BREAKING: Board of Trustees to vote on divestment in February

By Aldo Polanco, Managing Editor, on October 31, 2022

On Monday, October 31, President Alison Byerly confirmed that following an informal discussion on Friday, the Board of Trustees agreed to vote on divestment in their February session. In an interview with the Carletonian, Byerly stated: “I think [trustees] are very aware and have been for some time of the strong community feeling [regarding divestment]. And so, certainly the students who were protesting this weekend gave specific visibility to it. But this discussion we started more than a year ago and [the decision] was after several years of their feeling a growing tide of interest in the community.” The announcement comes after a weekend full of events from students pushing for the vote. 

As of now, Byerly announced the decision to the Carleton Responsible Investments Committee as well as the College Council. She is expected to make the formal announcement on Thursday’s edition of Carleton Today.

Published in Breaking News and News of The Carletonian

Oberlin joins ranks of 76 US Colleges & Universities publicly pledged to divest from fossil fuels

Oberlin, OH; October 30, 2022

The student- and alumni-led Oberlin Fossil Fuel Divestment Working Group comments on a milestone resolution by Oberlin’s Board of Trustees.

The Board of Trustees of Oberlin College and Conservatory at their October 2022 meeting publicly pledged to the “orderly divestiture of investment funds related to fossil fuel development.”  Oberlin thus joins 1500+ institutions worldwide who have divested over $40 trillion in assets from fossil fuels. They include 76 of Oberlin’s US sister institutions of higher education.[1]  “This is a very important milestone,” commented John Petersen, Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Biology at Oberlin. “The recent decision to make this divestment commitment formal and public sends a message to the world that Oberlin views a fossil fuel free global economy as central to the education and survival of future generations.”  Read the complete resolution.

The Board’s decision was greeted with enthusiasm by climate activists outside the Oberlin community as well.  Bill McKibben, Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and perhaps the nation’s leading environmentalist, said, “Oberlin has been such a standout in the field of environmental studies—and now it is walking the talk in a powerful way. Many thanks to the students, faculty, and alumni who have persevered for many years to make this happen; that kind of persistence will be key in all the climate fights that lie ahead.”

Oberlin for decades has been recognized for its national and global leadership in significant responses to the climate crisis. In 2006, Oberlin was the first of its peer institutions to formally commit to a zero-carbon campus. It is now nearing conclusion of a major Sustainability Infrastructure Program that will make the entire campus carbon-neutral by 2025.  At the same time, it has quietly and significantly reduced its fossil fuel investment.  

The latest wave of alumni, faculty and student advocacy began in early 2022 with the formation of the Oberlin Fossil Fuel Divestment Working Group. Months of research, analysis, and communication with divestment activists at other universities, notably Harvard, resulted in a May 2022 Call for Oberlin’s Board of Trustees to Link Divestment from Fossil Fuels to its Commitment to a Carbon Neutral Campus by 2025.  Read the full statement:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/1KU6mrkfQphXzehWh7QhWCeVX2qQzFY-L/view?usp=sharing)

The Call underlined the importance of a public pledge“The mega-corporations whose profits depend on fossil fuel extraction show no sign of stopping the machine that is driving life on this planet to the brink,” the Working Group wrote. “Their economic and political power is, on the face of it, unmatchable. It is only through collective action, such as the divestment movement, that there is a chance to stop it.”  In short, the group urged Oberlin to take on a larger responsibility, one that took a stand commensurate with the existential threat facing the planet. 

The Working Group congratulates the Board of Trustees on their critical resolution and thanks the Oberlinians who joined the Fossil Fuel Divestment campaign.  It does so with love for the rising generations of Oberlin students and to express its deepest concern for the unjust burden that is placed on the world’s poorest people.  

# # #

Contact: Steering Committee for the Oberlin Fossil Fuel Divestment Working Group

Sue Kerr Chandler ’65, chandler@unr.edu, 775 229-2933

Molly Niles Cornell ’65, mollycornell@comcast.net, 508 274-8843

Sylvia Lotspeich Greene ’65, slotspeichgreene@yahoo.com, 978 809-4409

Sally St.John Volkert  , sallyvolkert@gmail.com, 303 386-2705


[1] Global Fossil Fuel Commitments Data Base, https://divestmentdatabase.org/.

Hope in a World on Fire: a Divest Carleton message

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

A Personal Story of Divestment

by Catherine Suter, October 20, 2022

As Carleton Trustees weigh the pros and cons of divesting the College’s endowment from fossil fuels, I want to share the thought process behind my own decision to divest.

I am a great-great-granddaughter of Lauren J. Drake, president of Standard Oil of Indiana (later Amoco, now part of BP) and director of Standard Oil of New Jersey (later Esso, now part of ExxonMobil). When my father died a few years ago, my brothers and I inherited the remainder of ExxonMobil stock that had been passed down through Drake’s daughter, my great-grandmother. It was not a lot, but it was a family legacy. Thus, I was presented with a conundrum: 

Do I keep the stock for sentimental reasons?

Do I benefit from the shares’ skyrocketing value?

