By Park Baker
Staff Writer 

Professor, Students Spotlight Climate Change - Brevard NC


Jim Reynolds, a Brevard College geology professor, and some of his students are asking the college’s Board of Trustees to divest from all investments in fossil fuels.

Reynolds and the students took part in a “sit in” Monday at the college’s library to raise awareness about climate change and make their position known.

They presented College President David Joyce and Don Moore, the Board of Trustees’ chairman, with petitions.

Protests about climate change have occurred recently across the country and worldwide in time for the UN Climate Summit, which began Tuesday.

Reynolds wrote the faculty petition and borrowed heavily from Boston University, which petitioned something similar recently. More than half of the Brevard College faculty signed the petition. Student Emily Crowley presented the student petition, with 303 signatures.

“As a result of this whole movement, you’ve already taken the first major step,“ said Joyce. “Our endowment is about $23 million. You have the attention of the Board of Trustees. We did, as a board, ask our money managers what our investment in fossil fuels was. It’s about $300,000. We will present your petitions to the board, and we will uphold our responsibility to show what the faculty and students and others feel is important. We’re working on setting up a forum to speak about what our endowments are for.

“One thing this (student) generation is being accused of is not being engaged and not taking social responsibility for what is going on in the world, and I think you stand up to show that that’s not the case. We commend you for standing up for your moral principles. Thank you for remembering that we stand for education and open conversation.”

Reynolds said that it is the students’ future that will be most affected by climate change, and he believes that students at Brevard College and other schools are beginning to pick up on the fact that schools teach environmental responsibility, but invest in coal and oil and gas that help harm the environment. He said there are other investments that won’t destroy the climate but will have just as good a financial return.

“It seems counter to the idea of preaching and teaching environmental stewardship at the college, but then funding our endowment in part with fossil fuels,” Reynolds said. “We want to get the college out of the fossil fuel business and put that money into renewable energy sources.”

Reynolds said carbon dioxide knows no political party but that the contentious topic of climate change is something that has been heavily politicized.

“Climate change is a scientific fact,” he said. “I don’t see it as a political matter. I read recently that last year 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide was pumped into the atmosphere. That’s more than any other year ever. The residence time of that gas is somewhere near 100 years. That’s the amount of time it takes for the gas to be absorbed by plants or dissolved into the ocean.

“The more carbon dioxide we pump into the atmosphere, the more it heats up and heats up the oceans, which start releasing methane from the deep ocean and run the risk of triggering a run-away greenhouse effect.”

Reynolds said the best thing Brevard College students can do to fight climate change is to drive less on campus.

Joyce, he said, has implemented some policies that have made it less convenient to drive around campus.

Now, Reynolds said, students find it easier to just walk.

Those policies include not allowing students to park wherever, whenever they want.

Reynolds said that he would like to see solar panels installed on appropriate rooftops and that the campus could easily accommodate solar panels.

Reynolds knows this takes investment but that there are groups working on it, he said.


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