A Mule In The Coal Mine

July 2nd, 2014

In a familiar sort of exercise in right-wing pseudologic, Richard Karl Goeltz ’64 derives from a false premise the opinion that, if Brown is to withdraw investments in coal, then Brown must be against coal in every way, and therefore must refuse donations and grants from the coal industry and ban recruitment and faculty consultation with the industry (“Coal Divestment Debate,” Mail Room, March/April).

The false premise is that divestment can only be an expression of moral disgust with the coal industry. While there can be a variety of justifications for a given action, it seems to me much more reasonable to justify coal divestment not by a judgment of immorality but by a practical calculation that the time has come to reduce capital investment in this, the worst of the fossil fuel industries, when it comes to putting carbon into the atmosphere (not to mention a list of old-fashioned pollutants, headed by mercury).

There is an old story about a farmer and a mule that illustrates what I propose as the true motive of those who want to disinvest in coal. When the farmer hits the mule between the eyes with a two-by-four, he is not trying to kill the mule; he is just trying to get its attention.

Peter Johnson ’67
Auburn, Ala.

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Related Issue
July/August 2014