Nearly 100 Harvard faculty members join the campaign to divest from fossil fuels

The professers signed an open letter urging the university to take action

Published April 10, 2014 8:18PM (EDT)

  (Marcio Jose Bastos Silva/Shutterstock)
(Marcio Jose Bastos Silva/Shutterstock)

The student-led effort to pull Harvard's $32.7 billion university endowment out of the fossil fuel campaign just gained the support of the school's faculty. In an open letter to the Ivy League school's president and trustees, signed by 93 staff members, they called the university out for supporting greenhouse gas-reducing programs on campus “while maintaining investments that promote their increase locally and worldwide.”

Such money, they added, is also used by the industry to "mislead the public, deny climate science, control legislation and regulation and suppress alternative energy sources."

"Our University invests in the fossil fuel industry: this is for us the central issue," the letter starts off, and goes on to make an impassioned case for divestment:

Our sense of urgency in signing this Letter cannot be overstated.  Humanity’s reliance on burning fossil fuels is leading to a marked warming of the Earth’s surface, a melting of ice the world over, a rise in sea levels, acidification of the oceans, and an extreme, wildly fluctuating, and unstable global climate.  These physical and chemical changes, some of which are expected to last hundreds, if not thousands, of years are already threatening the survival of countless species on all continents.  And because of their effects on food production, water availability, air pollution, and the emergence and spread of human infectious diseases, they pose unparalleled risks to human health and life.

...Divestment is an act of ethical responsibility, a protest against current practices that cannot be altered as quickly or effectively by other means.  The University either invests in fossil fuel corporations, or it divests.  If the Corporation regards divestment as “political,” then its continued investment is a similarly political act, one that finances present corporate activities and calculates profit from them.

Harvard knows the pressure is on: Earlier this week, the school released a statement promising to take climate change more seriously. It failed, however, to address that central issue of divestment, instead sticking to the position it's held since October, when President Drew Faust argued that the school's continued investment in fossil fuels would cause undue harm to Harvard without having a significant impact on the industry. The gesture wasn't enough to assuage those leading the divestment fight -- if anything, it appears to have won the movement 93 new champions.

By Lindsay Abrams

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