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Students Call for Universities to Divest from Coal

Students call on universities to move millions of dollars in new campaign to distance schools from dangerous, dirty fossil fuel investments

URBANA, IL - Students from North Carolina to Illinois are uniting in a call to move millions of dollars in university endowment funds out of the risky and dirty coal industry. Through actions including street art, Twitter campaigns, photo petitions and interactive movie screenings, students are aiming to make universities put their money where their mouth is on sustainability and send a clear signal to the coal industry that this generation of activists means business.

“Big coal is making people sick all across the country. It’s time to align our university’s commitment to sustainability on campus with their long-term financial investments. We want to show that making money by polluting our air and water is not acceptable,” said Katrina Underwood a junior at the Univerity of Illinois-Urbana-Champagne. “We know we can have a profitable endowment fund that provides for the future of the university and protects our school from the risks of the fossil fuel industry.”

The campaign, a joint effort of both financial and environmental groups, is calling on schools to move their money away from the “Filthy 15” a list of some of the dirtiest coal-burning and coal-mining companies in the nation – including Peabody, Consol Energy, Alpha Natural Resources, Ameren and Duke Energy. 

“Students have been at the forefront of every major social movement in recent decades and the fight to move our nation beyond coal to clean energy is no different,” said Mary Schellentrager, Coal Divestment Coordinator for Energy Action Coalition. “Young people are constantly finding creative new ways to challenge the status quo – fighting against the Vietnam War in the 70’s, apartheid in the 80’s and now ending our nation’s reliance on dirty and dangerous fossil fuels.”


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Actions this week include a chalk street art project at the University of Illinois, a social media campaign to tweet at Chancellor Thorp and share a student-made video at the University of North Carolina and engaging students one-on-one with photo petitions at Colby College in Maine.

Other participating schools include Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, Cornell University, Earlham College in Indiana and College of the Atlantic in Maine.

“We’re standing up to show both our universities and Wall Street that our generation is serious about moving away from coal and building a clean, healthy energy future. We can no longer afford to bankroll the coal industry’s destruction of our land, water, air and communities,” said Underwood.


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The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. It was founded on May 28, 1892 in San Francisco, California by the well-known conservationist and preservationist John Muir, who became its first president. The Sierra Club has hundreds of thousands of members in chapters located throughout the US, and is affiliated with Sierra Club Canada.

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