Cornell Daily Sun Calls for Fossil Fuel Divestment, Continues to Print 300,000 Newspapers per Semester

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The Cornell Daily Sun’s latest staff editorial, “Failing Shared Governance”, calls on the Cornell’s Board of Trustees to divest the university’s endowment from fossil fuel companies.

The piece is in reaction to the board’s recent decision not to divest and its creation of new standards whereby the board will only vote to divest the endowment from companies whose actions are “morally reprehensible”.

An excerpt from the editorial:

“However, we believe that by all standards, the fossil fuels industry meets the Board’s requirements for divestment. The way the actions of fossil fuel giants contribute to the consistent rise in global temperature is ‘morally reprehensible.’

While the divestment of money itself may or may not make a have a major impact on the financial well-being of the industry, the message of a major university taking a stand certainly sends a strong moral directive that could have a ‘major impact in correcting wrongs.’ These negative aspects, we believe, deviate from the principles of the University.”

But, for all its grandstanding, the editorial makes no mention of the Sun’s intention to cut back on the 300,000 newspapers per semester it prints.

The Sun’s print circulation, according to the its website, is 4,000 copies. This amounts to 20,000 newspapers per week (no weekend editions), or 300,000 per semester with 15 weeks in a semester. Taking 7 to be the average number of newsprint pages per issue, this amounts to 2,100,000 pieces of 23″ by 17″ newsprint per semester, or over 11,400,000 square feet of newsprint per year.

That’s enough to cover nearly 200 football fields.

Just how much energy is consumed every year to produce the Cornell Sun’s newspapers? Such a calculation would start with oil consumed by machines clearcutting forests, oil consumed by trucks transporting fallen trees to paper manufacturers, electricity (coal or natural gas) consumed in the highly energy-intensive pulping process, oil consumed by trucks transporting newsprint to the Sun’s printer, electricity consumed by the Cornell Sun office’s computers, electricity consumed by printing machines, and more oil consumed by cars distributing the finished newspapers across Ithaca. Additionally, there is all the energy consumption involved with the production, transportation, and usage of ink.

Given this enormous usage of fossil fuel energy, how can the Cornell Sun call on the university to divest its endowment from the very same fossil fuel companies their production process relies on—the companies whom the Sun calls “morally reprehensible”?

Where is, in the very least, the effort on the Sun’s part to become more “eco-friendly” or “go green” and cut back on its fossil fuel consumption?

This is a textbook case of hypocrisy, classic do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do elitism.

7 Comments on Cornell Daily Sun Calls for Fossil Fuel Divestment, Continues to Print 300,000 Newspapers per Semester

  1. David Breznick // February 4, 2016 at 4:06 pm //

    Liberal hero President Jimmy Carter implored Americans to set thermostats to 65 degrees during daytime, 55 degrees at night, during the winter, to conserve energy (view at 5:35):

    Go see to what temperature the Cornell Daily Sun’s office thermostat is set. And see if they’re wearing a nice cardigan like Jimmy, or T-shirts indoors.

    The excess hydrocarbon fuel consumed by liberals including Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, and The Cornell Daily Sun staff purely for their comfort is justified, you know.

  2. Has the Review investigated how much of the paper used by the Sun is made from recycled material? Has the Review investigated whether and how much of the power used to produce the Sun–or to run the Review’s servers–is from renewable sources. In this matter, there is plenty of hypocrisy all around. The substantive question is not about hypocrisy, but about actions to move us all in the right directions to moderate climate change.

    • Casey Breznick // February 5, 2016 at 7:22 pm //

      No, we haven’t, and there is no intention. Even if, say, 20% of their paper is from recycled paper it still takes fossil fuel-burning machines to collect the recycled paper, transport it to recycling sites, process the recycled paper into new paper, and so on and so on.

      In this matter, the hypocrisy falls squarely on the Sun. The Cornell Review makes no gaudy claims about divesting from fossil fuels, partially because we are fully aware of the consumption of electricity required to host our website. If it matters, it should be noted that the Review doesn’t print physical newspapers, partly because we are eco-friendly.

      The substantive question is about hypocrisy. You can’t tell people to refrain from something when you your very self do that very thing–that is, unless you are morally unscrupulous.

  3. Nialls Waterford // February 10, 2016 at 2:59 am //

    Greetings (:

    I would like to begin by thanking you for providing an insightful critique. I do need to, however, point out several major flaws within your argument. First and foremost, you have clearly shown a complete disregard for even the most basic research on the point of pushing divestment as a primary agenda Item.

    Cornell University is one of the leading collegiate institutions in the world; far surpassing most universities in both academics and capital. The University has an incredible endowment (over 6 billion dollars in 2015), and ranks on most reputable evaluations as being among the top 20 universities in the world. Additionally, I would argue that being of Ivy stature grants the university additional prestige among most other non-Ivy schools. With this, the university as a whole holds a unique, pedestal-like place among most colleges and universities within the United States. The actions of all extremely prestigious universities has an effect on the collegiate system overall. To put it more simply, schools like Cornell help serve as a model for most other colleges around the United States.

    With that, actions like divestment by prestigious universities has had a profound effect on the course of historical events. Divestment, based off of when it was used in the past, helps to increase public awareness about a particular issue; it helps to inform the scholars of their institution of the issue (which consequently raises the awareness of the next generation of teachers, lawyers, professors, activists, ect. ect. of tomorrow about the issue), and it sets a new precedent for universities in tow to adapt to their divestment strategy. This, along with the use of Divestment to help bring the downfall of the Tobacco Industry and end Apartheid in South Africa, are widely cited and discussed (explore links below at your connivence).

