Should a Goddess Divest?
by RM Allen, 10/22/2013
The prep school has a 1.1 billion dollar endowment fund. Tom Steyer, an alum from 1975 (who is worth 1.4 billion) visited one morning to speak to students and trustees to ask them to divest from fossil fuels. Tom said “climate change is the biggest issue of our times”, and “we are being kicked around by the fossil fuel companies.” That night the school hosted a panel discussion.
On the panel were: a trustee, the student council president, two activists from 350.org, and an environmental lawyer. The school president moderated. Many students and teachers attended. The panelists spoke for and against divestment for 45 minutes, then audience questions were taken. I brought my notebook.
Trustee: He has presided over many green projects at the school and in personal life. Feels same as Harvard “endowments should be used towards the mission of educating the students, not as social leverage”. They have 28 funds with average yield of 8%. He does not believe they can find 28 fossil-free funds, and that the yield would drop if they did. A large part of endowment is specifically designated to fund financial aid, thus would impact students.
Student Council President: Feels it a moral imperative to do something. A financial aid recipient herself. Does not want financial aid impacted. Feels school should affect change through other pursuits such as funding clean energy projects.
350.org Reps: Ask trustees for freeze on further fossil fuel investments. Ask to divest over a period of five years. Divestment goal not for the financial impact to fossil fuel companies, but part of a broader strategy of creating a social movement to affect political change. Rogue industry has outrageous business model and must be stopped. Risks of inaction may be catastrophic, this is the moral thing to do.
Environmental Lawyer: Must begin transition to clean energy, we are all consumers. Industry is not paying for their externalities. Industry lobbyists undermine, erode, or squelch every law and bill via deep pockets. Divestment is a small but shrewd blow to the industry, eroding its credibility and removing its social license.
Students and Teachers: Why teach us to be moral citizens, funded by possibly immoral activities? Tom said this morning we could get similar yields from other funds. Can school prepare report on exactly how much invested in fossil fuels for later discussion?
Bottom-line: What Should a Goddess Do?
My Goddess sisters, there are many valid points in this debate. But Mother Nature says DIVEST, and she says it in the form of weather and crops. Begin now. Look into sustainable funds like PAX and transition your life to carbon-neutral in five years. Stand up for your inner Goddess. Your grandchildren will thank you.