At Carleton’s May 21, 2021, convocation, Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson made an explicit appeal for Carleton to divest its endowment from fossil fuels.
The college was celebrating the significant achievement of shutting off its steam heating plant and switching to its new geothermal system. Many congrats to everyone who has worked so hard to make that happen!
The moderator of the talk asked Dr. Johnson what Carleton’s next steps might be toward increasing sustainability. You can listen to her answer on Carleton’s convocation website, linked above, starting at 28:43. Or read the transcript of that exchange below:
Moderator: Through wind energy and geothermal and other campus advancements, Carleton has cut its carbon footprint in half over the last decade. But acknowledging that sustainability work at Carleton is not done yet, what are your suggestions for engaging a broader campus community and strengthening the community that we already have?
Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson: Well, first, congratulations. This is a really exciting milestone and I’m glad to be here when you’re celebrating that and be a part of that. I think academic institutions have such an important role to play in leading by example. We’ve seen that time and time again with all sorts of different social movements. The ways that, especially with pressure from students, universities have stepped up in a variety of ways, whether that’s around apartheid or other elements of social justice and sustainability.
So kudos to Carleton.
And I guess I would say I meant to look this up and it crossed my mind and then I forgot. But has Carleton divested its endowment from fossil fuels? Because that’s a really big one.
Moderator: Not completely yet, no.
AEJ: Not yet, so I know this is something that a lot of universities are doing and there’s more and more information on the financial benefits of doing that. That because fossil fuel companies are not doing well right now, you actually earn a better return if they’re not part of your portfolio. So I think that hesitance has often been around people being nervous about the financial impacts of that decision, but that’s no longer a factor. So for the students who are listening who want to push for that, that is a very important use of your energy and your voices certainly matter hugely in that regard.
Thank you, Dr. Johnson, for the support!