San Francisco recently divested from fossil fuels, as did Oslo, Norway. These two international cities stand alongside hundreds of other cities, institutions and universities as testaments to making a bold choice to stop funding the primary cause of climate change.
The Western Washington University Foundation has also been presented with the opportunity to divest from fossil fuels, thanks to the leadership of Western’s conscientious Associated Students Board and student body. While the Foundation decided to not take this positive action last fall, the issue remains as crucial as ever and students continue to advocate for divestment.
Our university president has said that divestment is a diversion from the real issue at hand. Yes, divestment is a statement and primarily a symbolic act, but symbolism has profound effects. Such acts not only alter the conversation, they can serve as catalysts for essential and practical change.
We also respectfully disagree that divestment from fossil fuels is at odds with the Foundation’s mission of raising money. Western must be clear that our efforts, words and financial considerations align with our values. We would not invest in companies discriminating against part of our populace or trading in violence. Can we deny that investing in the fossil fuel industry is anything less than tacit concurrence with destroying the very environment that sustains life?
We have faith in our colleagues at Western, including the Foundation to stop funding and aligning with the primary cause of climate change. We are confident in their ability to utilize this opportunity to link Western to directions and values that are intrinsic to a forward-thinking institution, an innovative state and a healthy society.
As a university, we claim to prepare individuals for a life of purpose and positive change. By divesting from fossil fuels, Western can support students by choosing to support a sustainable future.
What do we most hope to model? How can we best contribute to their future? In divesting from fossil fuels we will also be investing in hope.
Gene Myers, Professor – Environmental Studies Department James Loucky, Professor – Anthropology Department John Riopelle, Program Coordinator – Teacher Ed. Outreach Programs Jill MacIntyre Witt, Instructor – Physical Education and Health Recreation Department Nicole Brown, Associate Professor – English Department Beth Hartsoch, Research Analyst – Office of Survey Research Grace Wang, Associate Professor – Environmental Studies Department Shirley Osterhaus, Senior Instructor – Fairhaven College