Unserious and Provocative

When it comes to fanaticism and lunacy regarding climate change/global warming issues sometimes a little common sense has to be injected. No matter which side of the pond you’re on.

How do you respond when placard-waving students occupy your 15th-century quadrangle and refuse to leave until you sell the college’s shares in oil companies? As this is St. John’s College in Oxford, England, naturally you present them with a philosophical dilemma.

Students at St John’s College wrote to Andrew Parker, the principal bursar, last week requesting a meeting to discuss the protesters’ demands, which are that the college “declares a climate emergency and immediately divests from fossil fuels”. They say that the college, the richest in Oxford, has £8 million of its £551 million endowment fund invested in BP and Shell.

Professor Parker responded with a provocative offer. “I am not able to arrange any divestment at short notice,” he wrote. “But I can arrange for the gas central heating in college to be switched off with immediate effect. Please let me know if you support this proposal.”

One of the students replied to Parker’s offer and accused him of not taking them seriously, and being “provocative.” Probably true as to not taking them seriously. How can you? As for provocative, to paraphrase Margaret Thatcher, who responded to the accusation she was “reactionary,” there is presently plenty to provoke regarding the anti-fossil fuels idiocy.

Fergus Green, who is studying for a master’s degree in physics and philosophy at Balliol College, also in Oxford, said: “It’s January and it would be borderline dangerous to switch off the central heating.” Exactly. It is worth noting in this context that Automobiles, airplanes, and the only means of producing continuous and reliable electricity currently are defendant on petroleum. Not to mention all of the by-products derived from oil and gas.

(Aside: Ayn Rand stated in many of her works that philosophy and physics were the most important disciplines for anyone to study. Wonder if any of her wisdom will eventually rub off on young Mr. Green – nowadays trying to live up to his surname, perhaps?)

In this case, the students are calling on the investment managers to immediately sell all of their shares in BP and Shell. They are very much out of favor and there could be a lot of upside insofar as virtue-signaling goes. Energy stocks pay high dividends, however. I am personally aware of several portfolios that have prospered here in the U. S. I’m sure that’s true in the U. K. There are many reasons why an endowment fund manager might want to sell. But dumping a large stock to placate jejune students isn’t one of them — more akin to allowing the inmates to run the asylum.


Now, for Serious
Transition:  Bob Crane, the last surviving member of The Kingston Trio died last week at the age of 85.  Along with Dave Guard and Nick Reynolds, Shane’s group was a harbinger of the “folk music” genre that took over in popularity in the mid-1960s, and continues in some form today. Their breakout song Tom Dooley in 1958 was classified as Country & Western, because there was no folk category at the time. C&W might be the “real” American folk music, however, which makes the Ken Burns’ 10 hour PBS documentary Country Music worth watching.

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