Opinion

What business does a green school have in fossil fuels?

Binghamton should lead the university-wide campaign for divestment from fossil fuels

“Climate change” is that somber phrase that gets tossed around too often. News headlines about stronger storms, rising sea levels and droughts have become the norm. Entrepreneurs can rejoice: Climate change has a silver lining. Now that the polar ice caps have peeled back, gas companies can finally tap the Arctic floor.

In the wake of global warming, it is absurd that profits are being turned when the planet is at stake. We can wag our fingers at the industries that partake in these practices, but actual change is more challenging. Fortunately, we have the opportunity to change the course of direction on our very own campus.

Binghamton University has a multimillion-dollar investment in fossil fuels. This fund is through the University endowment, which uses alumni donations to invest in companies that will return profits. The Board of Trustees has allowed 5 percent of the endowment to be invested in fossil fuels. Simply put, not only is our school financially contributing to the environmental degradation associated with fossil fuels, they are profiting off of it.

Keep in mind that this investment is coming from a school that toots its horn for sustainability efforts. In 2007, BU was one of the first schools to sign on with the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. In 2009, BU published its own climate action plan to become carbon neutral by 2050. These are great prospects, but just that. Unless we put our money where our mouth is, the feasibility of these commitments is as grim as disappointments from the Kyoto Protocol.

Change isn’t easy, but it’s possible. In the 1980s, thousands of students from college campuses united to oppose apartheid in South Africa. Through common will and coordination, students drove divestment from unethical business practices. After numerous college campuses signed on with divestment, change ensued. It’s time to follow this example and divest from fossil fuels, starting on college campuses.

Fossil Free is an organization that unites colleges and universities with cities, foundations and institutions pursuing fossil fuel divestment. In numbers, change is possible! There is a campaign on campus now to sway BU to join this movement. If BU signs the commitment, we will be the 10th university in the nation to do so. This could be a huge help in achieving our sustainability goals.

Our generation is faced with one of the greatest challenges in human history. We must adapt to a life on Earth that is quickly changing. Renewable energy is on the horizon. The technology is there, but the will to implement it is weak. Because renewable energy is dependent on harnessing energy generated from the planet’s patterns, we’re going to need predictability to ensure a dependable yield. Yet the planet’s climate is spiraling into a state of chaos. The longer we wait to make changes, the harder it will be.

When it comes to millions of dollars of investment in a practice that is destroying the livelihood of our planet, we need to step back and question the status quo. This is our planet, and we are responsible for whichever courses of action ensue. If our school has faith in its students, it will protect their future by divesting from fossil fuels. We can lead the way in investing in renewable energies that protect life on this planet. We can live in a world powered by wind, sun and hydrology, but we need to make moves now!

Let’s talk about renewable resources, because they are the only sources of energy that make sense. Let’s talk about commitments, because empty words are the last thing we need. Let’s have pride in our school’s practices. If enough people are rallying for divestment, maybe BU will start to listen.

Views expressed in the opinion pages represent the opinions of the columnists.