Divestment: Marching towards a cleaner future

We call on Allegheny College to immediately freeze any new investment in fossil-fuel companies, and to divest within seven years from direct ownership and from any commingled funds that include fossil-fuel public equities and corporate bonds.

Why?

We, the divestment team at Allegheny College, have been meeting for several months now to discuss the possibility of Allegheny College joining the nationwide move for college campuses to divest entirely from the fossil fuel industry as a symbolic and financial move to spur our nation to change its infrastructure from one that relies on the fossil fuel industry to one that promotes a clean energy economy.  We have decided that it is time for us to join the fight, and we are joining over 300 other campuses, cities, religious groups and more.

The hope in this campaign is for mutual funds and investment institutions across the world to sell off stocks of fossil fuel companies— and, hopefully, reinvest in industries that are more socially and ethically just. There are two options of ways to pursue divestment: either withdrawing investments in fossil fuel companies, or re-investing in positive programs, specifically clean energy.

Divestment is a part in a movement for a powerful shift away from corrupt industries toward a cleaner future. We want the college to continue its pursuits to be climate neutral by 2020 by increasing efficiency, investing in wind and solar energy and geothermal heating along with other techniques to reduce our footprint. Along with this, however, divestment is another approach to create a momentum, media attention and hopefully an economic and political impact on the fossil fuel industry as the movement grows. Five colleges have already divested, as well as entire cities — such as Seattle, and for Allegheny to be on the map as a sustainable and green-minded institution we need to be part of this movement.  We cannot worry about how to market that we “ethically hydrofrack” in our research forest, if every other college with a sustainability program is getting national coverage for its involvement in what could be a world-changing divestment program.

The Trustees of a College are entrusted with fiduciary responsibility: that the operating budget is balanced and the long-term financial sustainability of the college is preserved. The presumed fear of many trustees is that these goals will be damaged by changing the endowment. However, we fear that the damage to our futures, the climate, the environment and our future livelihoods are threatened by our societies continued dependence on fossil fuels that not only contribute to climate change but also are polluting facilities and processes that disproportionately affect low-income and minority populations. We cannot continue in this path.

We believe that divesting on behalf of Allegheny College will not only be a sound decision for our institution’s financial portfolio, but also for the wellbeing of its current and future graduating classes, who deserve the opportunity to graduate with a future not defined by the inherent injustices that come with an industry that has been scientifically proven to create issues of health, societal injustice, and loss of biodiversity on a global scale.

We are proud of our institution’s dedication to solar, wind, geothermal heating, and efficiency retrofits as well as a dedicated interest in systems of sustainable agriculture, but feel strongly that as long as we continue to support the fossil fuel industry in such a direct manner these actions lose their weight and the college will lose credibility as a progressive and forward-thinking institution that actively demonstrates the ethics and values that it teaches.