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Monday, Jun 24, 2024

Divestment and Energy 2028: A Future Worth Fighting For

In a world of sobering climate reports and inadequate national action, institutions that actively seek to propel the climate movement forward are the catalysts needed for national progress. Middlebury is one of those inspirational catalysts, and in choosing to attend Middlebury, I hoped to join its momentous wave of environmentalism. In learning about the student-led carbon neutrality campaign, the Environmental Studies Program, and the fossil fuel divestment campaign, I saw the drive, intelligence, and hope of the student body. Beyond that, I saw the unflinching support of an administration destined to pioneer true environmental stewardship.

Now with four months under my belt as a Middlebury student, I can positively assert that the Middlebury students of Sunday Night Environmental Group (SNEG), a student climate justice organization, are addressing some of the world’s most challenging problems. With its support for divestment and internal carbon pricing, SNEG is taking comprehensive action to curb the effects of climate change. Upon encountering these initiatives on campus and witnessing the process of their incorporation in the Energy 2028 proposal, my preconceived notions about the College were confirmed.

[pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]Middlebury is often recognized as a leader in sustainable higher education.[/pullquote]

The Energy 2028 proposal provides a complete transition to 100% renewables, a 25% reduction in consumption, an internal carbon pricing system, the enhancement of sustainability education, and a response to the student divestment referendum. First proposed in 2013, the student divestment ask advocates for the complete removal of approximately $53.7 million of the College’s endowment from the fossil fuel industry. It was ratified by the SGA with 79% student support, followed by faculty support of 92%. Internal carbon pricing has also received popular support over the years, as have movements for sustainability literacy and emissions reductions. Because Middlebury is often recognized as a leader in sustainable higher education, the idea of sustained fossil fuel use and investments appear contradictory to the College’s identity. Through Energy 2028, the Middlebury community and Board of Trustees have an exciting opportunity to demonstrate their support for environmental justice. 

[pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]There is a need for a vision, a desire for a “so what” that can mobilize entire battalions of climate activists.[/pullquote]

Being at the College now amidst the whirlwind of the divestment campaign, however, I understand the nuances of this 6-year project. I understand that change can feel impossible; humans have a tendency to wait for the 11th hour, the 59th minute. I understand that each community member acts with the best of intentions for the College and that the Board of Trustees prioritizes fiduciary responsibility to students and the school. Divestment from fossil fuels and the other components of Energy 2028 align with this goal. In acting on Energy 2028, the College can take leadership in the realm of climate action and its mission of global leadership, while also maintaining fiscal responsibility. This positive action provides an unparalleled opportunity for Middlebury to catalyze progress in the realm of environmentalism.

Ultimately, positive action is part of a larger need within the environmental movement, a need for a broadening of the conversation around energy. There is a need for a vision, a desire for a “so what” that can mobilize entire battalions of climate activists. For it will not be fear that motivates and mobilizes but rather innovation and ingenuity that will charge the troops and launch them into action. What do we want to find when the dust settles and the noise dies? We must advocate for that world we want to see, not against an ungodly alternative.

[pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]SNEG hopes to show the Board, the students, the faculty, staff, alumni, state, and country what our world can be.[/pullquote]

When I went to Washington D.C. on December 10th to protest with the Sunrise Movement for a Select Committee for a Green New Deal, I saw a movement that painted a picture of that beautiful world so many of us hope to live in one day. I saw a diverse but equal society, a government that truly protects its people from the corrupting influences of fossil fuel money, a clean country, a green country, a society that is healthy and employed and happy. The kind of hope produced from a movement like Sunrise is the type of hope so close you can taste it.

I taste this type of hope in the energy here at Middlebury. Yes, Divest Midd is against the idea of financially endorsing and enabling the activities of exploitative companies and individuals within the fossil fuel industry. However, more importantly, SNEG hopes to show the Board, the students, the faculty, staff, alumni, state, and country what our world can be. We can be a country that puts our money where our mouths are, a country that fully embodies leadership in progress and innovation, a country that actively chases the values of responsibility, integrity, creativity, and contribution we so espouse. Ultimately, though, that transition to a just, responsible, clean country can only come when institutions and individuals push for it, when they break the ground in acts like Energy 2028.

We are asking our school to end its ownership of the industry poisoning our homes and our futures. We are making the economics of green initiatives more feasible. We are truly achieving the carbon neutrality that has been the face of our environmental identity and taking responsibility for the consumption patterns that have created this global problem in the first place. We are empowering students and magnifying voices, challenging the status quo and demanding the higher standards we know our school is capable of achieving. Taking positive action on Energy 2028 can propel our school and our country on a path to change the world. My only question is, why on Earth would you want to stop that?

Note: Anyone wishing to support these causes can attend the following events:

Thursday, 01/24: 

Personal Divestment Action 1:00 at ADK

Divest Panel at 4:30 in Dana Auditorium

Friday 01/25: 

School-wide Orange-Out All Day

Letter-Writing Event at 1:00 at Mead Chapel

Storytelling Event 2:00 at Mead Chapel