The REInvestment Blog
Support EC Students Against Racism
Recently, students have been standing up against racism at Earlham and joining together in solidarity to call out the people, programs, and systems here which perpetuate both interpersonal and systemic racism. As a fellow group of students on campus working for justice, members of REInvestment feel that it is imperative that we make an official statement supporting EC Students Against Racism (ECSAR) and their List of Requirements:
Students of Earlham’s REInvestment campaign had the following to say:
“Friends: We, members of REInvestment, affirm and support EC Students against Racism. We are devastated by racism at Earlham and committed to fighting against the perpetuation of systematic inequality at this institution. As a group that has focused on issues of environmental injustice, we understand that the environmental movement has been white-washed and therefore we want to reject this narrative and explicitly support the students, their requirements, and the larger movement as a whole. We are willing to commit time and resources as EC Students Against Racism moves forward. –REInvestment”
What can you do?
- Earlham alum Daniel Hunter (’01) has created a petition at ActionNetwork.org to gather signatures of alumni who feel that ECSARs List of Requirements is not receiving the full attention that it deserves from the Earlham administration. From the text of the petition: “Earlham’s administration has not provided any public response — instead they are threatening disciplinary actions against three student activists. Embarrassingly, its lack of response has made its way to front pages of the local newspaper.” Please show your support for students working to address Earlham’s inaction towards racism and white supremacy and call for the administration to respond appropriately by signing the petition:
- Fill out this contact form to receive active updates from the student group EC Students Against Racism (ECSAR)
- Educate yourself on issues of racism at Earlham by reading through ECSAR’s blog-site.
Thank you for all your help and continued support of student activism at Earlham!
The REInvestment Campaign is disappointed to have received this response from the Socially Responsible Investment Advisory Committee today. The answer from SRIAC was a resounding NO, and REInvestment is seeing the lack of progress that they have made in the past four years. SRIAC is only now considering environmental degradation in their discussions, and have finally acknowledged that climate change is happening and is, in fact, impacting communities across the globe.
This new proposal is a giant step backwards in what have seemingly been significant negotiations over the past four years. REInvestment alum Jocelyn Sawyer ’15 summarizes their statements, saying, “They [SRIAC] are saying they acknowledge the harm [caused by extreme extraction] and are choosing to do nothing.”
The REInvestment Campaign is undeterred and is looking forward to continue escalation through actions on campus, as well as expanding our conversations with SRIAC to address their concerns more specifically.
To: Responsible Energy Investment Campaign students and alumni
From: Socially Responsible Investment Advisory Committee
Date: November 6, 2015
Re: Proposal for Fossil Fuel Divestment, September, 2014
Dear friends, For the past year, Earlham’s Socially Responsible Investment Advisory Committee (SRIAC) has been engaged in a process of discernment regarding your Proposal for Fossil Fuel Divestment, September, 2014 (the Proposal). Our discernment is guided by Earlham’s Socially Responsible Endowment Investment Policy (the Policy). While we do not reach unity in supporting the recommendations given in the Proposal, we find it necessary and appropriate to give a response at this time.
SRIAC and its members share concerns about climate change. We are persuaded that climate change is occurring, that the change is likely caused by increases in atmospheric carbon, and that these increases are related to combustion of fossil fuels. We recognize that the impact of climate change likely includes rising sea levels, changes to biological diversity, and changes to marine and land ecosystems. These changes will likely impact some people more than others and may result in population migration to avoid rising sea levels, expanding deserts, declining ecosystems and other effects of climate change. While we share concerns about the combustion of fossil fuels, we do not reach the conclusion that the divestment called for under the Proposal is warranted under the Policy.
SRIAC is concerned about the impact of coal extraction and combustion on the natural environment. We recognize that some extraction techniques (e.g., mountaintop removal) are more environmentally destructive than others. We also recognize that some uses for coal (e.g., metallurgical) are more sustainable than others (e.g., electricity production), and that some companies have better records of regulatory compliance than others. We further recognize that using coal to produce electricity produces twice as much atmospheric carbon per unit of energy produced than using natural gas. We are not persuaded that all coal mining has a substantially adverse impact on human dignity relative to other industrial activities. We note that low prices for natural gas and oil driven largely by fracking have caused a decline in domestic coal production and market valuations for coal companies. We do not reach the conclusion that coal mining, by any means, for any purpose, in any quantity, by all companies, warrants a recommendation for divestment under the Policy.
SRIAC is concerned about the environmental impact of fracking. We recognize that fracking in some regions is more environmentally risky than in others, and that some companies have better records of regulatory compliance than others. We also recognize that process water and water produced from fracking present their own environmental concerns. We consider positively the fact that energy production via natural gas is half as bad as coal with respect to the amount of atmospheric carbon per unit of energy produced. We are not persuaded that fracking has a substantially adverse impact on human dignity relative to other industrial activities. We do not reach the conclusion that high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, in any quantity, by any company, warrants a recommendation for divestment under the Policy.
