In 2019, we have added 264 new names to the alumni divestment petition, for a current total of 1610! These include several current students as well as Carleton family and friends, in addition to 245 alumni. 1509 living alumni, representing 68 class years, have now signed the petition.
We thought it would be interesting to do an analysis of which classes currently have the most signatures on the petition and which added the most names over the last year. We hope this encourages you to reach out to your classmates and friends to join our movement! The stronger we get, the louder our voice, and the more of an impact we can make in pushing Carleton to divest its endowment from fossil fuels.
Prior to this month’s Carleton Board of Trustees meeting, we are writing to update you on recent developments in the Divest Carleton alumni movement, which continues to gain momentum and to support and partner with student actions on campus.
In the last year, we have added nearly 300 signatures to the alumni petition, for a current total of 1595. This includes 1496 living alumni signatures: over 5% of the entire population, representing 68 classes.
These alumni make their interest in divestment known in multiple ways. Since Carleton missed this June’s deadline to divest its endowment from fossil fuels, $2418.13 was distributed from the Carleton College Fossil Free Fund to the nonprofit environmental organizations 350.org and MN350. This brings the total lifetime distributions from the fund to $9199.76, collected from 121 donations. The fund will remain open for further donations through the upcoming academic year, with its next due date set as June 2020. Its current balance sits at $2100.
At this year’s reunion, a concerned group of alumni organized a panel discussion on divestment from fossil fuels and socially responsible investing. It featured student, alumni, and faculty panelists speaking on topics such as the economics of Carleton’s endowment, the history of the Divest Carleton movement, and the role of the Carleton Responsible Investment Committee (CRIC) in the college’s ethical investing decisions.
This event filled the Goodhue Superlounge, with 88 audience members eagerly volunteering questions and comments throughout the hour and a half time slot.
As the Divest Carleton movement grows, so do the worldwide movements to divest and the wider awareness of the threat of climate change. So far, 1135 institutions with managed assets of $11.48 trillion have committed to divesting from fossil fuels. Recently, the entire University of California system joined their ranks, committing to divesting its $13 billion endowment and $70 billion pension. UC’s CIO and Investment Committee Chair stated: “We believe hanging onto fossil fuel assets is a financial risk.” Just this past Friday, Smith College announced that it would also divest its $1.9 billion endowment. Both the ethical and the safe choice, these days, is to divest from fossil fuel stocks.
Many Carleton students and alumni joined this September’s Global Climate Strike, which organizers estimate drew 7.6 million people into the streets to demand systemic action in response to climate change. These protesters and all the alumni, faculty, parents, staff, and students of Divest Carleton agree: the time to act is now. We invite you to read a recent Viewpoint article, submitted by alumni and students, on the ways in which the college can better address the climate emergency, including by divesting from fossil fuels.
Thank you for your time, and for all you do for Carleton. Please let us know if we can answer any questions.
The Divest Carleton alumni leadership team
Mindy Bell ‘80 Eleanor Haase ‘79 Rebecca Hahn ‘09 Maddie Halloran ‘14 David Loy ‘69 Kathryn Olney P’15 Peter Scheuermann ‘12 Dimitri Smirnoff ‘15 Brett Smith ‘64 Rev. Dwight Wagenius ‘64
Divestment is a powerful financial tool that reduces the flow of money to the fossil-fuel industry. The purchase of bonds directly finances the company’s exploration and development of new oil and gas reserves. These bonds are paid off by selling the oil and gas 10 to 30 years in the future. In the short term, the cost of borrowing for marginal projects such as Arctic oil may force their abandonment. Divestment also lowers the public’s demand for their stock, and thus decreases the company’s market value. The majority of executive pay is tied to the company’s stock price, and so top executives respond to the stock price in making decisions.
When investors invest in fossil-fuel companies whose value is partly
based on proved reserves, shareholders will suffer losses when stock
prices decline as they correctly incorporate the continually improved
competitiveness of noncarbon energy and the impact of potential stranded
assets on future company earnings. The stock market operates with
imperfect information as investors and companies make decisions based on
guestimates about the future stream of profits. Just as investors
compete to be the first to find a new growth industry, they compete to
be the first to jump out of a dying one. Divesting early protects our
pension and endowment funds.
Market returns for the energy sector have been relatively low
compared to other sectors. The cumulative total return to the energy
sector from the market peak (Oct 2007) to Dec 31, 2018 is -4.8 percent,
compared to the S&P 500 averaged return of 355 percent. The outlook
is ominous. A UK study predicts a global wealth loss of $1 trillion to
$4 trillion resulting from continued investments in fossil-fuel
discovery and extraction by countries, including the U.S., by 2035.
