Princeton’s unofficial motto, “In the nation’s service and the service of humanity,” and Princeton’s endowment are in conflict with each other, and President Eisgruber ’83’s recent page (February issue) describing the Venture Forward campaign does little to untangle the contradiction of words and actions.
Princeton’s endowment invests in fossil fuels. This means that Princeton supports the network of actions that puts buried, fossilized carbon into our air. In pursuit of financial profit, Princeton hopes for the successful expansion of fossil-fuel use. This only furthers climate change and the destruction of life as many know and cherish it. Surely Princeton and Eisgruber recognize that vigorously working to put more carbon in our atmosphere is not a service to humanity.
Financial success that comes from fossil-fuel investment comes with costs that do not offset possible benefits. What is the use of an even more amazing Princeton if our coastal cities and communities collapse from rising waters or if more people starve because crops fail due to dramatic weather shifts?
Eisgruber’s Venture Forward campaign has admirable, forward-thinking goals that include “innovative thinkers [who] respond to the climate crisis with a roadmap for achieving a carbon-neutral economy.” An immediate step Princeton can take towards a carbon-neutral economy is to disinvest from the fossil-fuel economy. This would eliminate our investments in a product and process that literally fuel the loss of humanity. It is not, as Eisgruber wrote in September 2017, a question of making “political statements,” but a question of aligning our investments with being in “service of humanity.”