Phillipian Commentary: Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

While attending my 50-year Andover reunion in 2019, I took part in a small break-out session on climate change where the subject of the school’s divestment from fossil fuel companies came up. But it was merely discussed. To the best of my knowledge (and I could be wrong), no substantive action was taken—not even a letter sent to the Board of Trustees with our recommendation.

Since that time, an overheated Planet Earth keeps sending distress calls, reminders that an insufficiently attentive humanity had better change its ways: During the summer of 2019, eight European countries saw their highest June temperatures in recorded history and catastrophic fires in Australia killed 30 people and an estimated one billion animals. And now the latest from Antarctica: on February 8, 2020 the hottest temperature ever recorded there: 18.3°C (64.9°F) – around the same temperature as Los Angeles that day.

As someone who has been a cross-country ski racer for over 50 years (I had my first go at it in the Andover bird sanctuary) and has watched winters get much more erratic during that time, I’ve been following the issue of global warming ever since it first got on my radar in the late 80s. As a 68-year-old with two granddaughters, I don’t want to dread the day when one of them asks, “What did you do about global warming once you knew it could have such disastrous effects?”

That’s why as an Andover alum, I feel it’s my responsibility to demand that my alma mater divest itself not only of all fossil fuel-related stocks but of investments in institutions like JP Morgan Chase Bank, one of the world’s biggest lenders to fossil fuel projects. Taking such measures would exert positive peer pressure on every other independent boarding school to do the same. It might even become a criterion for many people to apply here. One day it will be considered as “uncool” to have fossil fuel investments as it was to invest in firms that did business in South Africa when apartheid was official government policy. Instead of waiting in the wings, Andover should lead the way toward that outcome.


William W. Holland ’69