An introduction to Divest MTA’s new column

Fossil fuel divestment activism at Mt. A promotes campus leadership

Welcome to Divest MTA’s new column: a space to learn about fossil fuel divestment, meet some people involved in the movement, and keep up to date with our actions. This week I will explain what Divest MTA is, why it is important to me and how you can get involved.

Divestment means the opposite of investment. Divest MTA is a student-led group specifically asking for the University to divest our $180 million endowment from the top 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies. Not only is this economically viable and beneficial, but, more than that, it is a socially responsible move.

Divest MTA was founded in a classroom in 2014, and since then we have worked determinedly through multiple strategies to have our voice heard by Mount Allison. We have written reports, met with administration, sat in on Board of Regents meetings, held community consultations and several protests, and more. You may best know Divest MTA from the March 2017 camp-out we held in the academic quad that culminated in a discussion with former president Dr. Robert Campbell.

Frustratingly, the University’s official position on Divest MTA has so far been one of consistent resistance despite the widespread student, faculty and community support since we began. Meanwhile, the fossil fuel divestment movement around the world is growing every day. Institutions that have divested include Laval University, the Government of Ireland and the City of New York – global fossil fuel divestment totals over $7.17 trillion. Removing investments from an industry translates into removing social support from that industry. Divest movements usually focus on moral arguments to take away an industry’s social license to operate. It worked in apartheid-era South Africa, and now it is working with fossil fuels (see gofossilfree.org).

What motivates me? On Feb. 3, 2017, led by inspiring peers, I helped disrupt the Board of Regents meeting to ask our University to stand in solidarity with our future and those affected by climate change by removing its investments in the fossil fuel industry. I felt a connection as I held hands with people I just met, all brought together in the fight for climate justice. I feel deeply about the need for structural change to mitigate climate change, and I am compelled to continue resisting this institution’s apathy towards our values.

I have optimism about fossil fuel divestment this year. I see many people in Sackville who care about sustainability, waste-reduction and living gently on this earth. As a community, we are worried and we are striving for alternatives. This is evident in the inspiring election of the Green Party’s Megan Mitton as our MLA this September. I am now calling you to join your community members who are fighting for structural change, as so importantly outlined in the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report (see ipcc.ch). I also think the new leadership at this University provides an opportunity to overcome the inertia we have so far been met with, and that Mt. A could make an economically viable and socially meaningful move by getting on board with fossil fuel divestment now.

So, what does fossil fuel divestment mean to you? How do you want to make a difference? You can sign the petition here: bit.ly/2Q1uu3y. You can wear the orange pin, talk to your friends, attend our actions, come to our meetings, make and share art about climate justice, talk and write about Divest in your classes, support other climate activism and environmental justice events on campus, or incorporate Divest into your other clubs and societies. There are multiple ways to support Divest MTA. I am so excited to meet you and work with you to divest Mount Allison from fossil fuels this year.

As students, we discuss and debate the problems of our day, but we also have the power to actively engage with them.

Divest meets weekly on Wednesday evenings. For details, see our Facebook page: facebook.com/protesttodivest.

Hanna Longard