CSU Holds First Mobilization Art Build to Tackle Climate Change

Student volunteers gathered on Aug. 29 to make T-shirts and posters for a variety of student-led campaigns. Photo Michael Wrobel

With T-shirts with the slogan “Pump Iron Not Oil” strung on a line to dry in one corner, an artist carefully painting a banner reading “Mob Squad” in another, and a student scrupulously constructing a tank piñata in another still, the area next to the People’s Potato turned into somewhat of a makeshift art gallery on Friday.

But there was an underlying objective behind the initiative—raising awareness about climate change.

“The purpose of a Mobilization Art Build is to attract students through art […] who may not know otherwise about [the climate change campaign],” Concordia Student Union VP External and Mobilization Anthony Garoufalis-Auger explained.

The event was the CSU’s first creative mobilization as part of their efforts to create more sustainable endeavours, like a student-run food cooperative, according to the event’s Facebook page.

“Having an open creative space is a way to give an opportunity to a new student that might not be willing just yet to get more heavily involved in some of the organized protests and the like,” he continued.

Sociology major Ian Campbell has been involved with Divest Concordia in the past and came to show his support.

“Having everything you need, all the material, all the equipment all in one place allows you to produce a [bunch of art that can be useful to various] campaigns around Concordia,” Campbell said of the event.

Events similar to the Mobilization Art Build will continue throughout the semester, leading up to a formal protest. Divest Concordia and the CSU are also planning actions in conjunction with the mobilization.

“We have plans, we are speaking with other student unions across Quebec to organize a demonstration at some time in late fall,” Garoufalis-Auger said.

Publicly available financial statements indicate that the university’s endowment fund had $49.9 million invested in Canadian stocks in the 2010-2011 financial year.

Of those investments, $9.1 million were in oil and gas, and another $2.6 million were in pipelines. That year, the total value of the university’s endowment fund was almost $116 million.

The campaigns are meant to put pressure on universities to reinvest in more sustainable practices, such as renewable sources.

“We are trying to convince universities to sell off those stocks and take a really bold stance […] by divesting from fossil fuels,” said Garoufalis-Auger.

There are currently over 500 campaigns in North America and Australia with the same objective.

While the United States saw 10 of its universities withdraw their shares from parts or all of the fossil fuel industry, including Stanford University and the University of Dayton, Canadian universities have yet to do so.

Meanwhile, the proposed Energy East Pipeline between Alberta and New Brunswick continues to be pushed forth by TransCanada, which recently applied for a permit.

The project would transport more than one million barrels of crude oil per day across the country.

“It’s a huge amount of pollution that will come from these extraction projects. The tar sands is a completely unsustainable project when it comes to climate change [and there are impacts] on First Nations communities down the Athabasca river,” Garoufalis-Auger explained.

Along with the mobilizations, the CSU will be hosting an event where environmental activists Bill McKibben and Ellen Gabriel will speak on climate change.

McKibben was a key leader in the protest against the Keystone XL pipeline project, an expansion that would see an increase in oil flow between Canada and the United States. He is also the author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, a book addressing the increasing pace of climate change.

Ellen Gabriel has been a human rights activist for 22 years and has a bachelor of fine arts from Concordia University.

The CSU has also invited Naomi Klein, author of No Logo, a book about the unethical conduct of big-brand companies, to speak in October. Klein is also known for her role in 350.org, a global campaign against climate change.

“We are the ones that are going to be most impacted by […] climate change,” Garoufalis-Auger said.

“A lot of politicians that are currently in power will not see the impacts that we are going to see when the temperature rises above two degrees, three degrees, four degrees, which is what we are expecting to see in our lifetime if we continue with projects like the tar sands.”