SRIAC is concerned about oil extraction from tar sands. We recognize that the energy cost and environmental risk of extracting oil from tar sands is very high and results in substantially more atmospheric carbon than many other fossil fuel extraction methods. We are encouraged that the Canadian courts have addressed the rights of indigenous persons related to Canadian tar sand oil extraction. We recognize that some uses for petroleum products (e.g., recyclable plastics) are more sustainable than others (e.g., electricity production), and that some companies have better records of regulatory compliance than others. We note that low prices for natural gas and oil driven largely by fracking have caused a decline in tar sand oil production, and that tar sand oil production is a very small percentage of income for any of the companies in our portfolio. We do not reach the conclusion that tar sand oil production, for any purpose, in any quantity, by all companies, warrants a recommendation for divestment under the Policy.
Populations and communities around the world currently depend on extracted hydrocarbons for energy and raw materials, and we do not judge that all use is irresponsible use. Accordingly, we find it hard to conclude that all extraction is irresponsible extraction.
Companies vary in their approaches to extraction and management practices, and we do not judge that all companies operate in ways that denigrate the dignity of individuals. The mere fact of being engaged in an extractive industry does not require that the company denigrate the dignity of individuals. Accordingly, we find it hard to conclude that all companies engaged in these forms of extraction denigrate the dignity of individuals.
The Proposal makes an argument of “zero tolerance” for companies engaged in these extraction practices. Our Policy establishes specific thresholds for alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and armaments, so we judge it to be inappropriate to apply a different standard of zero tolerance to these extraction companies.
To further clarify, the Policy provides specific guidance on how the Committee is to address investments in specific companies. The Committee finds it problematic to respond to the industry-wide aspects of the Proposal in the context of the Policy.
However, the Policy is up for review this academic year. One of the changes we are considering is whether the Policy should provide a specific threshold for irresponsible use of the natural environment.
We have been impressed by the professionalism and patience of REInvestment throughout our lengthy dialogue and deliberations. Thank you for your engagement and your concern for the many communities of which we are part, particularly our Earlham community.
Ray Ontko, for the Socially Responsible Investment Advisory Committee
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 4th, 2015
For Immediate Release: Earlham students host silent sit-in for fossil fuel divestment
Quaker style silent worship in president’s office draws attention to upcoming committee meeting
RICHMOND, IN – At approximately 2:00 pm on Wednesday, November 4th, the Earlham College Responsible Energy Investment (REInvestment) campaign began an hour long sit-in occupying the president’s office of Earlham College in a Quaker style silent worship. The sit-in is in anticipation of the upcoming November 6th meeting of the Socially Responsible Investments Advisory Committee (SRIAC), calling for a decision about fossil fuel divestment after four years of deliberation on the subject. This demand comes after growing frustrations within the campaign at the length of time the SRIAC is taking to decide on what the REInvestment campaign believes to be a pressing human rights and social justice issue.
The REInvestment Campaign is a coalition of students, faculty, and alumni calling for the school to divest its 405 million dollar endowment from all companies involved in the extraction practices of coal mining, tar sands oil extraction, and natural gas extraction via horizontal fracturing (fracking). Citing rising death rates and community impacts of these forms of fossil fuel extraction, the campaign believes that it is fully within the Quaker values of the school and the letter of the Socially Responsible Investment Policy to remove companies that profit from these types of fossil fuel extraction from the school’s investment portfolio.
Nora Collins, a first year student at the college describes the significance of this action saying, “We are peacefully occupying the president’s office this afternoon with the genuine hope that it will inspire the leaders of this institution to reflect deeply on their Quaker values. It is our belief that these principles call on us to see fossil fuels as the moral outrage that they are and encourage the administration to divest”.
The campaign has also taken to social media, using the hashtags #FourYearsTooLong and #TimeToDecide, in keeping with the argument that the school has been locked in indecision for four years, while the severe impacts of the fossil fuel industry are already being felt by communities with fewer resources to defend themselves against harmful pollution, extreme weather events, and other adverse effects.
The campaign hopes that this bold statement, past alumni actions, and the tireless work done by the campaign to educate and work with the committee and Earlham community will all lead the SRIAC to reach a decision about fossil fuel divestment on their November 6th meeting. For those not on campus, REInvestment members invite all to join in a national call-in day today, November 4th, by calling the Earlham College Alumni office at (765) 983-1313.
