Posted by: ericgrimsrud | February 22, 2019

Still waiting for St.O’s response

In addition to my occasional posts at ericgrimsrud.org in which I use St.Olaf College as an example of weak academic leadership on the greatest problem of our time (that is, global warming, of course), I have also occasionally sent private letters to St.O President Anderson concerning this issue. For example, two years ago I sent the following letter to President Anderson via email. Because President Anderson appears to be ignoring them, I feel free to share one of them here with the general public.

To David Anderson, President of St. Olaf College, March 12, 2017

Dear David

On the issues of racial, gender and individual rights, your recent actions have shown that you take alleged offenses in those areas very seriously. Your actions concerning the cases of former Professor Dittman and the St. Olaf baseball team, for examples, have shown that you are willing to do more than just “talk the talk” at St. Olaf on these issues. Not that these actions necessarily solve any issue – but they do send a message concerning the ethical and moral principles St. Olaf College embraces.  

At the same time, I wish you could also find the courage to be similarly proactive on the far more important issue of global warming – as I have repeatedly explained on my website, ericgrimsrud.org. Concerning that enormous problem, you have been able to “talk the talk” by pointing to your non-CO2 producing means of electricity production on the StO campus, but have not yet recognized the need to wean the world, including St. Olaf College, of essentially all CO2 emissions within the next couple decades. Concerning that point, you have been silent about how StO might make environmentally responsible changes in its extremely carbon intensive programs such as those involving the transport of a large fraction of its students, faculty and even alumni to distant locations. Note that there is no such thing as “good” or “ethical” CO2 emissions – all of it is “bad”.  Therefore and unfortunately, we can no longer afford to give “travel indulgences” to those claiming to be doing “good works”.  

Given this blind spot at St. Olaf College (and, I should add, in most other colleges and universities) in both action and acknowledgement, I am left to wonder if the administrators of St. Olaf College, including its President, are actually aware of the perils posed by our increasing greenhouse gases and especially that of CO2.  For this reason, I would ask you to reread my post of January 31, 2017 at ericgrimsrud.com, entitled “Power Keg Earth, ready to go off”. It describes the science that dictates much stronger and immediate action on reducing emissions of CO2. Then I would ask you to explain why this science does not have the same effect on you as it does on me.  Because you are not a professional scientist please feel free to include in the preparation of your response any persons at St.O or elsewhere who are knowledgeable climate scientists and whose advice you appear to be taking. Surely you are in touch with such people, right?

I am guessing that the reason for our differences on this issue might be one of the following?  Perhaps you think the science I relate is wrong or exaggerated? Or is it because you think scientists will be able to solve the excess CO2 problem later when its effects become even more obvious? Is it because the Board of Regents of St. Olaf College does not include anyone who understands and appreciates the role science plays in understanding what Mother Nature does?  Is it because the issue of climate change is too serious and difficult for little St.O College to take a public stance on. Is it possibly because the administration of St.O is so focused its problems associated with student and faculty misconduct that it does not see the more important issues of our times?   

All of this reminds me of another time in history exactly 500 years ago when a professor of theology at the University of Wittenberg, Germany, came to realize that the business-as-usual forces of his time (the Roman Catholic Church, that is) had turned Christianity into a business in which wealth was more valued than service to mankind. That state of affairs might have continued if it had not been for the courage shown by Martin Luther. Luther literally risked his life for an important point of principle on which the meaning of his religion depended. Apparently, we need another Martin Luther today to remind us of the difference between a religion and a business. Selling one’s soul to our business-as-usual fossil-fuel-driven industrial complex is just as abhorrent as selling indulgences providing immunity against God’s punishments. Both of these activities interfere with service to the real needs of mankind.

I would be pleased to see your response to my questions and, if you would feel comfortable doing so, please share this letter with other members of the St.O. Board of Regents. In my opinion, the topic addressed here merits the highest level of consideration St. Olaf College can provide.

Sincerely,

Eric Grimsrud

President Anderson has not responded to this letter over the two years since it was sent. As of Feb. 22, 2019, I am still waiting for that response. As a result, I fear that any honest responses to my questions might require admissions that St.O does not want to make in a public forum. For example, I fear that the St.O College of today is more inclined to serve the needs of its corporate donors than it is to those of its students and the general public. As Dwight Eisenhower finished his last term as US President in 1960, he warned the US public of a Military – Industrial complex that he thought threatened our representative democracy. Since that time, another union between our Industrial Complex and our universities has also increasingly threatened our democracy. Even at Harvard University where much of the best research on climate change has occurred, its controlling Board of Regents has refused to divest its enormous assets from the fossil fuel industries. St. Olaf College has chosen to the same.

As I have illustrated in this and other interactions with my alma mater, it appears that St. Olaf College cannot adequately explain its behavior in public. It either “stonewalls” questions on this issue or provides simplistic responses not worthy of serious consideration in view of the magnitude of the problem.  In the meantime, I suspect that St.O has placed its bets on the likelihood that our “business as usual” forces will continue to overwhelm conscientious and responsible discussions on this subject.  As I said in my original letter, Martin Luther would, indeed, not be impressed with this institution that was rooted in the branch of theology that Luther gave rise to.  As I recall, one of Luther’s main points was to show that a religious institution should not degenerate into a business.

 

 

 

 

 


 


Responses

  1. Arlo Skari here, Thanks very much for contacting me as have wondered just where you and your good wife were. I am very happy that you are still fighting the Climate Change battle. I assumed that with all the hurricanes in the SE part of the US, we would get serious about addressing the issue big time. Unfortunately, we have a scientific idiot in the WH. My wife and I are currently in GF as Darlene is going thru cancer treatment at the GF Clinic. She has three more infusion treatments so will be thru with these in April. I intend to send off letters soon to our Congressional delegation concerning CC. Unfortunately, we have a President who is totally unaware of good science. Arlo

    • Great to hear from you Arlo. Hope things go well for Darlene and glad to hear about your continued efforts to educate the politicians of Montana. Eric


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