Breaking news, dateline: Bar Harbor, Maine:
At a special meeting of College of the Atlantic’s Board of Trustees on Monday, March 11, the trustees accepted a student proposal to divest the college from all fossil fuel-related investments. The divestment of all stocks goes into effect immediately.
“The elation on campus is palpable,” says COA President Darron Collins, PhD. “Without a doubt, our actions send a strong message—one we are following with a student-driven energy framework based on empowering our students to go out and make a difference in their communities and throughout this world.”
Says Will Thorndike, chairman of the COA board of trustees and managing general partner of Housatonic Partners, “After due deliberation, the Board moved swiftly here on the basis of a very thorough presentation from the students. COA students understand the broader ramifications of their actions, and took those into account in their discussions with the board. I am immensely proud of them.”
The divestment campaign began just before the college’s January board meeting. It took one week, only, for the college to accept a provisional agreement to divest, but the resolution needed a vote by the board. This was slated to take place in April, but the administration decided to speed up the process.
When President Collins and Chair Thorndike quit patting each other on the back for having eschewed fossil fuels, will they turn their attention to how to heat their campus in Bar Harbor, one of the northern most towns in the United States, with the fewest daylight hours in winter? Solar won’t be sufficient. I doubt they plan to build a nuclear reactor, and good luck with the natives getting wind turbines anywhere near this elite summer paradise. Will COA be changing its admissions policy so that only students within biking or walking distance are admitted? It should: Think about the enormous amount of fossil fuel consumed by even an electric car, charged as it is by juice from a coal plant, let alone one powered by an internal combustion engine.
To date, a tiny handful of colleges, including Vermont’s Unity College, has made the headline-grabbing decision to divest. The colleges’ pied piper is the “grass-roots” organization Fossil Free, and, since small liberal arts colleges are nothing if not imitative of one another (especially when it comes to headline grabbing), you can expect other lemmings are lining up to take the plunge into the oleaginous Sea of Hypocrisy that buoys this stunt.
Each generation of new college students, at least the lefty ones, are always on the lookout for something to boycott or divest from. They take their cue from their forebears at Hampshire College, which to this day continues to take questionable pride in starting the divestiture pantomime by selling off stock in companies that did business with South Africa. Thus was a movement born. We all know how that turned out. But for some reason, students appear to believe that it looks like they care when they take a stand by telling somebody else what to do with his money.
What I do not understand, at all, is how these students, their college presidents, and their college’s trustees reconcile their continued use, as individuals and as an institution, of fossil fuels. On what moral ground do they think they are standing? Could it possibly be their thinking is that, by divesting, they have bought themselves a huge indulgence that cleanses their carbon footprints? And here I was thinking the carbon offset scam had been exposed as the fraud that it is. Guess not.
Someday, I’d like to read about students who petition the board of trustees to invest in companies that are exploring how nuclear waste might be safely stored, or looking for ways to burn coal efficiently and cleanly. There are a host of enterprises, I imagine, that could do great things for the environment with the infusion of cash a college’s endowment could provide. Then again, maybe it’s best for all of us to be suspicious of an fossil freedom rider’s ideas about sound alternative-energy investments.