The Responsible Energy Investment Campaign is a group of students and alumni at Earlham College to move the college’s endowment funds out of fossil fuel extraction companies and reinvest those funds responsibly. We are holding our universities to a high but achievable standard, one that invests in a clean energy future for the benefit of students and citizens the world over. Learn more at: http://www.earlhamreinvestment.wordpress.com and http://www.facebook.com/EarlhamREInvestment
Earlham’s REInvestment Campaign was formed four years ago, and, this semester, we have decided that it is time for Earlham to decide which side of history they will be on. We encourage everyone to use the hashtags #FourYearsTooLong and #TimeToDecide and tag Earlham College to let them know that you want them to live up to the values that they hold and divest their endowment from fossil fuels.
Fossil fuels are a social justice issue. The Socially Responsible Investment Advisory Committee is tasked with determining which companies are socially irresponsible and can place screens on the investments. After four years of research, meetings, and conversations with this committee, REInvestment is requesting a decision after the November 6th meeting of this group. Although the conensus process is long and tedious, four years is too long to come to a decision on these violent extraction methods.
These hashtags were designed as a social media platform for people to express their views on Earlham’s investments in dirty energy. So much has happened in the past four years of Earlham’s deliberation on these investments. In the past four years, cancer rates have shot up in areas of fossil fuel extraction. Three years ago Hurricane Sandy destroyed 200,000 homes and killed 117 people. Just last year 82,000 tons of toxic coal ash were spilled into the Dan River, causing 300,000 people to lose access to potable water. We are asking Earlham to be on the right side of history following their decision on November 6th, 2015 and join the 456 other institutions that have divested $2.6 trillion from the fossil fuel industry. It is time to align with our socially responsible values and live up to the Principles and Practices of the institution.
Earlham College- it has been #FourYearsTooLong and it is #TimeToDecide.
The following was sent to SRIAC this afternoon.
The students and alums from the Responsible Energy Investments Campaign have been working with the SRIAC for almost four years. This time has been one of intense collaboration and discussion that has resulted in gained knowledge and appreciation on the part of both groups. We have had many productive and forward moving conversations and decisions over the past four years. Within the last year, there has been a lull in communication, leaving REInvestment members uninformed and unsure of what steps can be taken. As a result, we would like to make a request that the SRIAC issue a formal response to our most recent proposal, given to you one year ago this Fall (September 2014). We understand that the committee uses a consensus based model. However, students have worked tirelessly to research, plan panels, meet with you, and access/provide information about why our investments in extreme extraction are not aligned with the college’s principles and practices, and are not aligned with our college’s socially responsible investment policy. In order for a consensus based model to run effectively, there must be a desire on part of the participants to meet. As there have been a decreasing number of meetings of the SRIAC over the past year, we are only left to think that you have reached the end of your consensus making process and will be reaching a decision at your last meeting of this calendar year, November 6th. We request that you send us your formal response at the end of your meeting.
Thank you for your time and dedication these past years,
Our Inner Light Doesn’t Burn on Fossil Fuels,
-The Students and Alums of the Responsible Energy Investment Campaign.
Last weekend, ten REInvesters piled into cars and drove to West Virginia for the 2015 Mountain Justice fall summit. The summit was held at Kayford Mountain, adjacent to a “reclaimed” mountaintop removal site. This is the third time that REInvestment members have been present at a Mountain Justice summit, but for most of the student who made the trek this year, it was the first time seeing an MTR site in person. This year’s trip was funded by the generous donations of Earlham alums and REInvestment allies to the EAR Student Travel Fund.
The following are reflections from Rachel and Caleb about the experience:
by Rachel Ritter
“From playing ‘Take Me Home Country Roads’ almost every other song on the drive to West Virginia, to networking with other students and activists, I think it is safe to say that Mountain Justice was an incredible experience. Sharing a space with such cool and inspiring people really rejuvenated and motivated me to keep plugging away at our campaign. Through conversations with students from several other schools, I learned new strategies for finding information and helpful tactics for divestment. After hearing a speaker talk about art activism done by the Beehive Design Collective and hearing two candid activists present on social media strategies, I knew we had to amp up our presence on social media and use every resource that we can to spread our message.
Although each presenter was inspiring and wonderful, I think that the most moving part of my time spent on Kayford Mountain was walking out to the mine sight. My breath was taken away when I was able to look over a ridge and see how much physical mass is just gone from the mountain. As much fun as it was to bond with other Earlhamites, students, and activists, seeing the destruction caused by mountaintop removal was truly devasting and grounding. We have made so much progress as a group, but we have so much farther to go.
I am very appreciative of the effort that the Earlham Alums for REInvestment have put into providing us a chance to attend these kinds of events, and I hope that we can continue to get firsthand experience and hear from people who are really being impacted by extreme extraction. This campaign has not been easy, but it is not over. I feel as though Mountain Justice has given us new perspectives and ideas, and I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish in these next three weeks of activism on campus.”
by Caleb Smith
“As I reflect on the weekend, I keep being drawn to the lyrics of the song Paradise, by John Prine:
And daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay?
