STEVEN SYRE is right in saying that divesting from coal is a symbolic act, but what he fails to realize is that symbols matter. Symbols allow us to easily identify complicated concepts, whether it be a cross for Christianity, a flag for a country, or facial movements communicating emotions. Divestment shows us that institutions are truly committed to addressing climate change, not just through words but action.
Coal company CEOs have tried to portray their industry as an American cornerstone in need of protection, especially in the face of plummeting profits and increasing social stigmatization. When institutions like MIT and Stanford choose to divest, they show coal for what it really is: a dirty, dangerous menace that kills thousands of people and ruins our climate. The stakeholders at institutions which have chosen to divest from coal will push their decision-makers to go one step further and divest from all fossil fuels.