Eleanor Adachi ‘17, Mckenna Eckerline ‘18J, Eliana Gevelber ‘19 and Emily Hitchcock ‘19
Spring is here, and if you have spent time laying out on Chapin Lawn recently, you may have noticed an installation of orange flags. If the display peaked your curiosity, you may have taken a closer look to see statements about climate change and Smith’s relationship with fossil fuels. One crucial point followed these facts and figures: time is up.
Divest Smith College has been campaigning for almost five years, and since Oct. 2015, the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility has been commissioned with evaluating the morality of Smith’s investments. After a long wait, the board of trustees will hopefully review a recommendation from the ACIR on May 4 regarding our financial holdings in fossil fuels. We need to ensure that the ACIR and the board make the right decision for climate justice. We must ask whose side we are on: the side of destructive and politically corrupt corporations or the side of democracy and justice?
Individual sustainability practices are not enough to reverse climate change. Our allies at Go Fossil Free call on us to, “loosen the grip that coal, oil, and gas companies have on our government and financial markets,” and “to go right to the root of the problem – the fossil fuel companies.” Smith has divested before, and we can do it again. The hard work of students led to divestment from South African Apartheid in the 1980’s, Big Tobacco in 2000 and companies operating in Sudan in 2006 during the genocide. Divesting will by no means bankrupt fossil fuel companies, end climate change or ensure justice for all, but it will call out morally egregious companies in a language they understand: money. This action will send a powerful message that the corrupt practices of the fossil fuel industry are unacceptable and that Smith will not continue to support them.
Smith prides itself on educating “Women for the World,” but does this mission only apply to the white, wealthy and educated few? Or does it truly prioritize all women, including women of color, the poor and others whom climate change and the fossil fuel industry disproportionately impact? From one look at Smith’s mission statement and core values, it is clear that profiting from financial returns on fossil fuel companies’ exploitation of our political system, of our communities and of our environment is hypocritical to those moral guidelines.
Some skeptics view divestment itself as hypocritical due to our continued operational dependence on fossil fuels. However, our community is not standing idly by as climate change brews. Smith has already committed to go carbon neutral by 2030, and earlier this semester, the board released the Study Group on Climate Change report with a vast array of recommendations for how Smith can best address climate change. Fossil fuel divestment stands among these suggestions for the ACIR and the board to consider. Adopting new campus-wide and climate-conscious guidelines while continuing to profit from fossil fuel companies is hypocritical.
For far too long, the board and Smith’s investment manager, Investure, have made financial decisions behind closed doors. Smithies are known for questioning authority and fighting injustice, but right now we have no autonomy over the practices that finance our education. DSC seeks to claim the right of Smith students, staff, faculty and alumnae to have a say in how we invest our money. We call for transparency in our college’s finances, and we reject profits from harmful companies. We aspire to pursue democracy on a campus-wide scale and to build the community’s capacity to ensure that harmful investments have no place in our endowment.
Now is the time to take action. With climate deniers occupying the highest public offices, it is clear that the fossil fuel industry holds more power than ever and that we can no longer rely on our government to make socially and environmentally responsible decisions for us. At a time when so many of us feel powerless, we are ignoring the opportunity we have to make a change here at Smith. We proudly state in our values that, “Smith creates global citizens, committed to participating in the communities in which they live and to stewarding the resources that sustain them.” Community members who do not support our unjust fossil fuel holdings need to speak out in order to live up to this value. Divest Smith College calls on the Smith community to:
Demand that the ACIR and the Smith College Board of Trustees divest from the fossil fuel industry, especially from companies that deny climate science and/or refuse to take action toward a renewable future.
Join in public actions that Divest Smith College holds to achieve this goal.
To sign our petition, keep an eye out for us tabling outside the Campus Center.