Leaders of over 30 central banks endorsed a report warning that a
massive reallocation of capital will be required to reduce greenhouse
For the past seven years, thousands of students, faculty, staff, and alumni have repeatedly urged UC to consider both the moral implications and financial dangers of continued fossil-fuel investments. Over the summer the UC faculty approved by 78 percent to recommend that the Regents divest the UC endowment from the top 200 fossil fuel companies. Consequently Jagdeep Bachher, Chief Investment Officer, and Regent Richard Sherman, Chair of the Investments Committee reported that after looking closely at their fossil-fuel assets, they decided that fossil-fuel assets are risky investments without compensating returns. The UC Regents announced divestment of all fossil-fuel investments, including stocks, bonds, and funds of all fossil-fuel companies and major suppliers, from its Endowment and Retirement portfolios, which total $83 billion. Plus UC has pledged to direct $1 billion in funding of alternative energy sources by 2020. At the Regent’s meeting, Bachher credited student activism for raising his awareness about the issue and said the students were his early warning system.
Divestment with reinvestment is one effective policy that
universities can use to preserve a functioning biosphere for future
generations. Students and faculty should continue their activities that
inform their university leaders that divestment is imperative for
financial, environmental, and moral reasons.
Professor of Economics
University of California at Berkeley
Professor of Radiology
University of California at San Diego
An Open Letter to the Carletonian, September 29, 2019
Earth is in the midst of a climate crisis. In July of this year, several higher education networks concerned with sustainability recognized this crisis by declaring a climate emergency. Carleton indirectly supported this emergency declaration as a member of Second Nature, a network of about 600 colleges and universities.
The organizations declaring a climate emergency simultaneously published a Climate Emergency Letter that they planned to give to government officials and the media before the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit in September. The organizations called on other networks and educational institutions around the world to join with them in signing the letter.
So far, despite appeals from dozens of alumni, President Poskanzer has refused to sign Carleton onto the emergency letter individually. We believe that signing the letter directly is important to reaffirm Carleton’s commitment to taking emergency action and to emphasize its awareness that climate change poses a threat to Carleton students. See the email to President Poskanzer and his response here.
But signing the letter is just the first step. We face a climate emergency, and Carleton’s response to date does not reflect that reality. Significant new action is required.
Carleton students and alumni from Northfield and beyond were active in the September 20th Global Climate Strikes.
Alumni Eleanor Haase, ’79, rallied at Northfield’s event which was encapsulated by this KYMN radio story. The collage of photos below are also from the story.
Alumni Jorde Ranum, ’15, marched in the Denver, Colorado Climate Strike!
Maddie Halloran, ’14, did her part in the Arcata, California Climate Strike!
Alumni Dwight Wagenius, ’64, checked in from the St. Paul, Minnesota strike with other members of the Mayflower UCC!
Alumni Mike Mullen, ’90, sent a photo of him marching with his sign at the Boston Event at City Hall Plaza. He reports: “With all the colleges and universities in the area, there was a good amount of focus on divestiture.” Thank you for that hopeful comment!
Alumni Mindy Bell, ’80, was one of the thousand plus participants in the Flagstaff Climate Strike. The energy was phenomenal and you can read the KNAU article and see some of the images from Ryan Heinsius below.
If you attended a strike please share your story and images to add to this blog! Send them to email@example.com. And if you want to experience more global hope, relish the amazing photos from worldwide marches in this CNN article.
On July 18, 2019, forty-seven Carleton alumni emailed a simple request to President Poskanzer.
Dear President Poskanzer,
We write to urge you to add Carleton’s name to a Climate Emergency Letter to be shared with key government officials and the media prior to this September’s UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit. This letter has been organized by the EAUC (the Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education), the UN Environment’s Youth and Education Alliance, and Second Nature. Carleton is a member of Second Nature’s Climate Leadership Network. Continue reading →
Do you want your five minutes of fame? Because WE WANT YOU! We are looking for short (aka SHORT) quotes and a photo of you (can be silly) for our Sunday Climate Quote of the Week on our Facebook page! Please send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Divest Carleton hosted a panel discussion in the Goodhue Superlounge that attracted 88 participants and generated great discussions.
The panel was moderated by Joel Weisberg, professor of physics and astronomy. Panelists included Daniel Groll, professor of philosophy and the faculty co-chair of the Carleton Responsible Investment Committee (CRIC); Aaron Swoboda, ’01, professor of environmental studies and economics; David Loy, ’69, author of Echodharma: Buddhist Teachings for the Ecological Crisis; Maddie Halloran, ’14, natural resources graduate student; and David Roizin, ’20, Divest Carleton student leader and economics major.
Divest Carleton is working to host another panel at the Reunion in June 2020. Contact Divest Carleton at email@example.com if you would like to assist in our efforts!