Great News from Hampshire College

Here’s a post from Bill McKibben on some exciting news out of Hampshire College: 

As you know, we’ve been talking nonstop about the great folks at Unity College, who became the first school in the country to divest from fossil fuel. They’re heroes.

But there’s another school that has essentially done the same thing, and they deserve massive credit too. That’s Hampshire College in western Massachusetts, where the board of trustees recently voted only to invest in companies whose “policies align with our core values of social responsibility and sustainability.”  In practice, the school’s president Jonathan Lash said, that meant they wouldn’t invest in fossil fuel companies.

But for reasons I didn’t completely understand, he told me when we talked earlier in the fall that he “wouldn’t call it divestment.” I’m still not sure why, since it actually is. But Hampshire, as its board chair Sig Roos pointed out when he took the job, is not just environmentally sound, it also embodies a “deep respect for individuality.”  So maybe President Lash just didn’t want to be linked too closely to the larger movement. And in one respect their policy might be called ‘divestment plus’—they’ve committed to investing in renewable energy instead.

President Lash is a revered environmental leader, helping shepherd the World Resources Institute, and he’s owed great respect. But the movement that led to divestment was a student movement, and they deserve the right to call it what it is. Which is: a great victory. And they’re not stopping—they’ve become leaders in the cross-collegiate divestment movement.

Today, in fact, they’re helping rally students from around the Pioneer Valley to make sure other schools follow their lead. If I could be there—instead of in Omaha, where the Do The Math tour is today sojourning, here’s what I would say:

“So many thanks to the great students of Hampshire College. They showed the way in the 1980s, becoming the first school to divest from apartheid South Africa. 154 other campuses followed their lead, and I’m certain they’ll have exactly as much impact this time around. To them great honor and credit—and to the good folks at Amherst and UMass and Mt. Holyoke  and Smith, we can’t wait to watch you follow in their proud footsteps.”