Julie C. Keller
Art History and East Asian Studies
Environmental Studies Program
I recently (less than a year ago) stepped down from four years of service as a trustee on the Board of Trustees at Cornell University. For several years while a trustee there, we heard arguments from faculty and students about divestment of the endowment from fossil fuels. While a trustee, I could appreciate arguments for and against this form of divestment. The specific proposal for divestment at Oberlin College will not have an adverse effect on the endowment; to claim otherwise is simply disingenuous. Perhaps one of the chief advantages of this proposal is that it brands Oberlin as a “green” school. Of course, Oberlin has done much to brand itself in this light previously, but I am sure any trustee can appreciate (as I did) that it never hurts to have additional publicity that highlights aspects of the institution that will attract more of the best and brightest students and faculty to its ranks.
Climate change is a moral issue and a social justice issue. As such, Oberlin has an obligation to take a strong stand. Climate change could be considered the most far reaching and devastating act of racism ever perpetuated. Rich white members of industrialized nations (primarily the US) reap enormous benefits now that will be largely paid for by the poor and marginalized (primarily people of color) all over the world. Many of these people will lose their homelands (as low-lying islands sink into the sea), their livelihood (as shifting weather patterns make agriculture on their lands impossible), their access to water (as droughts become more common) and their lives (as extreme events like flooding occur more often). These consequences will affect all of us, but the worst effects will not be evenly distributed among all peoples.
M. Jafar Mahallati
Investment in the fossil fuel industry materially contributes to the civil strife, disease, drought, destruction of homelands, forced migration, and other consequences of climate change that shock the conscience.
How will we be judged when future generations ask us what we did to help save our planet and we say we could not afford to disinvest in the corporations peddling fossil fuels? How can we afford not to?
Rhetoric and Composition
H N Hirsch
It’s about time.
Rhetoric and Composition
Our carbon footprint will be our primary legacy in both the immediate and distant future. The College relies heavily on its reputation as a leader in sustainability to recruit students, faculty and donors. The student document clearly shows that, not only if this the only ethical path forward given our projected image, but it also makes financial sense in the long run…. to carefully transition to a smaller footprint before we are forced to do it by more draconian measures. Clearly this is the only ethical and economic path forward.
Chemistry and Biochemistry and Environmental Studies
ENVS and CAST
Fossil fuels create environmental injustice at every stage of the process of development: for the communities where they are mined; for the communities where they are processed; and for the communities most vulnerable to climate change when they are burned. As an institution committed to social justice, Oberlin should disinvest from fossil fuels and find alternatives that do not cause damage to anyone’s home or to the global commons of air, water, and soil.
Politics and East Asian Studies
I hope Oberlin will be out in front, where it belongs, on this growing international movement to save the planet for my grandchildren and their grandchildren. It’s way past time we stopped relying on (and being) dinosaurs and relied instead on ourselves.
John E. Petersen
Environmental Studies and Biology
In 2004 Oberlin College adopted a comprehensive environmental policy that called for a move towards zero net emissions of greenhouse gasses. The Committee on Environmental Sustainability was created through a motion by the General Faculty of Oberlin in 2006 with the express purpose of overseeing implementation of this environmental policy. In that same year the college was the first of our peer institutions to make this commitment to “carbon neutrality” formal through the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment. This commitment has now been endorsed by two presidents and by the Oberlin Trustees. In 2008 Oberlin college set a date of 2025 for achieving carbon neutrality. It is inconsistent for Oberlin College to establish formal policy and procedures to reduce campus emissions to zero while, and at the same time, using profits obtained through investments in fossil fuel companies to operate the college. The current situation teaches the implicit lesson to our students and to the larger world that the ethics we apply to teaching, learning and campus operations do not apply to financial investment. This needs to be corrected.