In response to President Kington’s Campus Memo on Divestment:
My name is Rachel Buckner, and I am a third year at Grinnell College. I am currently studying off-campus in San Francisco, Vietnam, Morocco, and Bolivia, studying climate change and the politics of food, water, and energy. As I journey around the world, learning about the state of our climate, I cannot sit back as my home institution disregards divestment as a critical step in curbing climate change and ending climate injustice.
As Grinnell’s investments fund fossil fuel companies, our institution endorses corporate tycoons such as Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon and now Secretary of State for the Trump administration. The Trump Administration is dedicated to warming the planet at all costs, providing profit for the richest people in America, and upholding white supremacy. The Trump Administration is committed to banning Muslims, deporting undocumented citizens, and upholding and exacerbating racism against black people through police violence. As the White House page bluntly puts it, “the dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America is wrong. The Trump Administration will end it.” Do we as an institution want to support the fossil fuel companies that directly influence and are even a part of the Trump Administration?
However, I would still be writing this response if we were not living in a Trump controlled America. Funding fossil fuel companies, regardless of who is in power in government, is funding environmental racism. Climate change is a crisis caused by a system designed to oppress individuals based on race, gender, and ethnicity. Environmental racism embedded in a white supremacist culture allows fossil fuel companies to continue drilling and treat indigenous communities and communities of color as expendable. This allows for climate change to spiral out of control. Systemic racism blinds our view of the impacts of fossil fuel extraction and climate change, as fossil fuel industries place the majority of the burden on low income black, Latinx and Indigenous communities. Climate injustices manifest all across our country; from communities like Richmond, California whose people, over 80% people of color, breathe in the dirty oil of Chevron and await the next oil spill or explosion, to indigenous people at Standing Rock who are losing their land and water rights to greedy, white supremacist capitalists. In California, 92% of fracking wells are located in communities of color when they only represent 46% of the population (Madeline Stano- Environmental Lawyer and Community Organizer.) Climate change mitigation efforts must occur alongside social justice efforts, as the two are embedded within each other and are rooted in the discussion of power; who holds the power to control, use, and abuse our resources.
Grinnell College claims to have a “social justice mission and [an] abolitionist history,” by supporting students threatened by Trump’s new policies to fighting prejudice within our own community. Investing in fossil fuels contradicts this social justice mission. I feel a deep disconnect from Grinnell, as I struggle to commit to attending an institution that is invested in fossil fuel companies; companies that exacerbate the social justice issues that Grinnell educates us on and claims to support.
Now is not the time to solely educate. As our planet warms on the trajectory of disaster and social injustices continue to plague our society, Grinnell College must take action to uphold their commitment to social justice by divesting from fossil fuels. We can be an institution that sets an example for many liberal arts colleges by demonstrating that divesting from fossil fuels is an investment in climate justice.