By Gina Atwood, Mindy Bell, Patrick Dunleavy, Rebecca Hahn, Britta Johnson, Brett Smith and Ben Stiegler – October 20, 2022
It can be difficult, in the midst of the climate crisis, to focus on the good things. Lands are flooding, forests are burning, deserts are spreading, climate refugees are increasing, entire species are disappearing and lies about climate change abound. These realities make it almost impossible to find hope.
The danger, when we focus on the bad, is that we may start to believe that things can never change. Yet we know that our duty as citizens, as friends, as humans is to confront the crisis and to do our part to build a better future. If we are to take action, we must have hope.
The alumni and students of Divest Carleton seek to operate from and build on hope: the hope that the many global movements aimed at the climate crisis, including divestment campaigns, will produce a better world. Based on that hope, for the last several years we have been calling on Carleton to divest its endowment from fossil fuels. We’ve found that by doing this work, we grow our own hope.
We learn that we are not alone. As the years go by and the effects of climate change grow ever more obvious, the support for divestment also grows. 244 alums added their voices to the petition at Reunion this summer. Divest Carleton students have gathered several hundred signatures from classmates in just one year. Altogether, 3,721 students, alumni and friends of the college have called on Carleton to divest from fossil fuels. These supporters have written letters to the Board of Trustees, created Youtube videos, posted on social media, marched, talked to their fellow classmates, organized panels, researched, created handouts and on and on. Alone, any one of us would have faltered. Together, we are strong.
Hope also comes from seeing the difference we can make. When our fellow liberal arts colleges — Pitzer, Lewis & Clark, Whitman, Middlebury, Macalester, Wellesley, Smith, Amherst, Reed, St. Olaf, Wesleyan, Vassar, Mt. Holyoke — decide to exit fossil fuels, we find hope in our similarities. If they can do it, so can we! Likewise, with every step we take, from increasing awareness of climate change in the Carleton community to building positive connections with the decision makers of the college, we learn we are making a difference. This births hope.
Finally, we find hope by seeking it. The 2022 climate bill (the Inflation Reduction Act) recently enacted does not solve the climate crisis, but it is the strongest attempt made by our government to act on it. This is a beginning, not an end. The climate protests that made headlines over the past few years have never stopped. Recently, Blame Wall Street protesters in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City and Chicago called on banks to stop funding fossil fuel projects. They may have a tough battle, but they are not giving up. The proliferation of fossil-free and ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) funds shows there is a growing understanding that values have a role to play in investing. We certainly haven’t figured out how to build a just, fair and ethical economy. Many of us are trying to take the first steps. This is hope.
Like ourselves, Carleton is not perfect. We hope that our college decides soon to divest from fossil fuels. We believe the right and the hopeful thing to do is to invest our money in the health of our planet. Carleton has done so much good in other ways. We would not have pressed this hard and for this long if we did not believe that. We are thrilled about the upcoming unveiling of the new sustainability plan that many in the Carleton community have been working diligently to bring to life. Their hard work and persistence give us hope.
It may be discouraging at times, but building a better world will require every one of us doing whatever we can in our own ways.
That is also where our greatest hope lies. A better world can be built by you. And us. And everyone.
Visit divestcarleton.com to learn how to get involved and to sign the petition.
On behalf of Divest Carleton Alumni: Gina Atwood ‘91, Mindy Bell ‘80, Patrick Dunlevy ‘72, Rebecca Hahn ‘09, Britta Johnson ‘97, Brett Smith ‘64, Ben Stiegler ‘77
Published in The Carletonian Viewpoint