Events This Week Focus on Environmental Challenges and How the Wellesley Community Can Best Tackle Them

January 28, 2014

This week, Wellesley embarks on a series of campuswide events addressing the important and complex questions involving sustainability, social concerns, and campus resources, beginning with a January 28 panel discussion about divestment and other potential responses to today’s environmental challenges.

"This is a really exciting time to consider how Wellesley can address climate change and related sustainability issues,” says Jay Turner, associate professor of environmental studies and moderator of the panel discussion. “The creation of the new Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee, the ongoing discussions regarding divestment, and the upcoming renovations of so many of our buildings give us a chance to make some big decisions that could really advance sustainability at Wellesley."

In addition to Turner, the January 28 panel includes Meredith Wade ’17, student representative for Fossil Free Wellesley; Hahrie Han, associate professor of political science; Erich Hatala Matthews, assistant professor of philosophy; Debby Kuentsner, the College's chief investment officer; and Rob Pratt, chairman and CEO of the college sustainability consulting firm GreenerU. Tuesday's discussion is in SCI 277 from 4:30 to 6 p.m., with a pre-panel reception in Sage Lounge (bring your own mug!), from 4 to 4:30 p.m.

The panelists will share their own perspectives on the important, complex questions the college is asking at the present. Those questions include: Should Wellesley stop investing in fossil fuel companies? Should social concerns play a role in endowment management? What would be the consequences of divestment? How else might Wellesley address issues related to climate change, sustainability, and other environmental challenges?

Meredith Wade became involved in the college divestment movement because her middle- and high-school experiences in activism prompted an interest in the mechanics of social change, particularly around environmental issues. “Fossil fuel divestment is unique among strategies for social change,” she explains. “It recognizes that multiple daunting problems—climate change, oppression of marginalized communities, public health concerns—are actually deeply interwoven, and it aims to address them through their common roots. We're at a crucial point now in the fight for climate justice, and we're working against the clock. The divestment movement recognizes that we need change at a systemic level, and calls activists to leverage the power that is concentrated in universities, religious institutions, and civic entities to achieve that end.”

Wade hopes the January 28 discussion will serve as an opportunity to address questions and misconceptions about fossil fuel divestment, as well as to explore additional tactics the community could employ to work toward climate justice. “Mainly,” she says, “I hope that people will walk away understanding the need for Wellesley to step up to that challenge, and take with them a sense of greater clarity about their roles in that struggle. I hope that people leave the discussion knowing that divestment cannot be our only tactic to fight against climate change and global injustice, and there is risk involved in the strategy that universities can’t afford to take lightly. But with our planet’s future in our hands, there is no greater risk than that of not acting at all.”

The Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee seeks community input on these important issues, and encourages you to contact a committee member, or email thoughts to

Upcoming Events

Sustainable Choices: What Makes a Green Building Green? A Tour of Diana Chapman Walsh Alumnae Hall
Wednesday, 1/29, 4:30 p.m.
Shane Chase and Patrick Willoughby, Office of Sustainability
Meet at the main entrance of Alumnae Hall.

Sustainable Choices: Science and Myths Regarding Climate Change Science
Thursday, 1/30, 4:30 p.m.
Reception starts at 4:15 p.m. with cookies and drinks
Assistant Professor Alden Griffith, Environmental Studies Program
Science Center 278

Sustainable Choices: Where Does Our Energy Come From? A Tour of the Wellesley Power Plant and Co-Generation Facility
Friday, 1/31, 12:30 p.m.
Peter Frey and Trina Learned, Physical Plant Administration

Meet at the main entrance of the Power Plant (near Campus Center).