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Other Measures Needed in Sustainability Quest

In the January Bulletin, President Chopp addressed the divestment issue that has gotten so much attention: “Some believe that the College should divest from fossil-fuel companies while others of us think change should come about through activism aimed at long-term policy changes at the state and federal levels,” she wrote. The idea that we must choose between divestment and policy activism is the wrong way to proceed: We need both. From my perspective, working in international environmental policy, the policy route has stalled out. Divestment and other protest movements can create the momentum that policymakers need to affect change. Given Swarthmore’s reputation and endowment size, divestment is the perfect way for the institution to make an impact. Five years out of Swarthmore, I finally have a job that allows me to give back to the College. However, I don’t want to see that money invested in companies whose actions are so harmful.

Swarthmore’s financial resources played a large part in making my college experience amazing. Divestment may be costly, and the last thing I’d want is to reduce the quality of the experience for future Swatties. How much would divestment cost? I’d like to see estimates from Swarthmore before the idea is rejected out of hand. I believe that there are enough alumni out there who would be willing to give more to make up the difference.

Divestment should be seen as an opportunity. It’s a chance to take a moral stand on one of the biggest issues of our time. It’s a chance to support our students as they learn about social activism. It’s a chance to be a leader among prestigious colleges and create momentum for a stagnant movement. It’s a chance to engage alumni. And it’s a chance to make an impression on all the prospective students who are writing their “Why Swarthmore” essays. If the College divested, it would certainly reaffirm why I chose Swarthmore.

Duncan Gromko ’07
Washington, D.C.

I read with interest The Bulletin’s coverage of the College’s efforts to address sustainability issues but was disappointed that there was no mention of the environmental impact of our meat-heavy diets.

According to the United Nations report “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” animal agriculture contributes approximately 18 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions—more than all forms of transportation worldwide. A study by the World Watch Institute asserts that this figure is greatly underestimated and reports that “livestock and their byproducts actually account for at least 32,564 million tons of CO2 per year, or 51 percent of annual worldwide GHG emissions.” Animal agriculture is also responsible for enormous and unsustainable degradation to farmlands, waterways, and rainforests.

Looking beyond the environmental issues, there are billions of animals horribly abused in factory farms, where 95 percent of our meat is raised. Rural communities are scarred, workers mistreated, and resources misallocated as we divert the grain that could feed the many to the animals that feed the few.

The good news is that we all can make a meaningful contribution at our very next meal. There’s no need to build infrastructure or create new technologies. When we give up eating animal products, we can better align our actions with our ethics and our environmental concerns.

Ken Swensen ’74
Pound Ridge, N.Y.

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