Members of the Mt. A community stood alongside climate change activists around the world by organizing and attending a climate strike hosted in Sackville on March 3 for Global Climate Strike Day. The strike was organized by Divest MTA, which is a group on campus that advocates for the University to divest from fossil fuels, explained Kate DesRoches, a fourth-year environmental science student.
“For the most part, fossil fuels cause climate change. If institutions can divest, then this can make a big difference,” said DesRoches when explaining the importance of encouraging institutions to divest from the fossil fuel industry.
In 2021, Mt. A held endowments in 101 of the top 200 fossil fuel companies such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Imperial Oil, which totaled $8,017,205 of investments in the fossil fuel industry. CBC News reported that in May of 2022, Imperial Oil was named responsible for one of Alberta’s largest oil spills.
Mt. A has not yet reported a list of their endowments from 2022.
Divest has been pressuring the Mt. A administration to divest from fossil fuels since 2013. Last week, the group occupied Centennial Hall from Monday to Thursday for the purpose of asserting themselves and getting their message across, explained DesRoches.
Islay Fraser, a fourth-year English and French student, said that last week’s efforts also helped put some pressure on the University. According to Fraser, the University has previously relayed to the group that they are “looking into divestment.” Fraser explained that last week’s peaceful sit-in, which has since been extended indefinitely, also aimed to “hurry the process.”
Robert Inglis, the Vice-President of Finance and Administration, said that “continuing the dialogue directly with Divest Mt. A is important to us as we continue to explore responsible investing and minimizing the university’s environmental impact.” Inglis claimed that the University encourages “conversation and debate on our campus.” He explained that the University has, “had informal discussions throughout this week regarding [Divest MTA’s] concerns and interests.”
Inglis shared that the University is currently working with Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE), “which is a non-profit investor advocacy organization that supports like-minded organizations to contribute to positive social and environmental outcomes.”
Fraser spoke about the issues associated with SHARE by saying that, although “shareholder activism can be useful in some situations, it will not convince huge oil and gas companies to change their fundamental values.” She explained that some of the companies that SHARE targets have participated in misinformation campaigns about climate change in the past, and are therefore not likely to suddenly go green. Fraser commented that these companies are primarily concerned with making profit.
The climate strike was not the only event happening on campus last Friday, as Mt. A hosted its annual winter open house. Fraser explained that the date for the climate strike was set on March 3 because of Global Climate Strike Day and that it was not intended to be on the same day as the open house.
“Presence at the open house could inspire others to join the group and it can help get the message across,” said DesRoches.
Fraser encourages students to attend future climate strikes. When more people attend, “we are louder and get more of a presence,” she said. She suggested that if people are unable to attend the strikes, then they are welcome to wear an orange divest pin around campus to show their support for the movement.
Fraser urges students to make their voices heard because “there is power in all of us.”