Letter to the Editor

Alumnus calls for RPI to divest from fossil fuel industry

To the Editor:

I’m an RPI alumnus writing in support of those students who in past years have called for RPI to divest from the fossil fuel industry. I also write because I’m afraid. Afraid for these students and the world that they and their children will inherit. I also write because I am angry. Angry with this industry, some of the wealthiest corporations on Earth who have the power to help solve the climate crisis they have done so much to create, and from which they have profited—and continue to profit—so richly. They must use that power for the common good. Not stand in the way of solutions. Not deceive the public, deny science, and obstruct solutions. Today, as bondholders, we loan Exxon and its compatriots the capital to expand operations in the rapidly-melting Arctic, to develop more effective hydraulic fracturing technologies, and to run massive tar sand operations, to name a few. As shareholders, we profit directly from the extraction and release of carbon that’s wrecking our climate.

This investment behavior is deeply irrational. More importantly, it is profoundly immoral; because the effects of carbon operate on a half-century-long lag, we are quite literally investing in the carbon that will harm our children. We know divestment works. Students at colleges and universities rallied for years to divest from apartheid in South Africa, eventually helping to turn the tide in that fight. The time has come to demand that our institution do the right thing. I’m proud of those RPI students who in past years have called for divestment. On Saturday of Homecoming/Reunion Weekend I will be standing in support of these RPI students with banners and signs advocating for divestment, beside the main entrance to the football field at 12:30 pm. I invite other alumni, or faculty and students to join me. I also plan to be standing at 6:30 pm in support of divestment outside the entrance to the field house before the hockey game that evening.

(In this letter I have paraphrased the words of Harvard alumnus Wen Stephenson and Harvard Law School student Alec Harris).