Well, I’m sorry my son, but you’re too late in asking
Mister Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away.
Though the song was written over 40 years ago, Mister Peabody is still at it, and the lyrics ring truer than ever. As we pulled into the Mountain Justice Fall Summit this past Friday, the history and power of the region, along with it’s stunning beauty, began to fill me with a profound sense of purpose. We unpacked the cars and began to set up our campsite, but that was soon over, and I began to feel the pull to go visit the mine site. I attended the Fall Summit two years ago in my freshman year and took a tour of the Kayford Mountain site, and the image of a mountain completely flattened had stuck with me since then. I felt this immense call that everyone else in our group needed to visit the site as soon as possible. We rounded ourselves up, and made the short hike to the actual site.
Though I thought the image was fresh in my mind, my heart still jumped into my throat as I breached the ridge, and the vast expanse of former-mountain stretched out in front of me. Though we had all been laughing and joking around on the walk up, we all entered into contemplative silence as we gazed out onto the foreign landscape that is what is left of Kayford Mountain. We spent a long time gazing out over the brutally altered landscape, and then slowly picked our way down to the actual surface, walking through tons of broken schist and slate, picking up tiny pieces of coal and finding the small intricacies and beauty of what was left of Kayford. Though what we were witnessing was very hard to process, we all began to find small pieces of inspiration, from the surrounding landscape full of beauty to the small trees and grasses that were beginning to find a foothold again. After a while the wind began to get the better of us and we made our way back to camp. Though it was sobering, it set the tone perfectly for the weekend, and reminded me right away why we were all there.
The rest of the weekend passed in a blur: panels, workshops, singing around the campfire, amazing food, incredible conversations, networking, and most importantly, meeting and hearing the stories of the people of the region. Though the story of the land is incredibly important, hearing the stories of the people who live there and are having their land, water, air, and communities destroyed was what most re-energized me and focused me for the work we are doing here at Earlham.
As I learned in many of the workshops I attended, storytelling is the most critical aspect of movement building, and by attending the Fall Summit I think myself and my fellow organizers with the REInvestment campaign have been equipped with the tools we need to win. We heard the stories of people on the ground, learned about collective liberation, developed our social media model, and build tons of amazing connections with important people in the movement (from front-line leaders, to national organizers, to other students just like us!). I can’t thank enough everyone who helped us get out to West Virginia, the energy this past weekend gave us is going to carry us to victory!
P.S. Keep an eye out for what we’ll be doing moving forward – a lot of it directly inspired by the things we learned this weekend!”
by Jocelyn Sawyer
I’m really excited about Earlham Alums for REInvestment.
When I was a student working on REInvestment, I experienced the challenges of reaching out to EC alums. We knew we had allies out there – folks who would be willing to call and pester SRIAC, write letters or op/eds, and even withhold their donations to the college on our behalf. But as students with full courseloads and a lot of other work to do to keep the campaign moving forward, it was really hard to focus on alumni outreach.
Now that I’m a graduate myself, I’m excited that EAR is here to take on a lot of that networking, and to mobilize alums to support the students in whatever ways they need. And right now, we’re launching our first big project in response to a need we’ve heard from the student group.
This fund would help students in REInvestment travel to conferences, trainings, and other events, where they’d have opportunities to meet and learn from experienced grassroots organizers and people who are directly impacted by fossil fuel extraction. REInvestment members have been lucky enough to make trips like this in the past, to the Mountain Justice Fall Summit or to national divestment convergences in 2013 and 2014 – and I can say from experience that they’ve been moving and powerful.
So, fellow Earlham alums… we’re asking for your help.
We in EAR thought long and hard about making this ask for donations. No one associated with REInvestment has ever asked for money before, and we don’t intend to make a habit of it. We wouldn’t be asking now if we didn’t think this was very important.
But I know how important this is. I know that this fund isn’t just about supporting REInvestment – it’s about empowering young leaders. When they attend workshops and trainings with experienced grassroots organizers, Earlham students will develop their own organizing and leadership skills. When they have the chance to meet people living on the frontlines of extreme energy extraction and see the impacts of fossil fuels firsthand, they will expand their perspectives and understandings about environmental justice. And that kind of knowledge is stuff they’ll carry with them beyond Earlham. I know that from experience, too.
As an Earlham alums, we in EAR can confidently say that as long as Earlham College is invested in fossil fuels, we’d rather invest directly in Earlham students.
by Faye Christoforo
Four years ago a group of only slightly jaded Earlham students began to think about what it would look like for Earlham to divest its direct holdings from fossil fuel extraction companies. Sitting in a circle on the floor of Gurney house, hunched over laptops, wondering if anyone would ever care if some kids at a Quaker school in Indiana where hatching a campaign. At the time, the idea was largely unheard of, and seemed to be relegated to small, private schools where maybe you could make some sort of religious argument for it. Swarthmore, in many ways, was our model, and in turn, their model was the South African divestment movement of the 1980’s.
