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Calls for Dartmouth to Abandon Its Investments in Fossil Fuel Companies

Calls for Dartmouth to Abandon Its Investments in Fossil Fuel Companies

  • Dartmouth freshman Amenah Hasan a member of Divest Dartmouth organization hands out stickers during a rally at the college in Hanover, N.H., on April 30, 2016. Hasan is from Pakistan. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Eben Bein of Boston, Ma., and a 2009 graduate of Dartmouth College attends a climate change rally at the college in Hanover, N.H., on April 30, 2016. Bein had the names of other alumni on his hat who were unable to attend the rally. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Dartmouth College rally in Hanover, N.H., on April, 30, 2016.(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, April 30, 2016

Hanover— More than 400 people marched to the Dartmouth College president’s house yesterday afternoon as part of a demonstration urging the school to drop its investments in the “dirtiest fossil fuel companies.”

If Dartmouth sees how many people care, and are affected by climate change, it “will have to listen,” Ches Gundrum, a Dartmouth junior, told the crowd, kicking off the rally sponsored by Divest Dartmouth.

A hotdog stand, a capella singers and the organizers’ neon orange T-shirts gave the event a festive vibe. Yet several speakers expressed frustration, saying their concerns were being disregarded.

“What does a Dartmouth education really teach us when (the administration acts) as if climate change isn’t urgent enough?” asked Leehi Yona, who co-founded Divest Dartmouth in 2012.

Throughout the afternoon, the crowd responded with shouts and loud applause as students, environmental activist Brooke Williams, and a New Hampshire legislator took the stage to make the case for divestment.

Noah Cramer, a Dartmouth senior, called financial investment “a statement about the future.”

People hope the companies they invest in will succeed, so they will make money, Cramer said. In the case of fossil fuels, “the destruction of our climate is built into their business model.”

Benny Adapon, a Dartmouth freshman from Manila, described his experience surviving a typhoon, and the destruction storm after storm has wrought on the Philippines.

Filipinos are often described as survivors, but behind their smiles is silent resignation, Adapon said. “Why waste our time crying when nothing will change?”

Yet he also emphasized people’s interconnectedness, and the effect of taking action. “What we do here will end these unnatural calamities,” he said.

In the 1980s, Dartmouth College divested from South Africa in protest of apartheid. Several people yesterday suggested the school has a moral obligation to do the same with fossil fuels.

Lee Oxenham, a Plainfield Democrat representing Sullivan County District One, called on Dartmouth to bring its “educational, moral and fiduciary responsibilities” into accord. Divesting would put it “back on the front lines as the leader it deserves to be.”

As a student at Swarthmore, Oxenham had worked to convince that college to divest from South Africa.

“We were told it was not possible,” too expensive and wouldn’t accomplish anything, she said, pausing for an eruption of applause and laughter from the crowd. “They were wrong then, and they are very, very wrong now.”

Organizers yesterday repeated their complaint that the Dartmouth administration has used stalling tactics to avoid the issue.

In an interview Friday, Yona said that, despite repeated requests, the college has not held a public meeting to discuss divestment possiblities, and requests to meet with the board of trustees have gone unanswered. According to Yona, members of Divest Dartmouth have met with President Phil Hanlon during his office hours more than 30 times.

In a statement emailed to the Valley News, a college representative said their conversations reflected agreement on several points.

Those include “collective enthusiasm” for how, through its academic work, Dartmouth can help address these issues and educate students “who have a sophisticated understanding of the issues of energy and sustainability,” and “shared excitement” around the college’s plans to set new sustainability targets and transform campus operations to meet them. They also agree that meeting global energy needs in a sustainable way is among “the most urgent challenges facing humanity.”

“However, whether Dartmouth’s divestment of direct holdings in the ‘Carbon 200’ companies is an effective or appropriate tactic to help achieve that end is a different question,” the college said. “To consider this, President Hanlon has commissioned a document from the college’s Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility that presents, in a fair and balanced way,” the arguments for and against the move.

Yona said Friday that Hanlon had rejected two previously commissioned reports on the subject.

Dartmouth recently created a sustainability task force that will build on the progress it has made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to renewable sources of energy to heat campus buildings, according to the email.

Yesterday’s rally had more than 100 co-sponsors, including community groups, Greek houses, student organizations and sustainability campaigns from other colleges and universities. According to Fossil Free, a project of 350.org, about 60 colleges and universities have divested.

During the march, demonstrators chanted “We are unstoppable, another world is possible,” and “Hey, Phil, don’t you know? Fossil fuels have got to go,” their shouts echoing between the brick buildings. They stopped for several minutes on the sidewalk in front of the president’s house and then headed toward the green, where the rally ended.

But two women left the crowd and walked onto the driveway, apparently heading for Hanlon’s front door, before being turned back by college security guards.

One of women, Ulrike Von Moltke, was among six grandparents arrested last fall in Williston, Vt., for chaining themselves to a gate in protest of the Vermont Gas pipeline. The Sharon resident, who carried a sign reading Situation Normal, All Fracked Up, is no stranger to civil disobedience, but she wasn’t interested in getting arrested yesterday.

Although the Williston charges were dropped, but the case could be reopened within the next year, she said.

Following the rally, Randy Baker, of Dartmouth safety and security, thanked Von Moltke for turning back, and the two chatted on the green. “I was a little worried things were going to get out of control there,” he told her.

Aimee Caruso can be reached at acaruso@vnews.com or 603-727-3210.

Correction:

Dartmouth College student Leehi Yona’s last name was spelled incorrectly in an earlier version of this story.