A Young Friend appeals to her school on divestment

Melissa McLaughlin, a Young Friend studying at Westtown School in Pennsylvania, learned of the QEW Epistle sent to Friends schools and was led to write a heartfelt letter asking her school to take the Epistle seriously. Her moving words may inspire you to consider whether you also have a relationship with a Quaker school or college. Fossil Free Friends would be interested in knowing of Friends school alumni interested in supporting their alma mater to consider moving their money to protect the planet. If you are an alum and want to help organize an outreach campaign for your school community, please contact us at mailto:mnextgenconference@gmail.com.

Dear Teacher John,

It has come to my attention that the Quaker Earthcare Witness (QEW) sent a letter to all Quaker schools on February 14th, Global Divestment Day, addressing the importance of both clean energy and divestment from fossil fuels. I am aware that Westtown has already converted to wind power, but I would like to stress the importance of divestment. Divestment is a big issue of discussion in private institutions for financial and moral reasons, so I ask the board to weigh heavily the implications of how Westtown’s investments impact the earth and therefore the future of our children and grandchildren. Remember that the school will need to divest from fossil fuels because oil companies will shut down after available resources are used up. Why continue an investment in a non-moral industry that is doomed to become unprofitable, rather than invest in the future of clean energy, which will not only be a sustainable investment, but also necessary for the human race to survive?

In my environmental science class, we have been studying the effects of global warming. For the past few days, we have been looking at graphs that show that well over 50% of our carbon output comes from fossil fuels. In the next 100 years, the climate is predicted to rise 11 degrees Fahrenheit if CO2 emissions continue at the current rate. Just a change as large as one degree will cause the Midwest in the US to become desert, destroying the livelihood of the ranchers in this area, because there will be no grass or water for cattle. This will cause a dustbowl that will far exceed the impacts of the dustbowl in the 1930’s. If the temperature rises by two degrees, all tropical coral reefs will disappear, and coastal cities will be flooded.

Focus on preventing climate change is not just for the benefit of the future. Changes are already starting to occur today. Wildfires in Australia are causing many of the major cities to become inhabitable. There is not enough snow in Greenland for sled dogs to work, so families are not able to hunt enough to feed themselves and their dogs. There have been several major bleachings of coral reefs recently, which means that ocean temperatures have risen too high to support one of the most diverse ecosystems in existence. Many people with power to make an impact still do not see climate change as an issue relevant to their daily lives. I am grateful that Westtown has already started to make a difference by switching to wind energy and building sustainable systems. I hope that Westtown will continue to foster a change in this apathetic attitude.

If climate change continues at its current rate, it won’t be the polar bears that humans are worrying about. It will be the survival of humanity. Mass starvations, water shortages, super storms, and floods will kill people around the world. No area will be unaffected. While divesting from fossil fuels seems like a small change for one school to make, every individual action counts towards a bigger picture. Westtown has taught me the wisdom of Gandhi; it is our responsibility to be the change we wish to see in the world. This is why I ask Westtown to live up to its Quaker testimonies of service by doing one small thing: divest from fossil fuels.


                                                                                                            Melissa McLaughlin