Updated 10/29/12 4:53 p.m.
To the Editors:
The passing of former senator, author, and historian George McGovern a few days ago reminded me of a quotation etched above my high school’s guidance office.
“The highest patriotism,” McGovern said, “is not a blind acceptance of official policy, but a love of one’s country deep enough to call her to a higher standard.”
Replace “country” with “college,” and you’ll find that sentiment fits the purpose of this letter.
I love Bowdoin, maybe not enough to wear a polar bear pin on my lapel everyday, but enough to use those liberal arts-borne critical thinking skills in asking the College a few questions.
If we are planning to reach carbon neutrality by 2020—as per Barry Mills’ signing of the Presidents’ Climate Commitment in 2007—why does Bowdoin (according to its very own Climate Neutrality Implementation Plan) “not have any plans” to replace its on-campus natural gas heating plant? Beholden as we Bowdoin students are to the liberal arts, we all know that as a fossil fuel, natural gas comes from carbon—so its effect on the climate is far from neutral.
Further, in which fossil fuel companies does Bowdoin invest? Sadly, this question is not “does Bowdoin invest in fossil fuel companies.” Although the College’s stock portfolio is confidential, Katy Longley, Bowdoin’s senior vice president for finance and administration, told me that we do indeed invest in at least some dirty energy conglomerates that oppose carbon neutrality. Well, our nearly billion-dollar endowment has to come from somewhere.
I am not the only one asking these questions. Two hundred students have now signed my petition for divestment and renewable energy. While we applaud the work of the administration in making climate change a priority, we also challenge the school to fully embrace true carbon neutrality. Therefore, we call upon the administration to divest from dirty fossil fuels by spring 2013 and to shut down the natural gas plant to transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2020.
In this, I again find myself in good company. Here’s what our rightly esteemed President Mills said five years ago:
“Global warming is one of the defining challenges of our time...Human activities are responsible for the problem, and working together humans have the ability to help solve the problem. That means taking serious action today to stop adding global warming pollution to the atmosphere. Bowdoin College is committed to helping lead the way.”
Let’s make sure we are, sir.
Matthew Goodrich ’15
Update 10/29/12: To clarify, when I met with Katy Longley, she indicated that the holdings in the College’s endowment were confidential and that the endowment may include some energy company holdings. She did not state that the College invests in dirty energy conglomerates that oppose carbon neutrality. I want to make it clear that I was not quoting her.
Moving forward, questions still remain: what is Bowdoin hiding in keeping its endowment confidential? Which energy companies does Bowdoin invest in? Are our tuition dollars helping to fund coal, gas, oil, and climate change? We students look forward to learning this information from President Mills and working with the administration to do the right thing and divest from dirty energy.