On Thursday afternoon, about 20 students and faculty from Cornell and Ithaca College gathered at Ho Plaza to show their support for the fossil fuel divestment campaign at Cornell. The event was organized by KyotoNOW!, a student organization that advocates sustainability.
The gathering was held to maintain the momentum of the divestment campaign while students await University President David Skorton’s response to a Student Assembly resolution that calls for Cornell to divest its endowment from the fossil fuel industry by 2020 and reinvest 30 percent of this figure in sustainable funds by 2030.
“President Skorton has 30 days to respond. We have not yet received a formal response, but I believe the deadline is March 9 for that,” said Anna-Lisa Castle ’13, member of KyotoNow! “That’s why we’re holding the gathering. It’s to remind [Skorton] that we are waiting and we do want him to do the right thing.”
Castle said divesting from the fossil fuel industry is not only an environmental concern, but also a moral obligation. She said that other colleges — including Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., Unity College in Waldo County, Maine and Sterling College in Sterling, Kan., have already begun divesting.
“We have a moral responsibility to withdraw our support from this destructive industry and instead look toward a green economy and a just and sustainable future,” Castle said in her speech calling on President Skorton to “do the right thing” by divesting.
Prof. Bruce Monger, earth and atmospheric sciences, said there is a parallel between the current issue of divestment and the goals of the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to commit to specific emission reduction targets, which the University agreed to more than a decade ago. The administration had hesitated before committing to the goals but according to Monger, now stands behind the decision.
“In 2001, more than a decade ago, KyotoNOW! held a rally that asked the University to sign onto the carbon emissions reductions that the Kyoto Protocols prescribed,” Monger said. “There was a big hesitation from the administration to do that … Now, a decade later, Cornell stands rightfully proud of reaching Kyoto emission reduction levels and is now set to go ever further.”
He said he hopes the divestment debate will yield similar results.
“I think history could repeat itself with the current issue of divestment,” Monger said.
Prof. Sandra Steingraber, Ithaca College, earth and atmopheric sciences, who is an activist working against fracking, said colleges can serve as “incubators for ideas” that can be applied to society. She said it is ironic that colleges conduct ground-breaking research on environmental issues, yet continue to invest in the fossil fuel industry.
“If our colleges are turning around and subsidizing the [fossil fuel] industries … it’s very frustrating because we like to think of our colleges as these forward-thinking, progressive places,” she said.
KyotoNOW! will be holding another gathering on March 4, to make cards for and deliver flowers to Skorton, asking again him to “do the right thing.”
Original Author: Kritika Oberoi