Cornell’s History Informs Divest Fossil Fuels Campaign

Written by Mary Schellentrager, Reposted from 

Cornell sits atop a hill, looking down on the city of Ithaca. Students there could be satisfied to stay within the comfortable bubble of their Ivy League institution. Instead they are leveraging their access to wealth and power to call for divestment, campaigning in solidarity with frontline communities that have been devastated by the fossil fuels industry.

The destruction of the natural gas industry hits close to home to Cornell students, as Ithaca is located in the northernmost part of the Marcellus Shale.  Chesapeake Energy, Andarko Petroleum, Exxon, EOG Resources, and host of other natural gas companies have invaded and pillaged their community. Their neighbors are struggling for access to clean water  Their lands have been damaged, possibly irreparably.

Kyoto Now, Cornell’s student group for environmental action, cannot sit by and allow this destruction to continue. They are calling for their school to divest from all fossil fuels and end its fiscal support of the dirty energy industry.

Student campaigns have called for responsible investment practices in the past but the administration has used delaying tactics to successfully dissipate momentum. They consented to work with students and set up a committee to study Cornell’s endowment practices. Campaign momentum was refocused into navigating bureaucratic spaces and goals were compromised away. And although a report was issued, no tangible changes have been made in the way Cornell invests its $5.3 billion endowment.

Kyoto Now is learning from their administration’s past delaying tactics. Their campaign will not be rerouted and slowed by bureaucracy this time around. Students won’t allow their campaign to be waited out.  They are taking action, demanding fossil fuel divestment, and their administration will have to listen.

In addition to advocating for fossil fuel divestment, Cornell students are working to build a New York state network, organize a regional Power Shift convergence, and campaigning for their school to support Black Oak Wind Farm, a new clean energy project in Tompkins County.

Kyoto Now is a powerful force that the Cornell administration won’t be able to ignore or wait out. They are dedicated to improving the lives of people in Ithaca, New York, and the nation at large. Their school’s divestiture will send a powerful signal to the market that business as usual isn’t acceptable anymore. Reinvesting those untold millions in clean energy will have an incredible impact on the green economy.


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