According to Binghamton University’s website, in recent years, the University administration along with its offices and departments have put forth a lot of effort to be “green” and make our campus more sustainable. In 2007, the University was a leading signatory to the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment pledging to go climate neutral and the coal-fired power plant is planned for decommission. We have comprehensive waste management system [which] entails recycling and composting food from our dining halls to reduce the amount of solid waste taken to landfill. In addition, we have participated in RecycleMania. We have an amazing 182 acre nature preserve and there are efforts to conserve water and conduct research in water quality, and to reduce energy consumption through Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) technology in new construction and renovation. We even have the Center for Autonomous Solar Power (CASP) which is focused on research and development to make solar energy an accessible and lower-cost resource. There are even solar panels collecting the sun’s energy across campus.

Yet, despite all of these wonderful initiatives, the University’s investments, through the Binghamton University Foundation, may be in direct conflict with these efforts. There is approximately $100 million at the Foundation that is invested with no transparency and no ethical criteria provided thus far. Many students, faculty, and alumni are concerned that these funds may be at least partially invested in dirty fossil fuels. This means our money could be funding an industry that has created countless consequences to our health and the environment. Pollution from coal and natural gas worsen climate disruption, threatening our families with more extreme weather like drought, dangerous heat waves, and flooding. Examples of extreme weather include the recent hurricanes Lee and Irene and Superstorm Sandy. Climate change is a serious economic issue, as illustrated by the headline of Bloomberg Businessweek the week after Superstorm Sandy which read, “It’s Global Warming Stupid!” and Governor Cuomo estimated the cost of Sandy would be more than $42 million. In 2002, the Department of Defense declared climate change a threat to national security, and insurance companies are including climate change consequences in their rates. Insurers pay about $50 billion a year in climate and weather-related losses, including business disruption, according to the academic journal Science.

Replacing dirty fuels with renewable energy will make us a national leader in business, innovation, and technology. Transitioning from dirty fossil fuels to renewable energy like wind and solar will cut harmful pollution that makes us sick and reduce the threat of disastrous extreme weather. Investing in renewable energy means building a more prosperous future with exciting new industries and new economic opportunities. That is why numerous students, faculty, staff, and alumni call upon President Stenger and the Binghamton University Foundation to: (1) immediately freeze any new investment in fossil fuel companies and (2) divest from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within 5 years. In addition, we hope that such investments will be redirected towards clean, renewable energy sources such as wind and solar to bring Foundation investments in line with the University’s commitment to climate neutrality, provide capital for clean, renewable energy initiatives, support economic development in this area, and further support crucial efforts to reduce carbon emissions and reverse climate change. We look forward to the Foundation fully disclosing its investments, including any divestment from dirty fossil fuels, and proudly supporting and investing in clean, renewable energy.

Florence Nash

I.D.E.A.S. for Binghamton