School urged to divest from mountaintop removal companies
When examining the College's environmental initiatives, its investment portfolio might seem like an odd place to look. But that's exactly where a group of students have focused their attention in a recent effort to make the College more environmentally conscious.
On November 20, four members of the Colby Environmental Coalition met with President William "Bro" Adams. The group's proposal, which listed the top 16 mountaintop removal coal mining companies in Appalachia in 2008, urged the College to dissociate from such corporations which "[profit] from the exploitation of the earth and its people."
"This form of resource extraction is devastating and inexcusable," the proposal states, "the College should divest [from these companies] immediately."
Mountaintop removal coal mining is an extreme method of strip mining that involves clear-cutting forests on hills and mountains before leveling these sites of high elevation in order to access fossil fuel coal below. Often, such practices result in filling rivers with coal mining waste and polluting water sources with toxic runoff, essentially sacrificing the safety of people living in the region.
According to the divestment proposal, this form of mining has already leveled more than 470 summits in states such as West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.
"It's an inexcusable and extremely destructive practice," EnviroCo co-president Rachel Baron '11 said. "It ruins communities, it ruins habitats, and it's completely unsustainable." Those Coalition members involved--Baron, Michelle Russell '11, Robyn Wardell '11 and Katie Lebling '10--expect to follow up with another letter addressing the subject before the Board of Trustees meets in January to discuss it with President Adams. At the November meeting, Adams emphasized he was aware of the issue, although he stressed to the students that topics like this are often tricky in their own way.
"He said it's kind of like fly paper, once you start touching it, it's hard not to get involved with surrounding issues as well," Baron said.
Still, there is precedent for such ethically motivated divestment. In the past, for example, the College has stopped supporting corporations funding the genocide in Darfur as well as those funding the South African apartheid. However, as Adams stressed at the November meeting, in those cases the line between right and wrong was painfully clear.
Nevertheless, the proposal--which features horrifying stories such as the Buffalo Creek disaster as well as numerous telling statistics and six images of mountaintop removal--will certainly be considered at the January meeting. In addition to EnviroCo, students Andy Smith '11, Sarah Sorenson '11 and Kelly Roche '11 have also pushed for the proposal.
"The ball's in their court now," Baron said.