Sterling President, Matthew Derr, contributed this article to the Huffington Post last April.
In the United States, the use of fossil fuels is knitted to the economic fabric into which higher education is now woven. In the 21st century, Sterling College still heats its lovely 19th century white clapboard campus with 19th century fossil fuel energy sources. While we don’t derive income from investments in the fossil fuel sector, we do make compromises. Our compromises come at a cost to our institution and conflict with our mission and values. Better endowed institutions with 21st century infrastructure occasionally have justified the decision not to divest by virtue of being “green.” Those institutions are obfuscating the very argument that promotes those investments. Nor does Sterling’s commitment to divest excuse our community from its obligation to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. Regardless, no board of trustees can purchase virtue, either through its capacity to commit funds to sustainability, or its willingness to divert funds and divest. To address this issue, we must look at the whole cloth.