Year 4, Month 2, Day 8: I Don’t Want Him To Be Comfortable If He’s Going To Look Too Funny

The Chronicle of Higher Education notes that fossil-fuel divestment turns out to hold little or no liability for college endowments:

College-endowment managers who resist the growing call to divest their holdings in fossil-fuel companies may be doing so for little or no financial reason, according to a new report.

An analysis released on Tuesday by the Aperio Group, an investment-management firm that offers its clients a “socially responsible index,” among other investment strategies, found that while divesting from fossil-fuel companies does not necessarily add value to a portfolio, it does not subtract value from it either, and it increases the risk to investors at such a modest level as to be negligible.

In recent months, student groups at more than 200 colleges across the country have begun pushing their institutions to divest from fossil-fuel companies. A handful of smaller institutions, including Unity College and Hampshire College, have recently adopted strategies to reduce their investments in such companies, but most colleges have responded warily to the notion.

No doubt part of that wariness is that fossil-fuel companies are viewed as reliable profit generators, and divesting from them is seen as a financial handicap, even less attractive at a time when endowments have struggled because of the recession.

Because we won’t be responsible if it costs us anything. Sent January 31:

While it’s encouraging to know that college endowments aren’t likely to suffer from shedding fossil-fuel investments, divestment would be a good idea regardless of its economic impacts on university portfolios. The business model of big oil and coal companies is profoundly destructive, relying as it does on reintroducing millions of years’ worth of fossilized carbon into the atmosphere each year in a geological eyeblink, without regard for the climatic consequences.

While “bottom-line” rationales are popular and convenient, we must remember that one of the deepest goals of higher education is the inculcation of a broad sense of responsibility to and for the greater social good. We do not teach subjects; we teach human beings — and the quality of our teaching is reflected in our students’ commitment to a better future.

And there is no surer guarantee of a worse future than continued support of fossil fuels. They may be hugely profitable, but fossil fuel corporations epitomize an irresponsible disregard for our shared Earthly heritage and the continued happiness and prosperity of our descendants, and colleges and universities investing in them are abdicating their institutional responsibilities to our common posterity.

Warren Senders

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