LTE: Refusal To Divest Will Harm Future Students

The crisis of planetary climate change is the most significant problem that humans have ever encountered. And we don’t have much time to turn things around. BC students and their children and grandchildren will live in a very different world if we fail.  If we continue in a “business as usual” mode, climate scientists predict more extreme weather resulting in floods, droughts, failed crops, more disease, climate refugees, and more disputes (aka: wars) over land and water. Millions of people living in poverty and adding the least to climate changing pollution will bear the brunt of the effects of our excess-an injustice we are called to address.  The urgency of the issue requires immediate action.  However, because as Americans we are embedded in a culture that touts materialism and independence, and because we are governed to an unsettling degree by elected officials with a goal of being re-elected (funded by corporate lobbyists) rather than promoting the common good, we have done very little to address the major cause of our climate predicament-the extraction, processing, and burning of fossil fuels.

The crisis of planetary climate change is the most significant problem that humans have ever encountered. And we don’t have much time to turn things around. BC students and their children and grandchildren will live in a very different world if we fail.  If we continue in a “business as usual” mode, climate scientists predict more extreme weather resulting in floods, droughts, failed crops, more disease, climate refugees, and more disputes (aka: wars) over land and water. Millions of people living in poverty and adding the least to climate changing pollution will bear the brunt of the effects of our excess-an injustice we are called to address.  The urgency of the issue requires immediate action.  However, because as Americans we are embedded in a culture that touts materialism and independence, and because we are governed to an unsettling degree by elected officials with a goal of being re-elected (funded by corporate lobbyists) rather than promoting the common good, we have done very little to address the major cause of our climate predicament-the extraction, processing, and burning of fossil fuels.

In response to comments from Mr. Jack Dunn, Director of the Boston College Office of News & Public Affairs, in regard to BC Fossil Free’s request for the Board of Trustees to divest BC’s endowment from fossil fuel interests, I find Mr. Dunn’s suggestion to focus on campus sustainability rather than divestment to be inadequate (“Resolution Calls For Divestment: BC Fossil Free And Senate Urge BC To Divest From Fossil Fuels,” 3/21).  While efforts to reduce energy use on campus are entirely admirable and necessary, the climate crisis requires far more radical actions in proportion to the serious nature of the problem.

A university endowment fund invested in fossil fuel interests for the benefit of future students and programs is an oxymoron-how can we risk harm to future students and the physical plant by choosing investments that result in more carbon being poured into the atmosphere? In addition, at a more pragmatic level, financial advisors are beginning to question the future returns from fossil fuel related stocks. If more enlightened government regulations are instituted (such as a carbon tax, more required energy efficiency, or support for renewable energy development), the demand for oil, coal, and natural gas would fall as would the economic return on their stocks.

I’m very proud of the student members of BC Fossil Free. In the Jesuit tradition, they have a strong sense of and commitment to social and environmental justice, as witnessed by the petition on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BCFossilFree. Similar student groups at over 300 universities (including Fordham, Holy Cross, Fairfield, and Georgetown) are asking to meet with administrators about divestment from fossil fuel interests.  As Mr. Dunn states, “Placing restrictions on investments is rare and requires a clear and compelling case that a company is engaged in practices opposed to the moral and ethical principles guiding Boston College.”  I urge President Leahy and the Board of Trustees to enter into dialogue with students, faculty and alumni who strongly believe that a compelling case can be made to limit the University’s participation in climate disruption due to their support of fossil fuel corporations. At some universities, such as Harvard, Boards of Trustees have met with student groups to discuss the possibility of gradually divesting from fossil fuel stocks.  I believe this discussion needs to happen at BC of all places, an institution whose website claims that its investments reflect “the ethical, social, and moral principles inherent in its mission and heritage.”

This is the time of year when class gifts are being requested by the BC Office of Development.  In my case, I’m a member of the 50th anniversary class. I never thought much before about how my contributions to BC are invested in order to benefit future students and programs. But now I would like to know.

Frances Ludwig

BC ’63