Divest from fossil fuels

Nov. 15, 2019, 2:16 a.m.

As a Stanford graduate of the 60s and the appreciative father of two recently graduated Cardinal students 2015 and 2017, I find the unwillingness of the University to respond to the sober requests from students and faculty to divest its ownership of fossil fuel holdings appalling. Much as I admire the ability of Stanford to continuously evolve as a center of learning, and the parallel efforts of the administration to advance the cause of social responsibility broadly, the failure to act decisively on the most threatening issue of our time is tragic.

The fires currently ravaging California are surely a harbinger of what is to come in the apocalyptic certainty that is global climate collapse. This is not just the cause of the day, it is the pivotal battle for the survival of life upon the planet, and every tool in mankind’s repertoire must be brought to the fore.

No additional Nobel prizes or extra millions in the University’s endowment fund can compensate for the horrors to be visited upon earth should our most visible institutions not act in a position of leadership. And, while Stanford should have been on the leading edge of the divestiture from fossil fuels movement, it is not too late for our Board of Trustees to assume the role it can yet play in the unimaginably complex effort to reverse the carbon nightmare that has come upon us.

If Stanford is to be correctly perceived as a global leader, and honor its historic commitment to “semper virens” (evergreen), it is now time to note that the winds imagined in our current motto, “Die Luft der Freiheit weht” (the winds of freedom blow), will carry more sand and ash than freedom.

No new facilities added, scholarships expanded, palm trees planted or Bowl invitations garnered can justify the errant behavior of a Board of Trustees that mistakenly accentuates an “optimized portfolio” in lieu of scientific reality. Poignantly, the new bottom line is no longer on a balance sheet, but measured by parts per million in the atmosphere.

Let Stanford martial its collective genius to join the forces of necessary change.

— Rick Silverman, ’66

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