In Dec. 2014 the Montreal Gazette reported Concordia University was the first Canadian university to start divesting from fossil fuels. Concordia invested $5 million towards social and ethical projects instead of continuing to pour money into polluting economies.
The student group Divest Concordia—who calls for Concordia to remove its investments from fossil fuels and to adopt a responsible investment policy according to their website—called this $5 million divestment a, “flat-out rejection of student calls for full divestment from fossil fuels,” according to the same article from the Montreal Gazette.
Concordia got the fun title of ‘the first Canadian university to start divesting from fossil fuels,’ but when you consider how this was only 0.038 per cent of the university’s $130 million investment budget, according to the Montreal Gazette, you realize how tiny of a first step Concordia took.
Now it’s 2016 and the Concordia Student Union is also encouraging students to pressure the university to divest. Students overwhelmingly voted in support of the CSU opposing the Energy East and Line Nine pipelines and all Tar Sands developments—with 1,282 votes for yes, 442 for no, and 479 for abstain in last week’s CSU elections. That means that Concordia officially has two distinct groups calling for the school to back away from fossil fuels, with Divest Concordia calling for the school to put their money towards cleaner industries and the CSU opposing the development of pipelines and the Tar Sands.
This, we feel, bodes well for the future as Divest Concordia and the CSU could possibly collaborate to pressure the university to distance itself from fossil fuels.
We here at The Concordian would also like to throw our hat in the ring and officially endorse Divest Concordia and support the CSU in opposing the pipelines and the Tar Sands developments.
In a recent opinions article entitled “The industrious demise of the Canadian landscape,” we critiqued Canada for its domestic oil consumption, where 1.5 million barrels are greedily consumed each day, according to a 2014 article by The Globe and Mail. In the same opinions article, we pointed out the dangers of pipelines carrying diluted bitumen, which is what the Tar Sands pump out, by recounting the 2010 Kalamazoo River spill in Michigan where around 3.3 million litres of crude were vomited into the river within the 17 hours it took for Enbridge shut off the flow, according to the CBC.
In the news section we published an article called “The ‘greenwashing’ effect,” published in issue 24, where we discussed how companies greenwash themselves to appear more environmentally friendly. We reported that, according to the TransCanada website, in 2011 there were 38 oil spills that sludged 497 litres into the environment, and with 27 oil spills in 2013 vomiting a total of 3,104 litres into the environment. That’s not even counting the eight oil spills in the U.S. which totaled 65,753 litres in 2013 according to the same article.
The dangers of oil spills and the greasy ethics of companies trying to appear ‘green’ aside, Concordia needs to start distancing itself from these filthy industries. The students have spoken and will continue to speak for a “responsible investment policy,” of which divesting 0.038 per cent of your total investments is not enough. This is a university damnit, which boasts how its bright young minds do wonderful things in the realms of art, science and business. Why not actually use some of that massive potential you are sitting on and start brainstorming with students and figuring out how to divest completely?
And we understand that might be an uphill battle. The school is after all an institution which stands to rake in considerable returns from their fossil fuel investments. But so far these investments are opposed by Divest Concordia, the CSU and The Concordian.
We’re calling for students to stand in support of Concordia divesting from fossil fuels and to help pressure the administration into finding newer, more creative, more sustainable and more responsible investments. It’s our future after all, and, to quote an anti-pipeline slogan, to continue investing in fossil fuels is, “our risk and their reward.”