Addie Geitner ’21 Hustle & Bustle Editor Emeritus
I call on Mercersburg Academy to immediately begin the urgent and necessary movement to fully divest its endowment and retirement pensions from all fossil fuel-related industries and institutions. To remain inactive while educational institutions across the globe are taking this crucial step is to fall short in every arena in which our school should hope to excel.
It is to speak our preached values shallowly. To discuss diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice while ignoring the role our investments play in maintaining the discussion’s antitheses, is a dangerous denial of institutional responsibility. Environmental injustice is an increasingly dire dilemma. There is no denying the devastation climate change inflicts on marginalized communities, from polluted air to violent storms. While our school sits comfortably tucked beneath the Tuscarora mountains, our neighbors over the ridge are polluted by the coal hotbed that expands across nearby western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. As a school that arguably maintains aristocratic rule in the United States by funneling opportunity to the one percent, it is time the school take financial action that reaches beyond our walls to address the global threat that our tax exempt dollars perpetuate.
It is to allow entitlement and apathy to take root while obligation and empathy wither. I, as a student, am offered made-to-order omelets, sparkling state of the art facilities, teachers ever willing to make time in their day to offer me extra help. It is important that the school not only ask what service can be done for the students, but what the school can do for the community, and what sense of service the school is responsible for instilling in its students. Students should understand that investments are not simply a means of balancing one’s own checkbooks, but of standing up for what matters to them, and contributing to something bigger than themselves.
It is to invest out of students’ futures, rather than in. The generation that will profit from fossil fuels is fading out. The generation that will choke on their condemned externalities presently walks the Academy’s halls. According to a recent report from Harvard University, fossil fuel emissions accounted for one in five premature deaths in 2018. An institution cannot claim to invest in their students while actively doing just the opposite.
It is to move backwards in an age hurriedly hurtling forward. Times have changed. The ESG sector deemed unreliable 10 years ago is undeniably reliable today, with dollars invested in ESGs reportedly doubling in 2020 alone. The fiduciary responsibility argument is debunked. The first UC school to divest cited “financial risk” as the reason for divestment. Shell has announced peak performance while the rest of the oil industry is expected to come to the same conclusion within this decade. Why hold out on something that isn’t working?
It is to deny the chance to not only gain competitive status among our peer schools, but to begin a movement. There are long arguments on both sides of the “what impact does divestment truly have” debate. Having heard both, I believe the school should choose the action-based side. “What is the only way to not feel hopeless,” a wise man asked, “Get up and do something.” Mercersburg Academy: Posters are going up, stickers are being ordered, students are talking and building forces with faculty, parents, and alumni. To wait is simply to push back the inevitable. Divestment is not a matter of if, but when. Given the urgency of the climate crisis, the answer is clear—right now.