In response to:
Grim Reapers from the February 9, 2023 issue
To the Editors:
In his fine review of two important books on the environmental harms of industrial agriculture [“Grim Reapers,” NYR, February 9], Ian Frazier notes how much he—and we—are embedded in that agriculture not only as consumers who purchase food but also, in many cases, as persons with retirement investments:
I also receive benefits from a Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America fund…[which] owns a 40 percent stake in Treehouse California Almonds. Profitable but environmentally ruinous agriculture attracts investors like TIAA.
As academics, many New York Review readers also receive TIAA benefits, and many may not have any idea of the company’s abuses, which go far beyond almonds. That is why scholars and TIAA clients like us joined TIAA-Divest! to publicize and demand an end to TIAA’s investments in ruinous agricultural practices and fossil-fueled climate catastrophe.
Fifty-six years ago in these pages, Noam Chomsky’s still urgent essay “The Responsibility of Intellectuals” argued that intellectuals in mass society have a special responsibility to be both knowing about and publicly active in resisting normalized evils. Chomsky’s key examples were US militarism and neo-imperialism, specifically in Vietnam. But his argument applies brilliantly to the planetary destruction caused by the investments TIAA makes with our retirement funds, and the ways we become complicit in that harm by normalizing it.
So we hope Frazier and the many New York Review readers who are TIAA clients will join us in demanding that TIAA end its destructive land acquisitions—three million acres grabbed for industrial agriculture and clear-cutting forestry—and disastrous investments in coal and other fossil fuels, and that it instead start using its money—which is our money—to safeguard the planet.
Please visit TIAA-Divest.org for more information and to learn about the many ways you might participate in this campaign.
Graduate Faculty Emerita
Bank Street College of Education
New York City
Senior Policy Analyst
David and Kathleen Ryan Professor of the Humanities
Ithaca, New York
Raghunathan Professor Emeritus of South Asian Studies
Columbia University New York City
Jean M. Pitzer Professor of Anthropology and Professor of History