Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Letter: History department stands with Divest UMass


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Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian

(Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)

Dear President Marty Meehan, Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy and Chairman Victor Woolridge:

During the past two weeks, students involved in the University of Massachusetts Fossil Fuel Divestment campaign have called upon the leaders of our university to “stand on the right side of history.” We, the undersigned faculty of the history department, strongly support these students’ reasonable demand for full UMass divestment from fossil fuels.

It is fitting that youth are spearheading this movement, for young people and future generations will directly bear the costs of fossil fuels-based economic growth despite not being responsible for the climate crisis. People in the United States and around the world are already suffering the impacts of severe weather, famine, drought and the armed violence that climate change is known to exacerbate. The scientific consensus is clear: we need immediate and drastic reductions in net greenhouse gas emissions to give human society a chance at a decent future. For this to happen, most known fossil fuels reserves must stay in the ground.

The University’s full divestment from fossil fuels companies and reinvestment in clean energy and sustainable development will firmly position UMass as a national leader on climate. It will also inspire other universities to join us in transitioning to a green economy. Moreover, as the students leading the protests have made clear, such a move will advance the University’s objective, outlined in its mission statement, to “improve the lives of the people of the Commonwealth, the nation, and the world.”

As historians, we often think about the ways that future generations will remember our current era. There is no doubt that in the decades to come, as climate change produces still more human suffering and ecological destruction, those who are now confronting the fossil fuels industries will be remembered in a positive light – just as mainstream society today views the abolitionists, the civil rights organizers and the anti-apartheid activists. The same cannot be said for those who profit from fossil fuel extraction.

Given the dire urgency of the climate crisis, non-binding commitments to future divestment are inadequate. The students who have worked for three years deserve an answer while they are still on campus. We ask you to submit a specific proposal for full divestment over five years to the Board of Trustees, who will then vote on the proposal as soon as possible. We join the UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment campaign in urging you to “lead with us” in establishing UMass’ historical legacy as a forerunner in the United States’ transition to a more just and ecologically sustainable economy.

Sincerely,

Concerned UMass Amherst History department faculty:

Christian Appy
Joye Bowman
Julio Capó, Jr.
Andrew Donson
Jennifer Fronc
David Glassberg
John Higginson
Jason Moralee
Jennifer L. Nye
Emily Redman
Sam Redman
Sigrid Schmalzer
Heidi V. Scott
Libby Sharrow
Priyanka Srivastava
Mary C. Wilson
Joel Wolfe
Kevin A. Young

13 Comments

13 Responses to “Letter: History department stands with Divest UMass”

  1. David Hunt 1990 on April 21st, 2016 6:34 am

    So do it – but do it PERSONALLY.

    Divest yourself of using gasoline and heating oil and natural gas. Divest yourself of all products produced or delivered with fossil fuels. Turn off your electricity and go purely solar, buy a horse, farm your own food, and don’t take any medicines for they are produced and delivered with fossil fuels.

    Please – JUST DO IT.

  2. Daniel Chard on April 21st, 2016 3:20 pm

    Dear President Meehan, Chancellor Subbaswamy, and Chairman Woolridge:

    Yesterday nineteen History Department faculty members submitted a letter supporting the UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment campaign’s request that you formally commit our university to full divestment from fossil fuel companies. As History Department graduate students, we are proud to endorse these professors’ statement, which we have copied below. We join growing numbers of UMass students, alumni, faculty, and staff in asking you to “lead with us” in taking bold action for climate justice.

    Sincerely,

    Concerned UMass History Graduate Students

    Marwa Atef Amer, PhD student
    Amy Breimaier, PhD candidate
    Adeline Broussan, PhD student
    Julia Carroll, MA student
    Daniel S. Chard, PhD candidate
    Erica Fagen, PhD candidate
    Chris Fobare, PhD candidate
    Kathryn Julian, PhD candidate
    John Higgins, PhD student
    Destiney Linker, PhD candidate
    Chelsea Miller, MA student
    Mark Roblee, PhD student
    Rebekkah Rubin, MA student
    Karen E. Sause, PhD student
    Sean Smeland, MA student
    Amanda Tewes, PhD candidate
    Charles Weisenberger, PhD student

  3. Daniel Chard on April 21st, 2016 3:24 pm

    Dear President Meehan, Chancellor Subbaswamy, and Chairman Woolridge:

    Yesterday nineteen History Department faculty members submitted the above letter supporting the UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment campaign’s request that you formally commit our university to full divestment from fossil fuel companies. As History Department graduate students, we are proud to endorse these professors’ statement. We join growing numbers of UMass students, alumni, faculty, and staff in asking you to “lead with us” in taking bold action for climate justice.

    Sincerely,

    Concerned UMass History Graduate Students

    Marwa Atef Amer, PhD student
    Amy Breimaier, PhD candidate
    Adeline Broussan, PhD student
    Julia Carroll, MA student
    Daniel S. Chard, PhD candidate
    Erica Fagen, PhD candidate
    Chris Fobare, PhD candidate
    Kathryn Julian, PhD candidate
    John Higgins, PhD student
    Destiney Linker, PhD candidate
    Chelsea Miller, MA student
    Mark Roblee, PhD student
    Rebekkah Rubin, MA student
    Karen E. Sause, PhD student
    Sean Smeland, MA student
    Amanda Tewes, PhD candidate
    Charles Weisenberger, PhD student

  4. Naka Ishii on April 21st, 2016 4:15 pm

    Individuals acting as a group have more impact than an individual acting alone, especially when you are trying to affect an institution where you work that invests millions of dollars. Perhaps I’m thick, but it’s not clear to me what about their letter is problematic for you, David Hunt 1990.