This was before fossil fuel divestment became a household name. Before searching those words on Google yielded 728,000 results. Before Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, Van Jones, or Al Gore ever thought to endorse it as a tactic. Before the sit-ins and the op-eds and the Rolling Stone articles. Before the victories.
This was just the beginning. All of those who were there have since graduated and the movement has exploded. Back at Earlham every year brings new student leaders who build upon the REInvestment campaign. As the campaign grows and we get closer and closer to our goal we want to continue to show Earlham that, while we may leave campus, we still care.
While we can’t stay on campus to attend SRIAC meetings, draft proposals and rally student support, we can support the awesome students on campus doing just that. To do this we have created Earlham Alumn for REInvestment, or EAR (hence the title of this post!). We are a group of alumn (open to new members!) who meet via conference call at least every other week to strategize with an on-campus liaison. We take direction from the students, offering our advice, skills, passion and time.
Our mission is to mobilize alums to strategically advance the goals of the on-campus campaign.
Our first victory was to get 18 alums to submit class notes to the most recent Earlhamite magazine showing their support for REInvestment, many of whom chose to withhold donations to Earlham until campaign goals are met. With actions like these and our combined effort we believe that REInvestment is possible.
Our inner light will never burn on coal!
To stay in the loop and get updates about Earlham Alums for REInvestment, please connect with us on Facebook! You can find our group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/EarlhamAlumsForREInvestment.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 10, 2015
Earlham Alumni Will Withhold Donations Until Fossil Fuel Divestment
College alumni magazine used as a tool to show support for on-campus justice activism.
RICHMOND, IN – In the Summer 2015 issue of Earlham College’s alumni magazine, The Earlhamite, 15 alumni published pledges to halt donations to the college while it’s endowment is still invested in fossil fuels. These pledges are part of a nationwide movement of university alumni calling for their alma maters to join the growing number of institutions with “fossil free” stock portfolios.
“It is from a place of love and a commitment to a better world that my husband and I have decided we will no longer donate money to Earlham until the college divests its holdings from destructive fossil fuels,” wrote Abby Fenton, class of 1996.
Since 2011, students across the country have been pressuring their colleges and universities to divest from fossil fuel companies. At Earlham, a student group called the Responsible Energy Investment Campaign (REInvestment) has been negotiating with college administration over a proposal for divestment for almost four years. This is the first time Earlham has seen a coordinated alumni action in support of the campaign.
Alumni view the withholding of donations as a way to amplify their message to college administrators. Kumar Jensen, class of 2012, wrote: “As I weigh the different ways to continue to support Earlham and its community members, I have decided to withhold donations to the college. I believe that it is the most effective way as an alumnus to be heard.”
Most of the pledges in the Earlhamite were written by young alums who, like Jensen, were students at Earlham when the REInvestment campaign began. However, a wide range of class years was represented.
“I’ve become a supporter of the movement to divest from the big fossil fuel extraction companies,” wrote Jeanne Warren, class of 1958. “More and more people see the urgency of changing to renewable sources of energy, leaving fossil fuels in the ground.”
REInvestment activists argue that the extraction and burning of fossil fuels is a critical social justice issue. While climate change will certainly threaten students’ futures, the most severe impacts of the fossil fuel industry are felt by already-vulnerable communities with fewer resources to defend themselves against harmful pollution, extreme weather events, and other adverse effects.
This is a point particularly relevant to Earlham, a Quaker college that prides itself on its guiding principles and values of peace and justice. In the Earlhamite, several alumni mentioned this contradiction between the values Earlham espouses and the investments it holds.
Natalie Reitz, class of 2014, wrote that she is “confused and disappointed that Earlham chooses to invest in the violence of the fossil fuel industry”.
Jensen wrote that Earlham’s decision to continue investing in fossil fuel extraction is “contrary to the values I learned at Earlham and unacceptable from a human rights and social justice perspective.”
This outpouring of alumni support comes on the heels of the student senate passing a resolution for divestment in April, which was reflective of the student body’s strong support for the REInvestment campaign’s proposal.
The push to divest from fossil fuels at Earlham and other universities has also garnered support from prominent political voices. “The universities are key to all of this,” stated Van Jones, former White House adviser, at an address to the Earlham campus in 2013. “Every responsible campus should divest its money from poison-producing, pollution-based companies that don’t deserve your money.”
At Earlham, yearly tuition only covers 59% of the actual costs of educating a student, while the rest must be covered by donations. Alumni withholding donations as an act of protest could produce significant pressure in encouraging the college to change its policies.
