REInvestment at 3: Reflections & Frustrations

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by Jocelyn Sawyer

3-rd-birthdayIt’s that time of year again: yes, it’s finals week, but December is also REInvestment’s birthday.  This month, we celebrated three years of campaigning for responsible energy investments at Earlham. Three years!  On a personal note, it’s a little hard to believe that this campaign has been part of my life for that long.  I’ll resist the urge to get sentimental – but honestly, it does feel like just a few weeks ago that I was writing about our 2nd birthday and what the coming year might hold.

What to say about this year?  We did a lot of good and important work over the past 12 months, and a lot of it was behind-the-scenes stuff – like the enormous task that was rewriting our divestment proposal, and all the effort that’s gone into getting the Alumni Council up and running.  The main impact of that work, from what I can see, has been a shift in our negotiations with the SRIAC.  We’ve moved from broad discussions about the ethics of fossil fuel extraction to more specific talk about what it would mean for Earlham to divest – and, more importantly, about what’s stopping the SRIAC from making that decision.  It’s a subtle change, but a significant one.

Still, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t frustrated by the slow pace of these conversations.  We all are.  I know that commitment to the dialogue process is very much an Earlham value, but as I’ve been wondering more and more lately, what about our commitment to justice?  How much longer is Earlham going to sit and deliberate about the fine print on our moral code?  It’s disappointing to me to see Quaker values and principles being used as stalling tactics.  SRIAC has argued that we don’t have “consensus” on this issue in the wider Earlham community – but I have never heard any Earlhamites argue against the REInvestment ask, or express the feeling that dissenting opinions have been ignored or silenced.  SRIAC asks about the “integrity” of divesting when we still use fossil fuel energy on campus – but does not question the hypocrisy of continuing to profit off of fossil fuel stocks when such strong efforts are being made towards reducing our campus carbon footprint.  My personal opinion: there’s obviously a balance between dialogue and action, but Earlham is missing the mark on that balance.

I joined the brand-new REInvestment campaign in the fall of my first year at Earlham.  I’m about to start my final semester.  There has been plenty of time for dialogue.

In stark contrast to our experience at Earlham, the past year has been a big one for the global fossil fuel divestment movement: from PrescottPitzer, and Stanford in the US all the way to the University of Glasgow in the UK and Victoria University in NZ, the list of colleges and universities that have committed to fossil fuel divestment is growing.* Each of these victories is cause for celebration.  Earlham should be on that list too.

Birthdays are also cause for celebration, so last week, we had a party.  There was cake.  And for the week leading up to the big day, we posted some #BirthdayCountdown pics on Facebook to remember good times in REInvestment and to celebrate what we’ve done along the way.  So here’s to the good times: Happy birthday, REInvestment!  My birthday wish?  Let’s make the next party a victory party.

3rd bday countdown 0!


* For a list of the many divestment commitments made to date by colleges, universities, towns, counties, churches, foundations, and other institutions, see this list collected by FossilFree.


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