Thanks for the excellent rebuttal column by John Foran and Victoria Fernandez in your Feb. 24 edition about why the University of California should divest of its fossil fuel investments. I couldn’t agree more. But the column did not mention the two most important reasons to divest: morals and effect.
It’s nothing short of hypocritical and immoral to complain about climate change or any other harm caused by fossil fuels — and there are many of these harms — while investing in the companies that extract, refine and/or sell them. If you believe that we must stop using fossil fuels, it’s immoral to have investments in them, plain and simple.
Even more important, if everyone sold their fossil fuel stocks, these companies would go out of business. I realize that even if all universities divested, that would be a drop in the bucket, but divestment has to start somewhere. And if universities led the way, perhaps it would start a major movement of selling off fossil fuel stocks. If you have money in fossil fuels, you are contributing to all the harms they cause, again plain and simple. In order to stop these harms, the money must be taken out of these companies.
Steven Solomon’s argument that universities can’t afford to not invest in fossil fuels is hypocritical, immoral and counterproductive, in addition to being simply wrong as pointed out by the authors of this rebuttal column. If you prioritize money over all else, as Solomon does in this argument, you wind up with a society in which most of us don’t want to live; in this case, one with a dead planet. Even if it would cost a substantial amount of money for universities to divest from fossil fuels, they should do so anyway. Anything less is selling their souls, so to speak.
There’s no point in trying to work against something like fossil fuels while spending money supporting them. Divestment of holdings in fossil fuel companies is both morally imperative and logistically necessary. Let’s hope that somehow the regents of the University of California see the light and change their minds on this issue.
Considering who these regents are, I don’t have much expectation that this will happen, but it’s what should happen.
Jeff Hoffman is an environmentalist and attorney and a resident of Berkeley.