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Letters

To President Bacow, From Harvard Faculty for Divestment

By Joyce E. Chaplin, Scott V. Edwards, and Caren G. Solomon, Contributing Opinion Writers
Joyce E. Chaplin is a Professor of Early American History. Scott V. Edwards is a Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. Caren G. Solomon is an Associate Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School. They are members of Harvard Faculty for Divestment.

To President Bacow and the Fellows of Harvard College:

As members of Harvard University Faculty for Divestment, we thank you for your recent statement regarding Harvard’s response to the climate crisis. We appreciate and commend you for your acknowledgment that fossil fuel investments are imprudent, and for your pledge to stop investing in companies that explore for new fossil fuel reserves.

Your new position is an important step and a testament to the power of sustained social justice activism. It is also a reminder of how much we owe to the student activists of Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard, and to student activists on campuses around this country and around the world. They have helped us understand the urgency of the crisis and the responsibility we have, in our positions of privilege and power, to act commensurately.

At the same time, as with all aspects of Harvard’s climate action plan, transparency regarding specific plans and a firm timeline is critical. Your statement says nothing about continued direct investments in fossil fuel companies that generate profits from the extraction and sale of fossil fuels as long as they do not “explore for new reserves.” According to these criteria, the endowment might continue to invest directly in, for example, in the destruction of indigenous lands and waters for the construction of fracked gas pipelines. Also, the “less than 2% of the endowment” still invested in fossil fuels through private equity funds could translate to over $800 million supporting industries that continue to harm our health and our planet. We feel it is important for Harvard to provide deadlines for divestment of these funds as well.

We hope you will address these concerns with the transparency and forthrightness that Harvard leadership, at its best, exemplifies.

Respectfully,

Harvard Faculty for Divestment

Joyce E. Chaplin is a Professor of Early American History. Scott V. Edwards is a Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. Caren G. Solomon is an Associate Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School. They are members of Harvard Faculty for Divestment.

A list of faculty signatories to this letter can be found here.

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