To the Editor:
In the November 16 issue of The Student Life the Editorial Board expressed their support for the divestment movement that has picked up support at the 5Cs. I support sustainability efforts taken by colleges to promote responsible lifestyle practices, but I disagree with the Editorial Board’s description of a liberal arts education supporting divestment. Students learn about the looming threat that our current lifestyle patterns have on nature, the environment and society in general, but students also learn about the contributions and inventions that fossil fuels made possible. The first coal reserves in Europe led to the invention of the steam engine and the start of the Industrial Revolution. Ever since, we have evolved and grown as a society while engineering newer and more efficient engines that utilize various fuels to make our lives easier and convenient. Extraction methods of these fuels are also more efficient and cleaner than in the past. Power plants, airplanes, cars and other technologies that we enjoy today are becoming more efficient as time goes on. The growing popularity and demand for sustainability forces oil, car, utility and transportation companies to emphasize sustainability as well as a commitment to cleaner, safer and more efficient services. How can we divest from the fuel sources that continue to fuel a major part of our lives today?
Divestment is a withdrawal of funds from a company in order to make a social or moral statement, but I doubt our efforts would be successful. Divestment from these sources would make their stock fall significantly, but only for a short period of time. After the financial crisis, numerous banks have held on to cash and remain cautious with their investments to prevent further losses. Trillions of dollars in reserves combined with a lower priced and undervalued stock as a result of divestment provide the banks a rare opportunity to make massive profits and return the oil and coal stocks to their normal levels. Our efforts would cause an insignificant impact on coal and oil companies that continue to find and burn their fuel in cleaner and more efficient ways, while the colleges would risk a loss of gains in their endowment funds. Sustainable and clean energy is something we should all support, but divestment is not an efficient way to achieve this goal.
Pomona College Class of 2016