Adapon: Determining Our Story

by Benny Adapon | 4/28/16 5:30pm

“Walang pasok sa Metro Manila,” the broadcaster announces. Classes canceled.

Class cancellations “due to inclement weather conditions” are unexceptional back home. Growing up, I loved the days I’d get off school because of dark skies, raging winds and endless rain – what kid wouldn’t?

Typhoons got worse as the years passed. I didn’t notice how often they came through because they became normalized. But when my dad was younger, a major typhoon would only roll through once every four years. Now, we expect two to three in one season. Climate change has amplified both the frequency and the strength of these typhoons and thereby magnified the damage they cause. Like Gener, Milenyo, Bebeng, Juaning, Sendong, Santi, Labuyo and Yolanda (Haiyan), the storms are endless. It’s nearly impossible to distinguish when one typhoon ends and another begins.

We Filipinos, sometimes called the happiest and most resilient people on Earth, conceal dismay and dejection behind our welcoming demeanor. Typhoons are part of life — we make jokes about them, write songs about the rain, have GPS apps indicating where the nearest flood detour is. In reality, typhoons mean losing one’s livelihood, home, children or hope.

Most agree that climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time — it’s an intersectional problem, with grave consequences for everyone. In addition to harming the environment, climate change is a humanitarian issue stratified along racial, economic and gender lines. It’s difficult, if not impossible, for one person to combat its effects on any significant scale.

In the Philippines, climate change has tangible and sobering consequences. Yet this isn’t the case everywhere. In Hanover, it’s obvious that the climate is changing, if this past unseasonably warm winter was any indication. But what we experienced here didn’t destroy thousands of homes or take lives like in places where natural disasters are becoming increasingly common. Privilege plays a role in who is affected and to what extent. We’re extremely lucky to attend Dartmouth, where we have geographic privilege — our safety is not compromised by extreme weather events combined with poor infrastructure.

At Dartmouth, a majority of students are environmentally conscious to some extent, actively recycling, composting and turning off unused lights. On a university scale, these actions amount to significant waste and energy usage reduction. But they are not enough.

Divestment involves terminating investments in an industry. In our campaign, we’re asking the College to divest from the 200 dirtiest fossil fuel companies via its endowment and transition those investments to something that better reflects our values as an institution. Divestment is a way for the College to take public action, to tangibly combat climate change beyond research or classwork and to encourage other institutions to do the same.

We all are operating within an existing, broken system inextricably tied to the fossil fuel industry. It’s currently impossible to live in a way that is carbon-neutral. Divestment is a tool we can use to dismantle this system from the inside. Our hope is that if Dartmouth and other colleges divest, we will start a domino effect, prompting the world to reconsider investments and their bearing on the climate’s future. Without moral and financial support, the fossil fuel industry will lose stranglehold on the world’s energy market, leaving more room for renewables. Divestment is by no means an end goal, but rather a significant step in the right direction.

The act of investment implies support for the company. Renewable energy technologies are becoming cheaper and more viable every year. Fossil fuel companies’ futures are uncertain at best. Activists and state attorney generals are investigating Exxon concerning allegations of misinforming the public about climate change since the 1970s. I wouldn’t want to be invested in an industry that is dishonest and financially questionable, and neither should Dartmouth.

This is our call to action, Dartmouth. Tomorrow, at 1 p.m. on Gold Coast Lawn, Divest Dartmouth is organizing the largest climate rally New Hampshire’s ever seen — the most co-sponsored event in Dartmouth’s history, with over 110 community and student groups’ support. This is a pivotal moment in Dartmouth’s story.

Join us. Show Dartmouth that its students will not tolerate supporting an industry that has brought grief and destruction to so many, an industry that will only continue to do so if it isn’t stopped. With numbers comes power, and with power comes change. Be part of that change.

Laura Hutchinson '19 and Megan Larkin '17 contributed to the writing of this op-ed.