To the Editor:
Toni Morrison’s Sula begins with three important words: “In that place.” As members of Divest Andover, we identify not as part of a national movement, but as a movement in our place. While divestment addresses national issues such as carbon taxes and oil subsidies, our movement also seeks to understand community members’ concerns and ideas about divestment.
Phillips Academy benefits from great diversity, not only of background, but also of thought. Community members who strongly question the current state of the energy sector live, eat and learn with community members who may have family members or friends who work for fossil fuel companies. Some community members believe that the school profits immorally from these stocks, while others find fault in taking actions that could jeopardize the school’s endowment.
We at Divest Andover believe that any reforms made to the endowment without considering all community members’ viewpoints do not address the basic goals of divestment of becoming a more ethical campus. Therefore, we want a diverse and engaging community dialogue when working with the administration on a decision about divestment.
Throughout Winter Term, many students, teachers and trustees addressed Divest Andover. We noticed that the opinions across the campus varied greatly and that the ideas that people raised deserved much thought and research. Therefore, Divest Andover enters Spring Term with the following three goals: to continue to spur respectful discourse between community members, consult research from sources across the energy spectrum and keep divestment as an issue at the forefront of the community’s mind.
The trustees showed great respect to Divest Andover during their Winter Term meetings. They received ideas about divestment open-mindedly, but with a critical eye. In their response in The Phillipian, the trustees stated that they would only divest from fossil fuels if they determined that the industry commits “grave social ills.” Therefore, the “social ills” of the fossil fuel industry have become the central question of Divest Andover.
The divest movement itself sees two main ways that the fossil fuel industry commits “grave social ills.” Firstly, the carbon emissions from fossil fuels drive climate change, one of the gravest problems which humanity faces. A few of the consequences of climate change include more deadly heat waves, decreased global food security and less livable land. Sadly, huge carbon emissions from developed nations like America and China equally affect developing ones. In fact, these nations that possess the weakest infrastructure and capacity for climate change adaptation will likely fare even worse than developed nations which are primarily responsible for climate change.
Climate change itself might not merit divestment from the fossil fuel industry. However, the industry’s irresponsible approach to addressing climate change presents a second compelling way it causes “grave social ills.” Most notably, the industry has spent $140 million, lobbying Congress to obstruct meaningful political reforms. For example, the industry’s Global Climate Coalition, which spent millions on a campaign to deny fossil fuels’ affect on global warming, ignored the findings of its own scientists, who confirmed that the industry’s emission caused great harm to many nations.
Our research team seeks to investigate both issues extensively, as well as any other issues that may indict or absolve fossil fuel companies of “grave social ills.” We do not wish to be the only group on campus investigating these issues and encourage any other interested community members to research issues related to fossil fuels, either with our team or independently.
One might observe that Divest Andover no longer seems set in its support for divestment. Such an observation would be correct; we only seek an energy industry that accounts for the environment and operates on an equal playing field for all energy sources. Additionally, we want to determine that our endowment is not being invested in industries that contradict our ethical investing policy or our core value of non sibi. To achieve those ends, we support any methods that can be implemented reasonably, safely, and with respect for business and the environment, including or excluding divestment.
Shay Collins ‘14
Rani Iyer ‘15
Justin Wang ‘13