Fossil Free NU teaches about coal divestment, plans for meeting with trustees


Sophie Mann/The Daily Northwestern

Weinberg sophomore Christina Cilento, Fossil Free NU’s community outreach coordinator, talks about climate change and human rights. Fossil Free NU held a teach-in Monday on coal divestment to educate students and gain support.

Emily Chin, Reporter

Fossil Free NU held a teach-in Monday night encouraging students to support divestment from coal companies. The teach-in was held in part in preparation for a meeting between the group and members of the Board of Trustees.

The group, formerly known as Divest Northwestern, is trying to get student support following an Associated Student Government referendum that recently passed in support of coal divestment. In addition, both ASG Senate and Faculty Senate passed resolutions for coal divestment in 2013.

“It’s really important to educate and keep people educated on the science aspect,” Alex Kirschner, Fossil Free NU action coordinator, told The Daily. “(People) get really caught up on certain words with climate change and not really understand the science behind it.”

Fossil Free NU will talk to members of the Board of Trustees in June to discuss coal divestment. Part of the reason for the teach-in was to get support leading up to the meeting, Christina Cilento, Fossil Free NU’s community outreach coordinator, told The Daily.

Although the turnout wasn’t as good as they had hoped, Cilento, a Weinberg sophomore, said the discussion that came out of the event was positive.

Four members of Fossil Free NU talked about the science behind climate change, the human rights aspect of divestment, the economics of investing in coal and reasons why NU should divest from coal.

Kirschner, a Weinberg sophomore, showed graphs about climate change and talked about the environmental and health impacts of climate change. He said people often don’t believe in climate change because they pick specific examples that deny it, whereas looking at the larger picture shows the human impact on climate change.

Cilento argued that climate change goes beyond science and that it’s a human rights and moral issue.

Africa and Asia suffer more from climate change — a problem created in regions like North America, she said.

“Until the day when (climate change) starts affecting policymakers sitting at their desks making the decisions, this is going to be something that isn’t taken seriously,” Cilento said.

Fossil Free NU organizers also argued that the University isn’t profiting by investing in coal. Scott Brown, Fossil Free NU campaign coordinator and a former Daily staffer, said coal is a bad investment because the Dow Jones coal index is decreasing.

In addition, NU’s Strategic Plan states that the University will “contribute to the solutions for renewable energy and a sustainable environment and to how public policies and economic incentives promote implementation of new technologies and practice.”

Fossil Free NU organizers said NU should divest from coal to reflect these beliefs.

Kirschner encouraged students to get involved because they can make a significant impact on a larger issue.

“For me, it’s been important because I found it really difficult to deal with climate change and how to respond to such a big issue like climate change,” he told The Daily. “This is something that I see as the most positive way for students to get their voices heard.”

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