    I applaud these concerned faculty of the UMass History Department . I hope to sign a letter like this in support of our students from similarly concerned librarians at the University very soon.

  5. David Fitzgerald on April 21st, 2016 9:20 pm

    Mr. Hunt,

    I admit I will not be doing those things fully. But I agree we should all be doing our part. So, I want to make a pledge and see who will join me.

    I pledge to not travel by plane at all this year (travel is fossil fuel intensive).
    I pledge to not use air conditioning at all in my home this year.

    There, small ways. Who will join me?

  6. David Fitzgerald on April 21st, 2016 9:51 pm

    I know some of these history profs, so it is with mixed feelings that I bring some criticism.
    The letter states that young people are not responsible for the climate crisis. I think that is untrue. This generation of young adults is at least as selfish as my generation (born 1958). Human nature does not change. Most of these young adult consumers use plenty of fossil fuels in their daily lives, as can easily be seen by their manufactured clothing, backpacks, cellphones, laptops, etc. They live in climate controlled housing, use lots of hot water, electric lights, obviously etc. As a generation, they are responsible for adding to the ongoing climate crisis. If drastic reductions in emissions are needed immediately, don’t look for this generation to provide it. Notice how perhaps 1 or 2 percent of the student body is involved in the Divest campaign? The rest of them? Yeah, those are the ones many of whom have just returned from their fossil fuel intensive spring break trips. Why is it that so many hundreds of thousands (millions?) of this generation of students go on long expensive trips? Don’t they care about emissions? I use plenty of fossil fuel provided energy. Most of these young adults use at least as much.

  7. David Fitzgerald on April 21st, 2016 10:16 pm

    “Stand on the right side of history”. The letter states that as historians, they often consider how future generations will remember our current era.

    I have a question which I hope will get some specific answers.

    How would you view the current general attitude of the US population toward the fossil fueled climate crisis?

    I would say that the most common person is one who agrees that yes there is a real problem and something should be done, but in their own life the person is absolutely unwilling to give up anything in their lifestyle that would reduce their own use of fossil fuels.

    That is how I think this era will be remembered, as a population who mostly talked that emissions should be reduced, but a population that didn’t act in any significant way. Will this era be remembered as an era of hypocrisy? Unfortunately, I think the answer will be yes.

    What do you say?

  8. David Fitzgerald on April 21st, 2016 10:40 pm

    Naka Ishii,

    respectfully, I will offer one of my major concerns with the letter. Divestment does not reduce UMass emissions by even one molecule. Also, the divestment plan would take five years. Not too long, but a buffer zone for continued inaction on the matter of actually reducing the use of fossil fuels.

    The smokestack of the central heating plant, the one easily visible down the hill from the Mullins Center, will continue to billow its pollution. Where is there any group writing a letter asking what is being burned there?

    I think the Divest campaign will be victorious. I also think the victory will be empty, completely hollow, in my opinion. Others will surely disagree.

    David Fitzgerald, concerned human being

  9. David Hunt 1990 on April 22nd, 2016 9:22 pm

    Given that NASA and NOAA have lied and fraudulently altered data to create a warming trend, your sacrifices are for naught.

  10. David Fitzgerald on April 22nd, 2016 10:24 pm

    “… those who are now confronting the fossil fuels industries will be remembered in a positive light…”

    This is true, but it is out of context at UMass. Here, students have been confronting the administration, and the administration is in the process of deciding whether or not to sell some fossil fuel industry stocks.

    There has been no “confronting the fossil fuel industries” in these recent protests. I doubt there is even one student on campus who is actually confronting this industry. I doubt this because I’ve never heard of such a thing in recent years. I know there are more than 20,000 people on campus, so it’s certainly possible that someone is directly confronting the industry, but right now it seems like a mythical person.

    Does anyone know if this mythical person is in fact a reality? That would be quite enlightening.

    David Fitzgerald, concerned human being

  11. David Fitzgerald on April 23rd, 2016 2:00 pm

    “… the University’s objective, outlined in its mission statement, to “improve the lives of the people of the Commonwealth, the nation, and the world.”

    I like this mission statement. This is why the university burns natural gas and diesel in its central heating plant, to run the campus so student lives can be improved.

    At least the new 2009 plant doesn’t burn coal like the old one. So there is a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Still, that’s the reality that UMass is still polluting at 70 percent of its previous level.

    Is this acceptable? Apparently so, as long as we divest from the companies that extract natural gas.

    Let’s divest from those companies, and continue to use their products. Yeah, that’s the plan.

    David Fitzgerald, concerned human being

  12. David Fitzgerald on April 23rd, 2016 6:26 pm

    Oh, the smokestack. Apparently what we see daily is just a mixture of nitric oxide and water vapor, so should we not worry about what we see?

    Oh, wait! The greenhouse gases are invisible. Yeah, we should be worried.

    David Fitzgerald, concerned human being

  13. David Hunt 1990 on April 25th, 2016 9:48 am

    Obviously, the “Divest” people have something against plants, which use CO2 to live.

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