James Engell Professor, Harvard University Posted: 10/23/2013 12:00 pm
In his Annual Message to Congress December 1, 1862, discussing slavery, Abraham Lincoln remarked, “Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history.” Lincoln floated a plan to end slavery over 37 years, in part through colonization of Africa.
The Harvard Corporation has a strong presumption against divestment, as it should. Otherwise, every cause and political debate would exert leverage over investments of an institution that rightly tries to avoid political stances, except, perhaps, on matters such as affirmative action.
But climate change caused by human activity has been politicized only in order to deny it. Politicizing it does not make it a political issue. Slavery was politicized, as segregation was, and apartheid. In a genuine political issue, at least two points of view hold lasting merit, and deliberation and debate can result in compromise.
The fact of climate change caused by human beings is, in that sense, emphatically not political. It is rather an issue of science, humanity, and morality. The science is clear, just ask any reputable scientist, including many at Harvard. Our actions will supply the humanity and morality — or lack of those qualities.