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Petitioning Bates Office of College Advancement

Bates College: Divest from fossil fuels

As a Bates College graduate, or a member of the extended Bates community, I share and cherish Bates commitment to social responsibility. The growing climate crisis is a call to action to uphold this commitment in impactful ways.

We have come to a critical point in the fight against climate change. In recent years, the world has experienced increasingly bizarre, unpredictable and destructive weather, which has already caused widespread human suffering. Experts agree that if the fossil fuel industry carries out its plans to burn all of the carbon currently in its reserves, the resulting climate impacts would be catastrophic, including, in the next century alone, sea level rise of multiple feet, increasingly frequent and violent storms and massive food and water shortages worldwide.

While the scientific consensus is clear and overwhelming, the political will simply does not yet exist to address this escalating crisis. This is where responsible, forward-thinking institutions such as Bates need to assert themselves and vindicate their moral principles. Maintaining investments in the fossil fuel industry is antithetical to Bates' mission and commitment to social justice. Bates has a historic opportunity both to lead on this critical issue and to demonstrate our unwavering commitment to our core founding principles.

The goal of divestment is the political and social stigmatization of the fossil fuel industry, which we have defined as the list of 200 corporations provided by the Carbon Tracker Initiative in their report 'Unburnable Carbon.' Previous divestment movements found their success in destroying the reputations of entire industries, not by harming companies economically. Fossil fuels are an inescapable part of our lives in this day and age and to say reducing demand is enough to create the urgent change neccesarry to stay below 2 degrees Celsius of warming is wrong. Only when green energy becomes accepted socially and politically will this change occur, and that is how divestment fits in. 

The Board of Trustees have told us that Bates has the moral justification to divest but that we will never be a leader in this movement. That is an unnacceptable response to us and it should be for the entire Bates community. Divestment is a tricky process because of the sheer amount of money managers and mutual funds in which we are invested, but nonetheless it is possible. We support the Board of Trustees in thoroughly examining the many options available to phase-out fossil fuels from our portfolio over 5-7 years, but they need to begin that process urgently. 

This petition is designed as a vehicle for donors to express their dismay with Bates' current investments in the fossil fuel industry and to show their support for a more responsible, sustainable, forward-thinking investment strategy. 

In the space provided, please provide a thoughtful response as to why you support fossil fuel divestment and how your Bates education shaped that view. Additionally, please indicate whether divestment would influence your intention to donate to Bates. Specifically, would you withhold your donation to Bates until a commitment is made? Will you donate additional funds? We want to know!

An email will be sent to the Advancement Office alerting them of your concern with current investment practices.. See the letter's text below. 

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