February 2, 2016

EDITORIAL: A Cowardly Retreat From Carbon Neutrality

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Under President Emeritus David Skorton, Cornell began striving towards carbon neutrality by 2035, but this progress has been quickly halted by President Elizabeth Garrett. In an interview with The Sun in November, Garrett said she does not support the 2035 carbon neutrality goal; instead, she believes that the University should emphasize sustainability research rather than making the campus more environmentally conscious.

By prioritizing faculty research, Garrett rightly highlights the wide-reaching impact Cornell faculty have as leaders in sustainability and climate studies. However, she ignores the tremendous student and faculty movement calling for a more sustainable campus and the incredible progress this movement has achieved — such as a 30 percent decrease in Cornell’s greenhouse gas emissions since 2008 and energy conservation projects that have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars to date.

Stepping away from the Climate Action Plan disrupts this progress and is ultimately a foolish move backed by a flimsy excuse. Academic research and sustainability practices need not be mutually exclusive. In addition to emphasizing environmental research, Cornell should set an example for peer institutions as a pioneer in campus sustainability. ­­­

Garrett’s cold-shoulder to the on-campus sustainability movement is not only a cowardly retreat from Skorton’s earlier pledge, but also demonstrates a disturbing trend within Cornell’s administration to brush off student voices. This tone-deaf approach — as seen in the College of Business decision and Garrett’s carbon neutrality decision — is eroding student and faculty trust. An administration that genuinely cares is an administration that respects the widespread concerns of students, faculty and staff and supports their actions to improve campus.

  • Batista

    Those of us who pay full boat would rather see the University keep costs down then tuition increase to fund expensive projects to pursue liberal agendas.

  • jim

    The large number of students who keep cars on campus and the tiny number of faculty and staff who take TCAT to work suggest that these “concerns” aren’t nearly as “widespread” as you think.

    Also, you don’t know what the word “cowardly” means. It doesn’t mean someone who disagrees with your priorities. Save it for when Garrett gets rid of a professor for criticizing a big Cornell donor! You should also look into why Cornell has had a 30% drop in emissions since 2008. It had practically nothing to do with sustainability programs but was the result of a major construction project out past the football stadium.

  • Moïse

    Dudes who have already responded bemoaning the “Liberal Agenda” READ THIS. The fact of the matter is sustainable advancements have kept costs low. Only your preconceived notions that our projects are not only expensive but detrimental to development. You are wrong! it is – end game- so much cheaper to enact these renewable projects now and allow them to pay for themselves. It is naive and uninformed to talk like sustainability initiatives have cost more than they have saved! Nobody is claiming that carbon neutrality will make money, but everybody except those uninitiated in what must be considered the arcane studies of environmentalism agrees that it reduces utility costs (to negligible levels if you let us continue our work) and increases quality of life.

    • Emma

      I agree and think this a completely valid point to address. If you can send this paragraph or any other thoughts you have on the issue to Bruce Monger bcm3@cornell.edu, it would be so appreciated. We are gathering letters to President Garrett about her decision. Every letter and opinion counts! Thank you!

  • George

    Divestment from energy companies accomplishes nothing except to make liberals feel like they have accomplished something.

  • โปรอีกแบบ ซึ่งเป็นแบบรายเดือนที่อยากให้ลองใช้ ภาพรวมคือเน็ตให้มาพอสมควร ไม่ถึงกับเยอะ และไม่น่าเกลียดจนเกินไป

  • Gerri Wiley

    My partner, a Cornell U graduate, responds to the annual request for donations with a letter describing his reasons for not donating…along with a copy of the letter and check he sends to ANOTHER college that supports strong climate action and has decided to divest its fossil fuel funds. I recommend this action be taken by concerned alumni.

    • George

      I don’t donate to Cornell because they are politically correct, push affirmative action and waste money on diversity crap. Unfortunately, almost all other colleges do the same.