Could I be okay with earning money off a company that has and continues to lie, mislead and destroy so much?

Can a single person’s divestment make any real difference?

I had an endless supply of questions like and beyond these.

Ultimately, the decision was easy because my gut knew. I sold the stock. I put the proceeds toward an electric car and felt a big relief, I must say. But it took me a while to find good answers to the questions, and I still question what my best course of action, given my values, is almost daily.

Here is a list of truths that I have found:

  • I’m enormously privileged to “suffer” such a conundrum, to have choices like these in my life. Thank you, great-great-grandfather Drake, for providing our family with so much. I strive to use my privilege for good and not hinder my motivation with shame or guilt.
  • To judge my great-great-grandfather’s work with today’s knowledge is unfair.
  • To feel that I cannot disagree with the oil companies because I have benefited leaves no room for progress.
  • I vehemently oppose ExxonMobil and many other (but not all) natural resource extraction companies on environmental, ethical and economic grounds. I want nothing to do with their profits, even if my daily life depends in some part on them.
  • There’s more than one way to invest wisely.
  • I am one person, no more and no less. I make decisions and interact with others every day. Living by my principles gives me internal peace, and is an important tone in my cacophonous community.

Divestment is what I chose, in my circumstances at the time. And the work continues: I still struggle with both what to do with my privilege and how to make a meaningful impact regarding climate change and environmental degradation. But I never once have doubted my decision to divest.

What will you do with this story? Activism can be complicated, but if you’re sympathetic, you’ve got options. Join me in calling on the Carleton Board of Trustees to divest from fossil fuels and the banks that support them. Further, websites like http://www.fossilfreefunds.org can tell you how your 401(k), retirement plan and other investments measure up vis-à-vis climate impact. The ‘B corp’ designation indicates if a company meets social and environmental sustainability criteria. Keep in mind that publicly-traded fossil fuel companies, as odious as they may be, represent only a fraction of the world’s oil extraction and, also, only the supply side of oil, not the demand for it. We have a lot to do to find a sustainable balance on this planet, and a next step that people — especially those of us with privilege — can take is to address industries that have outsized carbon footprints (e.g. cement, air travel, aluminum). Wherever you are in your motivation to address climate change, keep it going! We all, as individuals and as communities like Carleton, have a role.

Alumni and students who have not already signed the petition calling on Carleton to divest its endowment from fossil fuel companies can do so at bit.ly/DivestCarleton. For more information about Divest Carleton, go to https://divestcarleton.com.

Published in The Carletonian Viewpoint

Reunion 2022!

Divest Carleton was well represented at this year’s June and August reunions. We gathered hundreds of new signatures, spread awareness of our campaign, and proudly waved our flags at the Parade of Classes! THANK YOU to everyone who tabled, created swag, organized, raised funds, signed, or brought by friends to sign. It’s great to see such enthusiasm as we build momentum toward a divestment decision.

Divest Carleton alumni letter to President Byerly and Carleton Trustees

April 27, 2022 

Dear President Byerly and Carleton Trustees: 

As the alumni of Divest Carleton, we echo the support for an official Carleton plan for fossil fuel divestment expressed by Divest Carleton students and the Carleton Responsible Investment Committee (CRIC). Below are our additional thoughts on how the College might implement such a plan and why we believe fossil fuel divestment is in Carleton’s best interest and aligns with its values. 

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BIG NEWS! Carleton Board to consider divestment this May. PLEASE TAKE ACTION!

Carleton’s Board of Trustees meets May 12-14, and for the first time in many years, divesting Carleton’s endowment from fossil fuels is on the agenda. Divest Carleton needs your help to demonstrate the broad support this issue has from alumni and students.

We’re asking divestment supporters to send an email (or letter, if you can) to key decision makers in advance of the meeting. Your personal, heartfelt message is the most effective way to show the Board that Carleton has prepared us to “lead lives of learning” and “to be of service to humanity.” And in service to humanity, we urge the Board to ensure that Carleton’s $1.1 billion endowment is secured in investments that are aligned with the values Carleton instills in its students.

Send your messages to:

Sample message:

My name is _____, and I am (an alum / a student) of the class of ___. I am writing to request that you support divesting Carleton’s endowment from fossil fuel companies.

I feel strongly that it’s time for Carleton to follow many of its peer institutions and publicly commit to divesting from companies that extract and exploit fossil fuels. 

The burden of climate change falls hardest on citizens of the developing world and the young. In other words, on those who have done the least damage. This makes climate change a human rights issue on an almost unimaginable scale, and it demands immediate and forceful action.

>>This is a great spot to insert a message on your personal experiences with climate change. Among our students and alumni, we have people whose lives have been touched by hurricanes, wildfires, floods and drought, events that have been exacerbated by climate change. Let the Board know that this is not abstract for you.

Thank you very much for considering this issue. Carleton needs to bring its investment policy in line with the values demonstrated by its commitment to a carbon-neutral campus. I believe that divestment from fossil fuels is the right choice for the future of Carleton’s endowment and will help ensure a better planet for current and future graduating classes.

Sincerely,

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