The recently inaugurated Yale Campaign falls short of fulfilling Yale’s commitment “to improv[e] the world today and for future generations.”

No one can rightly argue that any of the pillars of the Campaign — Arts and Humanities for Insight, Science for Breakthroughs, Collaborating for Impact and Leaders for a Better World — is not deserving of our wholehearted support. They all are. However, at this moment and for the foreseeable future, the crisis of climate change — and the challenge of sustainability, generally — should be at the forefront of Yale’s agenda and that of each of its peer institutions.

As it is, climate change and sustainability receive what appears to be merely perfunctory mention in the Campaign’s literature. Planetary Solutions, announced in 2020 as Yale’s multidisciplinary sustainability initiative, is more or less buried within the description of the priorities under the Collaborating for Impact pillar — and there does not appear to be any announced financial commitment toward it. 

Yale has missed an opportunity. Perhaps it was too much to hope, but one imagines that Yale might have announced a bold commitment to sustainability writ large and made sustainability the driving focus of each of the pillars of the Campaign — after all, achieving sustainability will require the active participation of writers, economists and philosophers drawn from the humanities, as well as scientific breakthroughs, multidisciplinary collaboration and, of course, leaders.

Yale has an endowment that, as of the end of fiscal year 2019-20, exceeded $31 billion — it actually enjoyed a substantial increase over the first several months of the pandemic. The results for fiscal year 2020-21 have apparently not yet been announced. Yale has the wherewithal, now, to make a major financial commitment to the goal of sustainability, wholly apart from the Campaign. Sustainability is the greatest challenge of this century. For the good of the planet and humanity, it is time for Yale to live up to its responsibility and demonstrate the leadership it has shown in the past in matters of national and global significance.

ROBERT H. SMITH graduated from Yale College in 1975. Contact him at .