Cross-posted from Coal Free UNC
10:50 AM on October 18th the Sierra Student Coalition launched its first major event for its “Beyond Coal” Campaign: a rally that promoted their cause and raised awareness by seeking support and interaction from passing students. Participants approached the Wilson Library steps and moved replica bags of money from the “dirty coal investment” side to the “clean energy investment” side, represented by a giant replica coal plant and replica windmills, respectively. The interactive nature of the event helped students understand the basic idea of the campaign’s main goal: the transition from investment in coal companies to investment in cleaner, more responsible energies. Students also had the opportunity to participate in photo petitions that will be included with other petitions and handwritten letters and delivered to Chancellor Thorp at an upcoming meeting between the Chancellor and the Sierra Student Coalition. Energetic students stayed and chanted and the crowd of clean energy advocates made clear their increased support for this cause. The event was a brilliant effort on the part of the Beyond Coal campaign to reach out and show the student body what we’re all about.
Ever since the Chancellor’s promise to cease the use of coal energy at the university, the Sierra Student Coalition has been thrilled about their start to a coal free UNC. Now Beyond Coal seeks to finish the job, and the rally was just the first step in doing so. The second phase of the “Beyond Coal” campaign aims to officially remove UNC and all of its ties to dirty coal energy. The University still has a $2 billion endowment that is partly invested in coal companies that contribute to the dirty and dangerous coal mining and burning. The Sierra Student Coalition hopes to negotiate with the heads of the school and management company and come to an accord that not only makes its investments transparent but also divests its holdings in coal energy companies. Though this will take a lot of work, the success of the rally highlights the support the group has garnered on campus: an essential asset to the campaign. As a well respected university, UNC’s student body has a huge potential to have a large impact and push the school to be more environmentally responsible simply by coming out and expressing their support.
“I’m really excited about all the energy and motivation of this organization,” freshman Jasmine Ruddy said. “I’ve seen a lot of organizations that express a lot of good ideas, but don’t go anywhere with them. The Sierra Student Coalition is one of the most motivated groups on campus; it’s all about action and getting things done.”
Recent articles by the Associated Press and Rolling Stone Magazine have presented the realities of the declining coal industry. The national scope of these articles and the hard facts they presented reinforced the importance of moving away from risky financial investments in coal and added a new level of urgency to the UNC Beyond Coal Divestment campaign.
At a recent general body meeting, the group members in attendance participated in a hand written letter drive in order to emphasize the real, human impacts of the destructive coal industry. The students relayed their personal experiences with coal or reasons for getting involved with the Beyond Coal campaign in letters that will be delivered to the Chancellor at the upcoming meeting between the Chancellor and the Beyond Coal group.
Also upcoming are a number of other events that will continue to raise the profile of the divestment issue over the next few months. In November, Beyond Coal is planning to sponsor a panel of experts on green investing. By raising awareness and building a broad alliance of supporters, the SSC hopes to show the school that if we are ready to stop burning coal on campus, we should make certain that we are not funding the coal industry either.