An urgent plea for Bowdoin divestment
Dear President Rose,
In advance of your visit to Seattle’s alumni gathering next month, I’d like to welcome you to our beautiful “Emerald City.” As always, I am grateful for my Bowdoin experience and continue to pay that forward, seeking “the common good” in these times of great challenge for our world.While many these days are preoccupied with our presidential election, it is the cumulative action of every world citizen that is the primary force for social change. On that note, I wish to explain why I will be passing out orange squares symbolic of the fossil fuel divestment movement to my fellow alumni during your upcoming visit. It is morally and ecologically imperative that Bowdoin join the growing fossil fuel divestment movement, now estimated at 2.6 trillion dollars as of a year ago, a 50-fold increase in just one year.
One year ago, nations at the Paris Climate Accord agreed on the need to limit global warming by two degrees celsius. In less than a year we have burned through 1.5 degrees celsius, 75 percent of our budget. The Great Barrier Reef is nearly dead. Fossil fuels need to stay in the ground. It’s clear that our nation and world need to transition quickly to a carbon free energy economy and that business as usual is not an option if we are to avert the Sixth Great Extinction which could include humans within the next few generations.
Divestment is not simply a matter of averting the extreme impacts of climate change; it is a matter of life or death for black, brown and red people as they are the peoples most heavily impacted by hurricanes, floods, fires, droughts and pipeline ruptures. Eleven years ago, I went to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, joining Acupuncturists Without Borders, a Bowdoin led effort in the acupuncture profession, to support the healing of a city and to bear witness. While colleges and organizations in places and positions of privilege contemplate the pros and cons of divestment, people of color in places of pre-existing economic hardship are bearing the full brunt of climate catastrophes now in body counts and socioeconomic disruption to their lives.
I was also in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010, offering acupuncture and bearing witness to that country’s hardship. Less than a month ago, Hurricane Matthew devastated that country and as of a few days ago, over a thousand deaths have been recorded, with 1.4 million people still in need of humanitarian aid. Category five hurricanes in October are the new normal in the age of rising ocean temperatures.
In Standing Rock, N.D., Americans are peacefully gathering even as the brutal winter approaches, protecting the fresh water supply of the nation’s heartland from a fossil fuel industry that has employed security forces with attack dogs, mace and brutal gestapo-like tactics. Journalists have been arrested for exposing the ugly underbelly of tar sands oil operations while indigenous people peacefully stand their ground on unceded tribal lands.I understand that you are teaching a first year seminar on Moral Leadership this semester at Bowdoin. This topic could not be more timely. Please heed the ecological and financial warnings that are omnipresent. Urge the Trustees to divest from fossil fuels. As you are aware, Bowdoin’s divestment would not impact its ability to offer financial aid. With just over one percent of Bowdoin’s endowment invested in fossil fuels, there are virtually no financial risks to divestment, only potential gains as even credit agencies are now questioning the viability of fossil fuel investments.
Thank you for your service to the College. I sincerely look forward to meeting you.
Jordan Van Voast is a member of the Class of 1981.
Divestment: Global warming is not a winner-take-all game
As students and professors prepare for the final push to finish another year at Bowdoin, and administrators led by President Barry Mills tend to the business of running an elite liberal arts college with a centuries-old reputation of excellence, what’s all this fuss being made over divestment? Or rather, given that the independent scientific community globally, including those at NASA, is practically unanimous in concluding that global warming is an extremely urgent planetary emergency, why aren’t people making a bigger fuss?
A review of recent articles in the Orient reveals a paucity of debate—only a handful of people have become involved, all generally in favor of divestment, trading verbal jabs with a cadre of anonymous screen names who may well be on the payroll of Koch Industries or the American Petroleum Institute.
Without repeating in full the cogent analysis of my classmate, Scott Budde ’81, in his February 13 Orient op-ed, I echo his conviction that a transparent discussion needs to occur between the Administration, the members of the Bowdoin Climate Action Committee, and the larger Bowdoin community. So far, the students urging divestment have been politely dismissed, with President Mills sidestepping the moral indefensibility of his position: