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To: Dear President Spencer,
Bates College: Go Fossil Free!
In your inauguration speech to the College, you reflected upon Bates' roots in social justice and progressive thinking. We are writing to you with a very clear, direct opportunity to live up to these ideals.
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.
As the urgency of addressing climate change builds, we call on you and the Board of Trustees to initiate an immediate and full study of the Bates endowment's investment in the fossil fuel industry. This must be the first in a series of actions leading to a safe and financially sound divestment from all fossil fuels over the next five years.
The undersigned members of the Bates community are looking to you for your leadership on this pressing need. The welfare of many generations of Bates students and alumni is threatened by climate change. It would be an abdication of Bates' historic role in our society for us to do nothing, and thus to be on the wrong side of history.
Thank you for your thoughtful consideration.
Why is this important?
Climate change is accelerating. We are witnessing the increasing impacts of a warming planet more and more consistently; in this last year alone our country experienced record-breaking heat, droughts, and hurricanes, which impacted hundreds of thousands of people and cost our country hundreds of billions of dollars. Hurricane Sandy alone caused $50bn in damages. Experts agree that global warming caused by humans burning fossil fuels will continue to accelerate and intensify these tragic climate disasters. The scientific consensus is clear and overwhelming; we cannot safely burn even half of global fossil-fuel reserves without dangerously warming the planet for several thousand years. As public pressure to confront climate change builds, we call on Bates College to immediately freeze any new investment in fossil-fuel companies, and to divest within five years from direct ownership and from any commingled funds that include fossil-fuel public equities and corporate bonds. We believe such action on behalf of Bates College will not only be a sound decision for our institution's financial portfolio, but also for the wellbeing of its current and future graduating classes, who deserve the opportunity to graduate with a future not defined by climate chaos.