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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Can Carleton really sidestep politics?

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In their recent coverage of the board of trustees’ response to the fossil fuel divestment issue, the Carletonian highlighted the investment committee’s reluctance to consider divestment. The headline of the article read, “Divest initiative remains mired in politics.” In a letter to the Carleton Responsible Investment Committee, Wally Weitz, the chair of the trustees investment committee, made special note of Carleton’s “strong historic presumption against taking institutional political positions.” Politics, it seems, is something to be avoided.

If we are to confront climate change, which is one the most pressing ethical issue of our time, is it realistic to avoid politics? Must “politics” be a dirty word?

The fossil fuel divestment movement is firmly rooted in politics. There is a reason for this: beating climate change requires that we legislate toward a lower carbon future. This will only be possible in a world in which the fossil fuel industry no longer wields enormous influence over the political process as it concerns our climate and energy decisions. It will only be possible when the fossil fuel industry is stripped of its social license. This is the aim of divestment.

Confronting climate change is an ethical issue that requires us to engage politics. We must acknowledge that money, power, governance, and human well-being are inextricably linked. Conversely, when the trustees say that they are unwilling to evaluate investments that concern climate change because they are political, they are willingly casting a blind eye to ethical implications. They are ignoring the irony of “securing” Carleton’s future by profiting off a business plan that will destroy that very future. Remaining invested in the fossil fuel industry is an expression of political and ethical stances with real impacts, a fact that cannot be avoided.

If this failure to act as stewards for the Carleton community becomes the trustees’ legacy, it will be remembered not just by the current generation of Carleton students, but also by future generations who deserve a livable planet. Carleton has long demonstrated a praiseworthy commitment to sustainability. For the sake of consistency and adequacy, fossil fuel divestment must be a component of its current response to our climate crisis.

Let’s reconsider whether “politics” is something ugly, and something in which we must necessarily be “mired.” Significant national and international political action is our best hope for turning the tide against climate change. Divestment may be our most powerful tool to change that from a distant dream to imminent possibility.

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