DU AND FOS­SIL FU­ELS

Re: “Di­vest­ment push at DU is un­wise,” Dec. 17 editorial.

The Denver Post - - PERSPECTIVE -

Should trustees OK di­vest­ment?

I was struck by your editorial’s chan­nel­ing of the Uni­ver­sity of Den­ver’s vice chan­cel­lor for le­gal af­fairs that “the mis­sion of the uni­ver­sity is to pro­vide a good ed­u­ca­tion for its stu­dents” and that di­vest­ment would “harm DU’s abil­ity to serve its stu­dents.” The promi­nence ac­corded these com­ments re­flect the out­sized and in­creas­ingly omi­nous role of le­gal coun­sel on uni­ver­sity cam­puses, and the fear of risk-tak­ing and li­a­bil­ity that’s be­come a pri­mary ethic in higher ed­u­ca­tion.

It also re­flects a re­mark­ably nar­row and sim­plis­tic view of DU’s mis­sion. I know, be­cause I helped for­mu­late it. DU’s mis­sion is an­chored by com­mit­ments to sus­tain­abil­ity and the com­mon good. Ar­gu­ments for di­vest­ment are firmly em­bed­ded in these com­mit­ments, while also mind­ful of the im­per­a­tive of mak­ing al­ter­na­tive in­vest­ment de­ci­sions.

So­lic­it­ing a com­ment about di­vest­ment from some­one com­mit­ted to a more nu­anced view of the uni­ver­sity’s role in so­ci­ety — like a mem­ber of the Fac­ulty Se­nate sub­com­mit­tee that spent months re­search­ing the is­sue in ad­vance of trustee task force hear­ings — would have added some bal­ance to your editorial. It also might have re­freshed what you un­wisely dis­par­age as a “stale” de­bate. Dean Saitta, Den­ver The writer is an an­thro­pol­ogy pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Den­ver.

If, as the In­de­pen­dent Petroleum As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica in­sists, DU’s prospec­tive di­vest­ment of its en­dow­ment fund from the top 200 fos­sil-fuel com­pa­nies is only a “sym­bolic ges­ture” that would not af­fect the price of en­ergy in­dus­try stocks, one might well won­der why the IPAA is ex­pend­ing so much ef­fort and money to “launch a counter-at­tack” against stu­dents and oth­ers ad­vo­cat­ing for that di­vest­ment. Me­thinks they doth protest too much!

How­ever, if we would sim­ply put a price on car­bon, which would be­gin to re­flect the so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal costs of ex­tract­ing, pro­cess­ing and burn­ing fos­sil fu­els, the di­vest­ment move­ment would be un­nec­es­sary; the mar­ket would quickly take care of it. One might think the IPAA and the com­pa­nies they rep­re­sent, if they are re­ally in­ter­ested in de­vel­op­ing al­ter­na­tive, re­new­able en­ergy sources, might wel­come such a mar­ket so­lu­tion, since it would greatly en­hance in­cen­tives for them to do so. Nel­son Bock, Den­ver

In the re­cent Paris cli­mate agree­ment, lead­ers from across the globe — in­clud­ing the pres­i­dents of China and the U.S., en­cour­aged by Pope Fran­cis and oth­ers — agreed that given the sci­en­tific con­sen­sus about the ur­gency of the cli­mate cri­sis, na­tions must put them­selves on a path to­ward de-car­boniz­ing their economies. In­vest­ment ad­vis­ers are mov­ing rapidly to fa­cil­i­tate the global goal of hold­ing tem­per­a­tures to no more than a 2 de­gree in­crease, and are cre­at­ing im­por­tant tran­si­tional in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties that do not en­cour­age fur­ther ex­plo­ration for or devel­op­ment of new sources of fos­sil fu­els, most of which can never be burned. In­sti­tu­tions like DU can help to pro­vide lead­er­ship in this tran­si­tion, which is es­sen­tial for the sur­vival of mankind. Ti­mothy E. Wirth, Boul­der The writer is a for­mer U.S. se­na­tor from Colorado.

The Uni­ver­sity of Den­ver’s trustees will vote next month on a plan to di­vest DU’s en­dow­ment of fos­sil fu­els. Katie Wood, Den­ver Post file

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