The Responsible Energy Investment Campaign is a campaign of students and alumni at Earlham College to move the college’s endowment funds out of fossil fuel extraction companies and reinvest those funds responsibly. We are holding our universities to a high but achievable standard, one that invests in a clean energy future for the benefit of students and citizens the world over. Learn more at: www.earlhamreinvestment.wordpress.com and www.facebook.com/EarlhamREInvestment.
Divestment Student Network alumni organizing pledge: link
Boston Globe article about prominent alumni at other schools withholding donations: link
Information about Tufts alums withholding donations: link
Fossil Free Divestment Fund, a coordinated effort by alums to divert donations until their schools divestment: link
Basic information about the fossil fuel divestment movement: link
by Jocelyn Sawyer
EXCITING news: Earlham Student Government has APPROVED a resolution for divestment from fossil fuels! The student senate voted to approve this resolution in a single meeting on April 8th. Today the official endorsement was sent out to the entire student body, so we’re excited to announce the news to the world!
As if that’s not enough good news, ESG also approved a resolution from our friends BDS! The Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS) campaign is demanding divestment from companies that support the Israeli occupation. REInvestment has supported this campaign in the past, and we continue to do so.
These resolutions are non-binding – but they send a clear message to Earlham administrators that EC students care about where our money is going. THANK YOU to the student senate for taking this bold step to support Earlham’s principles and stand up against the violences of fossil fuel extraction, climate change, and occupation!
This is the letter that ESG sent to all students today:
On behalf of the Earlham Student Government, we would like to wish you luck in the last few weeks of this semester! As stressful as it may be now, we are only two weeks away from the summer holidays, which are indeed much-needed after this long semester. But before that, we wanted to give you an update about some of the conversations that have been happening in our Student Senate. The Senate is the primary ESG decision-making body, and is designed to be the space for all student representatives from committees and student organizations to make decisions that impact our campus.
In the past few weeks, the Earlham Student Senate has engaged in a conversation with the Earlham ReInvestment Campaign and BDS Earlham (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) Campaign. On the 25th of March, the Earlham ReInvestment Campaign presented the Student Senate with a resolution, asking the Senate to support the campaign’s call to encourage the Earlham administration to divest from companies that practice fossil fuel extraction. After much deliberation and conversation, the Student Senate approved the campaign’s resolution through a consensus process.
Adopting a similar method, the BDS Earlham Campaign calls upon the Earlham administration to divest from Motorola, Caterpillar and Hewlett Packard. The three companies are complicit with the Israeli occupation of Palestine by providing systems and materials used in violations of human rights in Palestine. On the 8th of April, the Student Senate was presented with the BDS resolution to support the campaign’s call. This is the third time that BDS presents its resolution to the Student Senate since the establishment of the movement at Earlham in 2010. After constructive and long conversations, the Senate approved the BDS resolution through a consensus process.
What does passing these resolutions mean? It means that the Earlham Student Government, as the representative body of our students, now stands in support of the two campaigns’ calls to encourage our administration to divest from companies complicit with the Israeli occupation of Palestine as well as fossil fuel extraction. It also speaks to ESG’s acknowledgment of the work, efforts and time that the two campaigns have put into educating our student body about their causes. In addition, it is an acknowledgment of the importance of maintaining the ongoing conversation between SRIAC (the Socially Responsible Investment Advisory Committee) and the campaigns, which we strongly hope, will soon result in the positive response to the calls of the campaigns. We hope that passing the resolutions will help our campus enhance the frameworks that are currently used to have conversations about pressing global issues. Our support for the resolutions stems from our continuous commitment to our school’s mission and our Principles and Practices.
As we continue to have these conversations, we should always be reminded of the importance of staying compassionate and understanding to one another. This is how we grow, not only as individuals but also as a community. We attached the resolutions to this email. We invite you to read them and approach us with questions and concerns should you have any. We also invite you to attend the Social Justice Carnival, which will be held next Tuesday, April 28th at 4 PM on the heart.
Claire Welsh and Hashem Abushama
On Behalf of the Earlham Student Government
by Ananda Ganbari and David Masterson
This past week, in an effort to both gain insight from the larger student body and spark conversation around the topic, REInvestment tabled in the student center and posed the question, “What does climate justice mean to you?” This is a broad question, which led to an exciting range of answers! Here are some gems from this past week:
- “Understanding that there is NOT a separation or division between humans, animals, and the environment”
- “that people in my home stop dying of lung problems and our children can play outside”
- “Evreyone having access to water, air, food that doesn’t make them sick”
- “The ability to access the basic necissitites of life such as water, food, air, etc, without having to fear being poisoned.”