    You should also know, just as a point of reference, that divestment from fossil fuels is expected to have little/no environmental or economic impact to the Fossil Fuel Industry; rather, divestment is done as a social statement (or, in some cases, as an attempt to help guarantee financial stability of a university–with investments in fossil fuels being unreliable, unpredictable, and ill advised in a time where talks such as the Paris Climate Change Conference becoming more and more frequent). Cornell Divesting from fossil fuels is a matter which has the potential to help shift the stance of American society on global climate change; a matter which can quite literally save lives, land, and money. Now then, an attempt to criticize The Cornell Sun printing copies to inform the campus population of campus news and the conundrum of divesting is done with poor form. I comprehend your basic-level statement that encouraging environmentally sound initiatives like divestment all the while printing on paper which has been produced at environmental expense is “hypocritical”. Where you fail, however is in the scope of magnitude of your University’s actions, versus the action of the newspaper. Allow me to elaborate.

    Cornell Divesting has potential to immensely impact society and institutions which follow it. Similarly, it has the potential to challenge more prestigious universities to meet more rigorous standards in terms of divestment. Cornell’s potential to craft a more eco-friendly society is incredible, and, to be frank, the Cornell Sun doesn’t have that same capability. The Cornell Sun is working to cause positive, sustainable change at the university level, meanwhile your university is working to make change at a societal level–yet, the societal changes will not come unless the university changes and adapts a divestment agenda. The Cornell Sun is working to change the feelings of the university population, and in doing so, should expend as many resources as needed to bring about this change. The environmental impact of The Cornell Sun printing papers to educate the university populace, while albeit negative, is needed in order to try and have the university as a whole bring about positive environmental change. The environmental consequence of The Cornell Sun’s printing is minute in comparison to the possible environmental benefit of Cornell divesting. While The Cornell Sun should try and minimize it’s environmental impact, that should not come at expense to the divestment movement; as the necessity to divest is far more substantial than failing to reach a wide audience due to limited printing.

  4. Nialls,

    In your comment’s third paragraph, you wrote:

    ” (which consequently raises the awareness of the next generation of teachers, lawyers, professors, activists, ect. ect. of tomorrow about the issue) ”

    The Latin phrase et cetera is properly abbreviated etc. Translated into English as ‘and so on’, typing (or saying) it twice demonstrates lack of understanding of its correct usage.

    ‘ect’ refers to electro-convulsive therapy. Ect is administered by a licensed psychiatrist to patients experiencing life-threatening depression that resists conventional treatment, e.g. anti-depressant pharmaceuticals and various forms of talk therapy.

    Finally, it is the epitome of hypocrisy to suggest that it is permissible to consume any excess energy in a directed effort to persuade others to reduce energy consumption. Round-trip private business jet travel to the Paris Climate Change Conference ought to have been supplanted by a live video link between the conference center and Mr. Gore’s Tennessee home. The Cornell Sun, as the campus news medium with the greatest circulation, is uniquely empowered to set the best example by doing itself, what it prescribes for others to do. The reason that it chooses not to is because of enablers like you who line up to justify wastage of energy and resources (trees) in the furtherance of ecology. The Cornell Review has “gone green”. Please tell your friends at the Daily Sun to do likewise. Then you will have acquired some credibility.

    In conclusion, one might say that your comment was done with poor form.

    • Nialls Waterford // February 10, 2016 at 2:27 pm //


      I appreciate your response. While the first half of your comment was a critique of my writing, I am grateful for the correction for now I won’t make the mistake again. I am also pleased, however, that despite my error, you were still able to wrap your mind around what I was attempting to communicate. Out of plain curiosity, are you actually one of the scientists who helped break Enigma?

      Unfortunately, your idea on the usage of a livestream video for conferences demonstrates a lack of knowledge about International Relations and Diplomatic Conduct. Similarly, you fail at providing solutions for how diplomats should write and collaborate on treaties. This article, which I encourage you to read, goes deep into the concept of treaty/agreement writing ( Perhaps, of course, rather than meeting in person to go over a treaty or an accord, a Google Document could be created for everyone to share. If you subscribe to this notion, I strongly encourage you to send the idea to the U.S. Department of State ( as well to the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon (Mailing address: United Nation Headquarters,405 East 42nd Street, New York, NY, 10017 ATTN: Ban Ki-moon). I’m sure both parties would be thrilled that such critical thinking has been done.

      On reducing The Cornell Sun’s printing: you still fail to see the magnitude of difference between what The Sun is doing, versus what The Sun is pushing the University to do. By “killing” however many trees it does to print, The Sun is relaying information in attempt to save islands, cultures, and peoples far older than most western civilizations. While I would agree that The Sun should try to minimize it’s environmental impact, this should not be done at the expense of informing and persuading the university population to join the divestment movement. I believe it is clear that the Cornell Review is not the publication which receives the most readership—and that it does not have as far of a reach as The Cornell Sun does. Putting the pieces together, it does not seem that reducing the number of prints will bring about an equal number, or increase the number, of people reading The Sun; and therefore I argue that would hurt the divestment movement overall.

      Finally, as a point of reference, I do not have any friends at, what you called, “The Daily Sun”. If you do, it would be beneficial to inform them of your code breaking capabilities and vast knowledge of Latin; it could be a tremendous university resource.

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