Elliot Fratkin: Urges Smith to divest from fossil fuels

Urges Smith College to divest from fossil fuels

I write in support of Gabriella Zutrau’s guest column (“Time for fossil fuel divestment by Smith,” April 4) urging Smith College trustees to divest from fossil fuels.

I served with Gabriella on Smith’s Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility (ACIR) when she was a student representative and I a faculty member. From the beginning of our meetings in 2016, the trustee representatives would not agree to leave or to pressure Investure, the Smith’s investment manager, to divest Smith’s $100 million from fossil fuels. Smith has done well by Investure, the trustees argued, and we cannot allow political positions to guide our investments.

But as Gabriella and other students in Divest Smith College argue, it was ethical decisions that led Smith to divest from apartheid stocks in the 1980s, big tobacco stock, and oil companies profiting in Sudan during the Darfur crisis.

In fact, ACIR was created precisely to consider the ethical effects of Smith investment portfolio. Slavery was highly profitable to investors in the 18th and 19th centuries and only ended when the moral and political costs were too high.

We and the planet currently face the most catastrophic environmental crisis since the meteor-caused destruction of the dinosaurs and 75 percent of earth’s animal and plant species. Today, every additional molecule of CO2 discharged into the atmosphere hastens global warming, which will climb by another 3 to 4 degrees centigrade by the end of this century.

We are already experiencing sea-level rise, the melting of the polar ice caps and glaciers, profound weather events, and the destruction of habitat including our own. The future holds worse scenarios.

Our current administration is funded and guided by the fossil-fuel industry, which seeks huge but short-term profits at the expense of our lives, our children’s lives, and our grandchildren’s lives.

We teach our students at Smith and elsewhere to engage the world in meaningful ways that benefit the many and not just the few. Divest Smith is doing the right thing. I urge our community to support its efforts to divest now.

Elliot Fratkin

Northampton

Author: Going Green

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