This is a question our campaign was founded upon, and one with which we are constantly grappling. REInvestment seeks to have a campaign which focuses on both the environmental and human denigration inflicted by the fossil fuel industry. “Climate justice” is a term used to connect environmental concerns with the day to day struggles people are facing as a result of climate change. The REInvestment Campaign is specifically focused not just on divestment from fossil fuels, but also on the intentional reinvestment of our endowment, so as to grapple with the impacts of climate change that reach further than environmental denigration.
By David Masterson and Ananda Ganbari
This piece also appeared in the Earlham Beat, a zine published by BDS Earlham.
At the start of this past fall the Responsible Energy Investment (REInvestment) Campaign submitted a revised proposal to the Socially Responsible Investment Advisory Committee (SRIAC). This proposal outlined in great detail the pressing need for Earlham to divest from companies involved in coal and tar sands extraction, as well as fracking. As we stressed in our proposal, this issue is not only one of global warming or climate change, but one concerning an extreme violation of human rights for the surrounding communities.
As our Socially Responsible Endowment Investment Policy states, “Earlham seeks to minimize investing in the securities of companies whose overall behavior results in irresponsible use of the natural environment and/or denigrates the dignity of individuals.”. We would like to see Earlham take their commitment to this policy seriously, to look critically with students at our investments.
Both the REInvestment campaign and SRIAC have made significant progress as of late, progress which we are pleased to share with you! In a few weeks there will be a series of faculty panels inviting Earlham faculty to join the conversation regarding our investments and the fossil fuel industry. We are currently in the process of drafting questions for professors which seek to achieve a common understanding of the impact these companies have.
As it stands now, we have questions ranging from toxicity levels of fracking fluid to connections between treaty violations of indigenous people’s land in Canada and tar sands extraction. We would love to hear from you about what questions you have for faculty members! Please feel free to send us a message via Facebook or email.
Ananda and Gurt
by Jocelyn Sawyer
It’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 Prescott, Pitzer, 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.
* 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.
by David Masterson and Bryn Shank
So far this semester, REInvestment has met with the Socially Responsible Investment Advisory Committee (SRIAC) two times. These meetings were both discussions of our updated and expanded proposal for divestment, which we submitted to the committee in September.
In the first meeting, on October 3rd, we discussed the proposal and clarified points of our ask for divestment from coal, tar sands, and fracking companies. The main topic of discussion was fracking: specifically, does fracking involve significant enough environmental harm to warrant divestment from all fracking companies? SRIAC raised questions about the technical fracking process, the possibility in the industry to control or minimize leakages into the groundwater, and whether or not natural gas is a necessary “bridge fuel” for shifting to renewable energy. (REInvestment remains firm on our stance that divestment from fracking companies is indeed the right move for Earlham).
On November 7th, we met with SRIAC for a second time and had a great discussion about moving forward towards a decision on our proposal. In the past we have talked a lot about the research REInvestment has done on fossil fuel extraction methods; in this past meeting, we moved to talking about collaborative research that REInvestment and SRIAC could do together. As a result of our meeting, we are currently working with SRIAC to plan a series of forums about fracking, tar sands, and coal. The goal of these forums is to get a scholarly perspective on the issue from Earlham’s own professors. We will be asking professors from the Environmental Science department to speak to the question of whether fossil fuel extraction constitutes an “irresponsible use of the natural environment”, and professors from the social sciences will discuss whether these practices lead to a “denigration of human dignity”. We hope these forums will provide a common ground on which REInvestment and SRIAC can base our future discussions.
SRIAC’s next meeting will be on December 6th, and they will be meeting with the BDS campaign. If you are around campus, please come join us to show support for BDS at 11:45am in the Landrum Bolling Center (LBC), just as they did for us during our last meeting!
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).
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.
It’s the start of REInvestment’s 5th semester, and we’re happy to be back on campus! A couple quick updates:
- This summer, newly-graduated REInvesters from the Class of 2015 really kicked off the Alumni Network! The REInvestment Alumni Network meets via conference call on the first Sunday of every month at 6pm. The next call is tomorrow, 9/7! The number to hop on the call is (712) 432-0490, and the PIN is 3714490#.
- The Research working group has been working hard over the summer on writing and editing our NEW and updated proposal! Stay tuned in the next few weeks, because we’ll be posting it on the site as soon as it’s done.
- We kicked off the first week of classes with a series of REInvestment info sessions, which were attended by new and returning students, some who were interested in getting involved with the campaign and some who just wanted to learn more about it. The info sessions led to some great conversations, and we’re hoping to see new faces at our first Weekly Meeting next Wednesday!
