May 20, 2014
Board of Trustees
St. Paul's School
Concord, NH 03301
Dear Members of the Board of Trustees,
As loyal alumni, student and parent members of the St Paul’s School community, we write to urge you to make a public commitment to the process of divesting the school’s endowment funds from fossil fuels while greenhouse gas emissions remain inadequately controlled, as well as adopting a strategy of investing in clean energy. We believe that the school’s mission, which has always defined itself in terms of its spiritual and moral values, demands this action.
SPS's founding fathers' fundamental insight was that the values we learn at SPS should and do echo in our lives. Thus, the SPS endowment’s portfolio is a statement of belief as well as the underpinning of the school’s fiscal health: it holds a mirror to the school's principles and reflects the society and future for which the school aims.
In the classroom SPS students learn that the mining and burning of fossil fuels at current rates is causing a rise in global temperature and sea levels, ocean acidification, receding glaciers and sea ice, and extreme weather, with the concomitant dangers of water shortages, mass extinctions, fires and floods and disproportionate impacts on the less fortunate. What message does it send when the school enjoys profits from investments in those same unsustainable activities? Indeed, one of SPS's most important values is stated just below the honor code on the school’s homepage: “St. Paul’s School teaches and practices the sacred duty of environmental responsibility.”
We believe that SPS's divestment process should be gradual and prudent, done so as to protect the school's core programs and commitments. Initially, divestment should target the most egregious fossil fuels and companies, such as fuels producing the most contamination per unit of energy, or companies misleading the public about the reality of anthropogenic climate change. We emphasize that we do not in any way judge those of us who are involved with the fossil fuel industry—we all participate to one degree or another in our energy economy.
We are under no illusion that divestment by SPS will solve the problem of the world's overreliance on fossil fuels. Nor do we believe reliance on fossil fuels will end very soon for most of us. But the divestment we are suggesting is an essential component of response to rapid climate change; one that we believe is required by the mission and values of SPS. Even symbolic acts can have an outsized political—and educational—impact. As of today, Stanford University and eleven other colleges and universities, dozens of foundations and churches, and many municipalities nationwide have already made the move to divest, levering their endowments and funds to make a statement about the importance of addressing climate change.
SPS also has an opportunity to help lead the way by redirecting its fossil fuel-related investments toward solutions to the environmental crises already upon us and that absent global intervention will become catastrophic for future generations. Renewable energy provides increasingly attractive investment opportunities and will over the long term dominate energy capital allocations. That is where SPS should be looking to reinvest.
SPS has a long tradition of its graduates making extraordinary contributions at some of history’s most pivotal moments. We are convinced that now is such a moment. It is time for St. Paul’s to make a statement regarding the clear and present danger of climate change and to join other academic, non-profit, governmental and religious institutions that have already committed to divestment.