Our College Should Stand By Its Principles

Pomona College is a liberal arts institution that aims to mold citizens who will contribute to and better the society in which they live. Therefore, it should not be indirectly harming our environment and society through financial support of the fossil fuel industry.

Climate change is real. Climate change is happening. And if we do not fully commit ourselves as individuals, as communities, and as a society, climate change will continue to cause global upheaval and suffering on an unprecedented scale.

Colleges and universities are unique in the abundant wealth they hold in social, intellectual, and financial capital. This makes these institutions better suited than any other entity to lead our society toward a more just and sustainable future. We have a duty to apply our intelligence and creativity to the enduring problems of our civilization, which include climate change.

By the engraving on its gates, the college compels its students to “bear [our] added riches in trust for mankind.” It would be hypocrisy for the college not to pursue the same goal. And it would be hypocrisy for Pomona to fail to pursue the same environmentalism goal. Despite using environmental sustainability to enhance its brand, Pomona has set no date for carbon neutrality, emits more carbon each year than the last, relegates the physical heart of its sustainability efforts to the farthest corner of campus, and backs the destructive fossil fuel industry through its investments. This lack of integrity is unacceptable.

If Pomona is to fulfill its mission and uphold its values as an institution, it must divest from fossil fuels. If our open-minded and reputable college cannot divest from the harmful hydrocarbon industry, then who will? To regain its integrity, Pomona must divest. By doing so, we will set a moral standard that other institutions will be inspired to live up to.

The roots of every argument for and against divestment can be boiled down to financial, social/political, or moral factors. We want to be very clear on where our campaign stands on each of those arguments. The financial argument is where most people currently hold misconceptions. University divestment, even on a national scale, will have no financial effect on fossil fuel companies. The economics simply don’t work. Also, there is a possibility that divesting from fossil fuels will have at least a temporary negative impact on Pomona’s endowment. Students should take heart, however, that according to our treasurer, divestment will not affect financial aid.

The financial argument is against us, but we believe that the moral and political arguments are strong enough to make divestment the right decision for our Pomona College. The moral argument is likely something that most students already understand. Nationwide divestment will not directly reduce carbon emissions in the same way that a carbon tax or cap-and-trade policy would. There are some who would argue that our energies would be better used campaigning for the implementation of those policies or for other direct political actions. But divestment has a political strength that these other actions do not. Divestment is starting a movement around climate change that the issue sorely needs. Politicians need a vocal constituency to pass climate change legislation, and divestment—by raising questions, starting conversations, and drawing significant national media attention—is uniting that constituency under one common symbol.

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