For anyone who missed the info sessions this week, it’s not too late to get involved! Our Weekly Meetings, every Wednesday at 6:30PM at Gurney House, are open to all.
by Eva Chaitman
Two weekends ago, five of us from Earlham’s RE-Investment Campaign attended the 2014 Fossil Free Divestment Convergence at San Francisco State University. Upward of 250 students attended the convergence, representing divestment and re-investment campaigns across the country. Together we discussed, compared, and strategized. We listened to speakers and attended workshops run by inspiring individuals who had dedicated their lives to creating real change in the world. What I learned from this convergence was enlightening and uplifting. I’d like to highlight in this article some of the points impressed upon me over the course of the weekend.
Mission Statement of Earlham College RE-Investment Campaign:“The Responsible Energy Investment (“REInvestment”) campaign is a student-led campaign at Earlham College that is asking our school to divest its endowment from dirty fossil fuel companies and reinvest responsibly. The targets of our campaign are companies that extract coal, tar sands oil, and fracked natural gas — companies that are responsible for numerous EPA violations and pollution-related illnesses/deaths, not to mention the greenhouse gases and toxic fumes that fossil fuels emit.”
Intersectionality and Solidarity of Divestment Campaign
Fossil fuel industries are the worst perpetrators of global climate change and environmental destruction. However the cost of continuing our support for these companies has a much broader scope. Fossil fuel industries create a web of intersectional problems. During her workshop “Decolonizing Lands, Minds, and Institutions” activist Hena Belalia of Peaceful Uprising challenged us to become educated on the “overlapping systems of oppression” in which the fossil fuel industry is planted. Coal companies not only exploit the environment, but also reproduce exploitation and oppression of marginalized communities around the world. Fossil fuel industries are a part of a system in which students experience overwhelming debt, indigenous peoples lose their lands, and inmates are treated as commodities in a prison system likened to a corporate business. Fossil fuel industries are a part of a web of broad economic forces in which institutions and industries puts profit gain over the well being of people. As a movement, we must learn how divestment from fossil fuel connects and attacks a multispectral problem. Dialogue with others is key to creating diverse solutions. Solidarity between ideologies and movements can facilitate the power needed to create change. This movement is a tactic, among others, to halting the overarching problem of unethical economics where environmental destruction parallels with social injustice. In working with the system in which we are embedded, there is a means through which tangible and strategic change can be made in fabricating a more sustainable economy.
Right to be Angry
During his opening speech, co-founder of Peaceful Uprising, Tim DeChristopher emphasized our generation’s right to be angry towards the generation that has understood the fossil fuel industry’s harmful effects long before we were born. The generation that precedes us has continued an acceptance of institution and industry that actively jeopardize our futures. Dramatic climate change, increasing imbalance between the poor and the prosperous, and expanding economic uncertainty have been widely acknowledged as examples of the heightening destruction present within our world. However, industries and institutions continue to remain in state of what DeChristopher condemns as being “complacent”. While the world that our generation is now responsible for continues to disintegrate, the institutions from which we ask for help remain comfortable in their decisions to be indifferent to our efforts. In trivializing us from positions of complacent power, the extent of suffering which our generation must face is deemed unimportant. But business must go on as usual; this is the disregarding mindset that we must continuously confront.
RE-Investment does not mean economic hardship for an institution. Rather, RE-Investment, through conscientious, responsible, and tactical moves in equally resilient investment decisions, only seeks to render a healthier environmental, social, and economic climate. This earth upon which an increasingly smaller percentage of us thrive, has been mishandled and ultimately destructed. We must facilitate real change at an institutional level to curb the destructive path upon which we reside. The divestment movement, which includes Earlham’s RE-Investment campaign, is a conglomeration of elevated voices. With love and passion for the environment, the marginalized and oppressed around us, as well as with fear for the uncertainty for the future of our collective well-being, we demand change. We ask, and we will not stop asking until the change we seek is created. DeChristopher said,“The job of students in the climate movement is to be the uncompromising moral of truth.” We will not compromise on present and future conditions of our world. We ask for an unambiguous and decisive action that acknowledges the importance of this movement. Through our collective voices, we hope to move our institutions away from playing by the safety of written norms, to making decisions according to what is right and just.
by Faye Christoforo
It’s two weeks before spring break and we are tired, but we are not loosing steam on the campaign. I’m writing from an Outreach Working Group meeting, which has been productive. We’ve talked about the tabling that we have been doing to collect signatures for our petition, and a few upcoming events:
This Friday, REInvestment members will be going to the Rose City Coffee Co-op for a Social Justice Gala. Everyone here is very excited to network with other social justice groups on campus. Is there another social justice carnival on the horizon like the one we organized last spring? We hope so!
This Sunday, we will have a table at the Global Celebration, which is part of a campus-wide effort by the International Programs Office to open the doors to all of the cool things happening on campus. What will be talking about? Good question! Come on by and check it out – Runyan Center, this Sunday at 5pm.
Look for more updates on how these events go, and don’t forget to sign the petition!
Our inner light does not burn on coal.