni if the school continues to invest in the companies destroying our planet in order to fuel their own growth.
Thankfully, there is precedent for Tufts to divest: in 1994, after a two-year student campaign convening dozens of institutions, the Tufts Trustees divested $2 million from Hydro-Quebec, a company that polluted thousands of square miles in and around James Bay in Canada. If Tufts could divest from a company polluting a single bay, should the school not also divest from companies that are poisoning our entire planet? At the same time they divested from Hydro-Quebec, after years of divestment in protest against the human rights abuses of the apartheid system, the Trustees decided to re-invest in South Africa. A modern-day decision to divest from major fossil fuel polluters would be in keeping with Tufts’ history of periodically shifting its investments to reflect societal issues and Tufts values.
Our endowment and investments are a reflection of our character. Promoting sustainability on campus while continuing to support the fossil fuel industry financially is no longer justifiable. The fossil fuel industry has spent millions of dollars promoting bogus science to downplay climate change. They are not a credible negotiating partner in the effort to mitigate climate change and adapt our society to its effects. To fail to take a stand on this issue is not an option. It is an abdication of leadership and a luxury we cannot afford.
As alumni, we want Tufts to build on its legacy of global leadership, environmental stewardship and engaged citizenship. We want Tufts to be the place where we can make our annual donations as alumni, secure in the knowledge that those donations are being invested in ethical and sustainable ways.
Divestment would be a new cornerstone to Tufts’ history of environmental leadership. Tufts has been on the forefront of so many important causes — it ought be in the forefront of this one too. We urge our fellow Tufts students today to help our school live up to its proud legacy of sustainability. It is the right thing to do, not only to preserve the planet for our children, but also as stewards of the University’s legacy.
Andrew Hastings-Black is a 2008 graduate of the School of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at email@example.com. Martin Bourqui is a 2009 graduate of the School of Arts and Sciences. Gina Coplon-Newfield is a 1996 graduate of the School of Arts and Sciences. David Pomerantz is a 2007 graduate of the School of Arts and Sciences. Alex Sugerman-Brozan is a 1994 graduate of the School of Arts and Sciences.