FINALLY: the New Divestment Proposal is Finished!

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by Jocelyn Sawyer

It’s been in the works for 1.5 semesters – ever since we got our first response from SRIAC last December – but our NEW, updated proposal for divestment is finally finished!  In this new proposal, we’re significantly expanding our ask: instead of just asking for divestment from the handful of coal mining companies in our endowment, we’re now asking for divestment from all companies involved in coal mining, fracking, or tar sands extraction (you can see the full list of companies here).

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So much work went into this, and the final result is pretty unbelievable.  I’m impressed with us!  Just to give you a taste of what’s in this document, here are a couple excerpts, starting with one from the part about why we’ve chosen divestment as a tactic:

In mentioning the national divestment movement, we wish to recognize that the SRIAC has raised concerns in the past about using Earlham’s endowment for “political engagement on short-term issues,” and has stated that the purpose of the SRI is, rather, “to focus on enduring principles”. Far from short-term issues, environmental injustice and climate change have long histories and significant, long-term, future consequences. REInvestment considers divestment to be one tactic in what must be a long-term response to these daunting problems. Furthermore, we see the distinction between engaging in politics and living out our principles to be a false dichotomy: Earlham College does not exist in isolation from the world, and there are times when living our values requires us to take stances which some may interpret as being politically-motivated. This is a case in which the personal and the political are fundamentally inextricable. We pose the inverse question: As people continue to suffer from extreme extraction and climate predictions become realities, how can we let the relatively short-term goals and narrow interests of our institution cloud our considerations of such a far-reaching, global issue?

Here’s a bit I really like from the section on why we think fossil fuel divestment is the right move for Earlham (shout-out to John Woolman!):

Those who practice the Quaker faith may recognize this mission as reminiscent of John Woolman, a prominent Quaker and early abolitionist, who traveled from New Jersey to North Carolina to speak out against slavery. Woolman led his life striving to pursue peace and justice in all aspects. He sought to lead through example, with his life as a witness, so that those around him could see when actions they took went against their faith. About a Meeting of Friends he was attempting to bring into the abolitionist cause, Woolman wrote that “living in the pure truth, and acting conscientiously towards those people in their education and otherwise, they might be instrumental in helping forward a work so exceedingly necessary”. Through our power as a highly regarded Quaker institution, we at Earlham too should strive to live according to our principles and to lead by example.

Aaaand one more!  This is from the conclusion:

Earlham’s investment in fossil fuel extraction is a moral issue. As demonstrated in this proposal, we have identified the types of extraction of fossil fuels that we consider the most harmful agents of climate change and the greatest threats to health, security, and dignity. By investing in companies that thrive off such destruction, Earlham is supporting unethical and unsustainable behavior, and continued investment in these companies is socially irresponsible.

We believe that implementation of this proposal would strengthen Earlham’s position as a morally conscious educational institution and a leader in sustainability. Its implementation would not harm Earlham’s image, but rather would constitute an adherence to the existing, morally-conscious SRI policy. It would promote change that is necessary for the wellbeing of all living things. For an institution that promotes social justice and engaged student leadership, such an action would only reinforce that Earlham College puts its principles into practice.

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