Letter to the Editor: Do the Math

As one of the many Grinnell students who protested our college’s investments in South Africa in the early eighties, I know that such activity can lead to results. I look back with pride at our efforts to ensure that Grinnell College did not profit from an immoral situation. Today there is a new issue that demands our attention.

350.org and Naomi Klein have launched a  “Do the Math” tour to rally the grassroots to ask responsible investors to divest their stocks in the fossil fuel companies that are putting profits ahead of the people and our ecosystem. If current known fossil fuel reserves are fully exploited, it will lead to a carbon release that is five times the maximum amount that will lead to catastrophic climate change. Their goal is to force these companies to reconsider the cost of pursuing such a strategy.

As with all social protest movements, the mountain before us is huge. These companies have more money and clout than South Africa. Billions of us use their products to ensure our own survival. However, the potential costs of allowing the unfettered exploitation of fossil fuels is also exponentially higher than the suffering under Apartheid. “Do the Math” will hopefully begin a process that could change the behavior of these big corporations just like the Divest Now! movement did in South Africa.

I urge current and past Grinnell students to stand together and fight for the right thing. People and the planet over fossil fuel profits is the goal. I hope that many of you will look back with pride at your participation in this fight just as I do over Grinnell’s fight for freedom and dignity for South Africa. Every voice is needed in this one, so be heard early and often!

—Vic Rudolph ‘84