Colby divestment: it cannot wait

Did you see the huge banner hanging in Pulver last Thursday? The Colby Alliance for Renewable Energy (C.A.R.E.) hoisted a banner up to the rafters of Pulver to encourage members of the Colby community to question our status of carbon neutrality, in light of our continued support of the fossil fuel industry through our investments. The banner read: “CARBON INVESTMENTS = CARBON NETURAL?” While it is a huge achievement to be the fourth college in the country to achieve carbon neutrality, we find it ironic that our carbon neutrality is not carried over to our investments. Our investments in the fossil fuel industry support destructive, socially irresponsible companies that we learn to question in the classroom. CARE is asking Colby to divest our endowment from fossil fuels and reinvest in socially responsible companies.

C.A.R.E. has been organizing for fossil fuel divestment on campus for over two years now. We have met numerous times with former President “Bro” Adams and current Vice President Doug Terp as well as with members of the Board of Trustees.

Additionally, we have gained significant student support through petition drives, public rallies, and “Take a bite out of Fossil Fuel” campaigns. The divestment campaign at Colby is part of a larger international movement on college campuses, in cities and amongst religious groups to take a stand against the companies that are fueling climate change.

Supporting fossil fuel divestment doesn’t mean ceasing to use fossil fuels. Professors need gas to drive to campus, PPD uses limited amounts of oil to heat our dorms in the dead of winter, and many items we interact with on a day-to-day basis are petroleum-based. Additionally, we would not support divestment if we believed it would hurt financial aid.

Bob Diamond, the chair of the Board of Trustees, mentioned during the Trustee Fireside Chat this fall that if we were to divest, less money would go towards financial aid. First off, if there were to be a decrease in our endowment returns due to divestment, there is no reason that financial aid would have to take the fall. Secondly, a study conducted by the Aperio Group shows that completely removing investments from the top 200 public coal, oil and gas companies with the largest potential carbon emissions content in their reserves (Carbon Underground 200) increases risk by only a mere 0.01 percent (2013). Colby should conduct a public feasibility study on divestment and explore more socially responsible investors. Some notable examples of institutions that have committed to divestment are Pitzer College, the city of San Francisco and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Colby could easily take a stand and choose not to invest our endowment in fossil fuel companies. In fact, the five percent of Colby’s endowment that is made up of direct holdings is completely divested from The Carbon Underground 200. We can not wait five, 10 or 50 years to divest­—the detrimental impacts the fossil fuel companies are having on our planet requires us to act now before it is too late. Colby is a national leader in sustainability and environmental initiatives; it is time that we align our investments with our morals and divest from the Carbon Underground 200.

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