Salem State saw compelling reasons to divest
Re Jeff Jacoby’s recent Opinion column “The shallow symbolism of fossil fuel divestment”: Salem State University’s divestment from fossil fuels was more than symbolism. Salem State is an institution of public higher education, preparing its students to be active participants in a complex global society. Our 2018 Board of Trustees’ decision to divest from fossil fuels was motivated by compelling reasons in three areas: scientific, financial, and educational leadership.
The science of climate change has informed us that we need to reduce our use of fossil fuels drastically in order to limit climate chaos. Divesting from fossil fuels is also financially prudent, since the science of climate change is clear that to prevent the most severe consequences, we cannot burn even half of the known reserves of fossil fuels. Divestment protects university assets from the looming carbon bubble and the stranded assets of the fossil fuel industry. As an institution of higher education, divesting from fossil fuels sends a powerful message that we must all be part of the change that is needed to tackle this crisis that will so dramatically affect our young people throughout their lifetime.
Jacoby implies that it is hypocritical to divest from fossil fuels and then use fossil fuels. This is a fallacy. We must act on many fronts at once. Salem State University has invested in energy efficiency projects, installed solar arrays on five buildings, brought green commuting options to campus, and dramatically increased the reach of its courses on climate change. In voting to divest, the board understood the practical limitations of its action, and yet not to have acted would have been inconsistent with its commitment to sustainable energy use on campus. We are investing in a livable future, not investing in a system that is destroying the earth.
Board of Trustees
Geography and Sustainability Department
Salem State University
Divesting is an empty gesture that leaves opportunities behind
Regarding the March 9 BostonGlobe.com article “Activists praise Brown for moving to divest from fossil fuels”: Instead of focusing on Brown University’s sustainability initiatives or the technological advances of energy companies, divestment activists once again have focused on an empty gesture.
The Brown Daily Herald reports that university president Christina H. Paxson “purposely stayed away from the language of divestment” in an effort to avoid making a politicized statement, and she has openly questioned its effectiveness as a policy tool. In 2013, Paxson wrote that “divestiture would not have a direct effect on the companies in question.” In February 2019, as Brown University announced an energy efficiency plan, Paxson again rejected divestment, stating it’s “not effective. I don’t see how it does any good. In some ways, if people think that that’s all they need to do, . . . it lets them off the hook.”
That reasoning is exactly why fellow Ivies like neighboring Harvard continue to reject divestment, with president Lawrence S. Bacow emphasizing both the need to work with industry and the role of the endowment “to support the institution, to support our students, and to support our faculty . . . not to accomplish some other ends.”
Energy producers are investing in technology that will fuel tomorrow. Divesting simply leaves opportunities behind in favor of an empty headline.
Senior vice president of operations and public affairs
Independent Petroleum Association of America