An open letter to the SIU community

Climate change is real and it is here. Rising seas and temperatures are fueling more powerful and destructive storms. Unpredictable precipitation patterns are making it more difficult to provide food for growing populations. Ecosystems and ways of life are being threatened as the planet attempts to adjust to ever-increasing quantities of greenhouse gases. The damage is being inflicted now and reckless consumption of fossil fuel is the cause. This is the future facing students everywhere. Climate change is the defining problem of our time. Yet, we have a choice to see this as an opportunity as a university community to prove our resilience, ingenuity and collective power by rising to meet this challenge. 

One of the conversations that should be guiding our decisions as a university is not happening, and that is that we are sitting on a “carbon bubble.” The stock prices of fossil fuel companies are based on proven reserves, which amount to 2,795 gigatons of carbon globally. The world’s top climate scientists claim that in order to keep global temperature from increasing beyond 2 degrees Celsius we can only burn another 565 gigatons. This means the vast majority of fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground. Solving the climate crisis requires fossil fuel investments to become stranded assets. Continued investment in fossil fuel implies that SIU is morally bankrupt and before long we will be economically bankrupt as well. SIU has an endowment fund of approximately 100 million dollars and we are asking the SIU administration to make the practical decision to divest from fossil fuels before those investments become worthless.

The time to act is now. As students pursuing an education, we are investing in our future. As climate change accelerates, our hopes and dreams of our future are swept away. We chose SIU as the place to brighten our future by fostering our growth and education. Now, we call on our university to truly invest in our future and not our demise, by recognizing the very future we are striving for is threatened by climate change. SIU must divest from fossil fuels and re-invest our money in verified and proven sustainable companies and ventures. This is not clean coal. We cannot in good conscience support an industry that is betting against our future. We can no longer afford to invest in an industry whose future depends on further damaging our planet and causing devastation to the most vulnerable communities. The fossil fuel industry is primarily responsible for climate change and seems bereft of the fact they are creating a more dangerous world for our generation and all those that follow. Once more, a sustainable future means we must be trained and educated for a changing job market.

For these reasons, we join over 500 other active divestment campaigns at universities across the nation. We want SIU to become one of the growing number of institutions, foundations, cities and universities that have committed to divest from fossil fuel. We see divestment as an incredible opportunity to be an exemplary research institution willing and able to act on necessity, collective knowledge and scientific consensus. Divesting from fossil fuel will send a clear message to all current and future students that SIU believes in them, cares about them and is part of the solution so many are seeking right now. Divestment will positively set us apart from every other public university providing a tremendous advantage to our image, enrollment and future.

We are calling for SIU to:

1) Immediately freeze all new investments (in mutual funds or stock portfolios) that include fossil fuels.

2) Remove investments including direct ownership and commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds in an aggressive, realistic timeframe.

3) Take the full amount of funds divested and re-invest into renewable energy and local sustainable development.

We know divestment is possible and SIU can do it. Please, we urge all students, staff, faculty, administrators, alumni and emeriti to stand with us in this paramount effort and demand that SIU divest from fossil fuels by signing our petition online at campaigns.gofossilfree.org/petitions/southern-illinois-university-carbondale. We invite you to support us or work with us directly. You can learn about upcoming events and happenings by liking our Facebook page, DIVEST SIU, at facebook.com/SIUCFossilFree. You can also contact us at siusense@gmail.com for updates and information.

Sincerely,

SIU S.E.N.S.E. Students Embracing Nature, Sustainability and Environmentalism

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