Home CommentaryEditorial Standing in solidarity with Divest Concordia

Standing in solidarity with Divest Concordia

by The Concordian April 5, 2016

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.”

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1 comment

Teddy Edwards April 23, 2016 - 21:09

TRY THIS ON: WE ON THE INSIDE CALL IT “THE FOSSIL FUEL DIVESTITURE SCAM”.

1. Notice that it is only the children of the wealthiest parents — students who strut around with their $10,000 Apple watches, parking their new Porches, BMW’s and Mercedes Benz automobiles in the school parking lot — who are behind this fossil fuel divestiture idea.

These students are well aware that if the university guts a profitable portion of it’s investment portfolio, that it must raise tuition rates to offset the loss. These students — the most privileged in this State and some of whom are the most privileged in the country — know that the resulting tuition increase fall heaviest on the students from poorer families, families barely squeaking by, with oppressive student loans that their parents already struggle to pay, and who work 2-3 jobs, 16 hours a day, to do so.

These are students who can afford the higher tuition — or whose relationships with their parents are so distant that they don’t even care about the burden on their parents — or have personal family accountants who are paid six-figure salaries by their moms and dads — to worry about such things.

Of course, the tuition would be increased later — you know, when the students for divestiture or no longer around to feel the costly consequences of their social justice experiment.

It’s an idea that discriminates the poor. And one has to identify who the poor are on this campus to determine whether this social justice movement is every bit as racist in effect as the minimum wage movement.

2. The divestment movement is an elaborate charade, which is too inconsistent and impractical to succeed. Even the campaigners admit they are not entirely serious — that their chances of shutting down ExxonMobil or Royal Dutch Shell are roughly zero, and that their own lights would go out if they did. It is a political campaign for carbon taxes and green laws in financial disguise.

Targeting Big Oil in this way is both too narrow and too broad. It is too narrow because there is no logic to blaming the producers of energy raw materials, rather than the companies and people that consume energy. Why should Exxon be a divestment target while others such as Apple, which runs energy-sucking server farms and produces millions of electronic devices, escape?

The second problem is breadth. The campaign is against a sector with a 2013 market value of about $4 trillion, according to Oxford university’s Stranded Assets program. Its cash flow supports many pension funds and endowments. Even if some endowments divest, this would be a drop in the bucket, easily filled by less active and less socially conscious investors.

College students campaigning against fossil fuel investments might be best served by putting down their picket signs and enrolling in an Economics 101 course. People invest money to grow their wealth, and while a family like the Rockefellers may be wealthy enough to assuage its guilt for how it made its money by publicly divesting from fossil fuel holdings, the rest of us can’t afford that luxury.

The divestment movement is rampantly inconsistent. By taking on something as enormous as investments in brown energy, greens have not only set themselves up for failure, they’ve also started tallying up opportunity costs. Public appetite for green initiatives isn’t limitless, and neither is the funding or media attention these causes du jour receive.

Those behind the campus divestiture movement are like children playing with a gun. Except they aren’t even aware the gun isn’t even loaded. And they have no idea what they’re pointing it at.

3. Divestiture is a symbolic gesture that will have no measurable impact on global greenhouse gas emissions, or the behavior of companies that produce fossil fuels. The global capitalization of the fossil-fuel industry amounts to $60 trillion; an endowment of this school represents just 0.01 or 0.02 percent of that, and even the endowments of all U.S. universities combined are less than 1 percent of that figure. The only real effect of divestiture is that different people earn the profits.

Not all fossil fuels are alike, and not all companies in that sector are alike. For example, natural gas is less environmentally damaging than coal, and the shale gas revolution has actually reduced the nation’s carbon footprint. This is what’s wrong with this divestment movement: It throws everything out rather than making thoughtful choices about what is good, and what we should keep and what we should get rid of.

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