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Letter To My Alma Mater

 The endowments of almost all U.S. universities are heavily invested in oil and gas, the burning of which are accelerating climate change, also known as global warming. Below is the letter I wrote on November 30, 2012, to Dr. Nathan Hatch, the president of my alma mater, Wake Forest University. Four days later the New York Times ran a front-page story on this same topic.                                               

Dear Dr. Hatch,

I’ve enjoyed reading about your dynamic leadership since 2005 of my alma mater. I’m impressed that your book The Democratization of American Christianity is considered by academics to be one of the two most important books on American religion. I’m from the Wake Forest class of 1983. I am a person of faith, and my faith drives what I will be asking you to do in this letter.

 Climate change is accelerating. We are witnessing the increasing impacts of a warming planet more and more consistently. In this last year alone our country experienced record-breaking heat, droughts, and hurricanes, which impacted hundreds of thousands of people and cost our country hundreds of billions of dollars. Hurricane Sandy alone caused an estimated $50 billion in damages. Experts agree that global warming caused by humans burning fossil fuels will continue to accelerate and intensify these tragic climate disasters. The scientific consensus is clear and overwhelming: we cannot safely burn even half of global fossil-fuel reserves without dangerously warming the planet for several thousand years.

I notice you held a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard. Did you know that 72% of the Harvard student body recently voted that they would like Harvard to divest all its investments from the fossil fuel industries? Unity College of Maine has been the first college in the nation to divest from fossil fuels. More than 100 institutions of higher education are already on the path of divestiture.

 I am asking you to lead Wake Forest University in fossil fuel divestment. This would mean immediately freezing any new investment in fossil-fuel companies, and to divest within five years from direct ownership and from any commingled funds that include fossil-fuel public equities and corporate bonds.

I believe that our institution’s financial portfolio will weather the above actions satisfactorily. I also think that, as with the abolition of slavery in the 19th century, financial sacrifices are sometimes a part of doing the right thing. Your leading Wake Forest’s divestiture from fossil fuels would support the well-being of its current and future graduating classes, who deserve the opportunity to graduate with a future not defined by climate chaos.

 To preserve the quality of life for this and future generations worldwide, I am asking you, Dr. Hatch, to join a growing movement of schools around the country that are committed to preventing a more extreme climate by moving Wake Forest’s endowment beyond fossil fuels.

None of us can do such big things alone. I’ll work on gathering support for the above path by writing to the Old Gold and Black (WFU’s campus newspaper). I’ll also continue writing about fossil fuel divestment and the possibility of my alma mater joining this movement of conscience at my blog Diamond-Cut Life, established 2007.


 Alison Wiley





2 Comments so far ↓

  • Martha van Gelder

    Hi Alison,
    I’m writing a story about the divestment movement for Green America and was wondering if I could interview you about your perspective?

    • Alison

      Hi Martha, Yes, provided you include a link back to this page where you found me. I’m glad that Green America is going to cover divestment!

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