McMaster students are gathering virtually for the university’s first climate strike with the call for divestment as its primary goal
C/O Ronan Furuta
As more people have come to recognize the threat of climate change, climate advocacy movements have grown around the world. At McMaster University, there are many student organizations that aim to protect the environment, such as Zero Waste McMaster, Mac Climate Advocates, McMaster Divest and others.
On Friday, March 19, students will gather on Zoom for McMaster University’s first virtual climate strike. According to Grace Kuang, a representative from the McMaster Climate Strike Team, the strike is aligned with Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future movement and is being organized by representatives from 13 different environmental activist groups on campus. Its primary goal is divestment from fossil fuels.
As Mymoon Bhuiyan, a representative from McMaster Divest, explained, students are advocating for divestment for a variety of reasons.
“It’s important for environmental reasons, but not only that. There are also humanitarian reasons; fossil fuel companies are notoriously bad in terms of human [rights]. There are also financial reasons; McMaster is going to lose money if they continue to stay invested in these companies,” said Bhuiyan.
According to Adeola Egbeyemi, a representative from McMaster Divest, the conversation about divestment between the McMaster administration and climate activist groups on campus has been ongoing for years.
“We are not the first ones on the divestment scene. This has been a longstanding movement since 2015,” said Egbeyemi.
Over the course of this semester, the conversation has progressed significantly. On Feb. 24 the McMaster Climate Strike Team sent a letter to President David Farrar, calling for divestment. In an email to the Silhouette, the McMaster Climate Strike Team explained that they expected McMaster to address this call for divestment at the Investments and Infrastructure Town Hall the following day.
Members of the McMaster Climate Strike Team expressed that the town hall did not provide the opportunities for engagement that they had expected. According to Kuang, the question and answer period was filtered, giving moderators the ability to choose questions without participants knowing what other questions had been asked. Further, there were no opportunities for students to show their video or unmute themselves.
“I think we came away feeling really silenced and really disappointed,” explained Kuang.
“It’s not clear what the university’s intention was, but it doesn’t really matter what the university’s intention was. Universities are places of open discussion and free thought, so there should have been a method for students to voice their thoughts,” said Bhuiyan.
Farrar said that the intention of the town hall was not to silence student voices.
“I think that the people who organized it were honestly trying to have a dialogue and that this technology doesn’t allow the kind of dialogue that needed to happen,” said Farrar.
Following the event, Farrar asked the Board of Governors to put a strategy in place for divestment.
“I think we need to take the added step of divesting from fossil fuel companies and I’ve asked the board to look into it,” emphasized Farar.
The McMaster Climate Strike Team expressed that they were aware and appreciate the university’s recent commitment to divestment, but that they were hoping to push the university towards releasing a more concrete plan.
“There were no steps, there were no timelines and there was nothing concrete that they wanted to move forward with; it’s just talk,” said Egbeyemi.
“We need to convince the rest of the board of governors to be on our side, so there’s definitely still work to do and that’s what the strike is hoping to accomplish,” added Kuang, emphasizing the importance of the upcoming climate strike in the divestment movement at McMaster.
Egbeyemi highlighted the accessibility of the strike.
“You don’t have to be 100 per cent vegan and go thrifting every weekend. Calling for institutional change is something that we can all do and it is an important part of improving society, in addition to individual change,” said Egbeyemi.
“I am striking to show the strength we have when we stand together. We stand in support of McMaster divesting from fossil fuels; we stand in solidarity with those experiencing the devastating effects of climate change; and we stand as a symbol of unity and strength,” said Gabriel Lonuzzo, a representative from the McMaster Climate Strike Team, in an email to the Silhouette.