HOPE AND A FUTURE OR DISASTER? Remarks directed to the Investment Committee of Franklin and Marshall College


Let me begin with a Biblical text.

The Hebrew prophet Jeremiah, speaking to the people on behalf of God, wrote “For I know the plans I have for you.

They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a hope and a future.” (29:11)


Isn’t a hopeful future what Franklin and Marshall aspires to offer? Doesn’t the college recruit top professors to bring the best of accumulated knowledge to students in the classrooms, the laboratories, studios and practicums…..preparing young minds to make a contribution to the world and thus to receive compensation for their contributions? Looking just 2 or 3 decades into the future; if today’s graduates have truly been well prepared, they may consider sending their own children to Franklin and Marshall thus establishing or continuing a family tradition.


Yet a future hope of making a contribution and even establishing family traditions is being choked off like the life of a condemned person with a noose around her neck.

Why do I say that?

Because the very best knowledge in the field of climate science tells us so. As an institution of higher learning, you do want to rely on the latest and best knowledge, right?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released most of their findings on their massive 2014 report. This study was the most extensive, the biggest assessment of scientific knowledge in ANY field-EVER!

What have these scientists told us? Quite simply, they warned us that the future of life on this planet is bleak unless we quickly transition to a low-carbon economy.

The planet is heating. Seas are rising. Extreme weather events are increasing around the globe. Species are going extinct at an alarming rate.Food systems are breaking down. http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/04/13/3426117/climate-panel-avoiding-catastrophe-cheap/

The emissions of CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels are the chief cause of an ever tightening noose around all of our necks. A livable planet is slipping from our grasp and disaster looms for today’s graduates and their children.

Franklin and Marshall, and other institutions charged with preparing young people for the future, are limiting the prospects of their graduates by putting investment dollars into the hands of those who are tightening the noose, i.e. the fossil fuel industry.

By doing this, F&M has it’s fingers wrapped around that noose as well.

We are here today to call on F&M to divest from fossil fuels.

Move away from funding disaster.

It is inconsistent and counterproductive to prepare for a hopeful future while investing in it’s destruction.

We challenge you to become totally invested in hope and a future. Become the leaders you claim to be. Do it now. Set an example for others to follow. Put your money where your mission is.


I gave this message for a Go Fossil Free Rally at Franklin and Marshall College on May 9, 2014 just before a group of F&M students made their plea to the Investment Committee of The Franklin and Marshall Board of Trustees. This student group is part of an international movement. http://gofossilfree.org

3 thoughts on “HOPE AND A FUTURE OR DISASTER? Remarks directed to the Investment Committee of Franklin and Marshall College

  1. I agree with you 100% that fossil fuels must be extinct before we can truly be responsible caretakers of our planet. But there’s a disconnect between this goal and divestment of any investment in oil, gas or coal companies. Owning, buying or selling a share of stock in these companies does not hurt them one bit. Investing in a share of stock funds nothing at the corporate level. They got their “investment funds” when they sold that stock to the public ages ago. Now it’s only trading between funds, individual portfolios and others that creates a transfer of money. I sell to you, you buy from me. The fossil fuel company gets NONE of it.

  2. Thank you for the thoughtful comment.
    As you say, being caretakers of our planet (God’s creation) requires that we move quickly away from a high carbon economy. Just this morning the local paper is reporting on the irreversible collapse of large parts of the West Antarctic ice sheet due to the warming waters. It appears that a 10 foot rise in sea levels from this event is inevitable.
    How can we respond to things like this without making it a moral issue? If we know what is destroying the prospects of a livable world for our children and grandchildren (and other species) how can we conduct business as usual?
    Every step in the right direction is needed!
    The worldwide divestment movement has a role to play in this movement by calling institutions to account for their complicity.
    A small step by schools like F&M to acknowledge this publicly has ripple effects which will trigger other actions that can make an even larger impact. Someone needs to lead! Why not F&M?

    Your point about the disconnect has some validity but misses the implications inherent in the ownership of stock. Here I will quote my friend Frank Morris, who asserts:

    “Of course, the value of an equity changes day to day…oil or coal or wind or sun etc…What I’m suggesting is that ownership represents a personal or institutional commitment to the success of the company that the individual or institution owns.

    Rex Tillerson owns a great deal of Exxon–he’s committed to the firms success. His co owners, shareholders-desire success for the firm….there is a institutional/societal commitment at work.”
    Our investments have moral implications. They indicate our commitments. They speak about the future because “What we invest in builds the society we live in.”
    Each of us, myself included, need to practice a spiritual discipline of self examination. Where are my commitments, habits, lifestyle choices inconsistent with my values and my mission? What am i willing to do
    to become more consistent? When will I make these changes? Why not now?

    In the case of the F&M Investment Committee they could reinvest the divested funds in sustainable options such as organic foods, recycling, bicycles, clean water provision, energy storage, rail, energy efficiency
    or renewables. This would demonstrate an understanding of the urgency of the climate crisis as well as offer leadership on how to more fully live out a mission. It would be a strong statement which would give courage to others needing to make changes or to show leadership.
    What we invest in builds the society we live in.
    Thanks again for entering this conversation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s