Divest Now!

Concordia Must End Support for Fossil Fuels

Graphic Flora Hammond

Climate change is happening, we can all feel it.

As the generation that will control this country, we know that we have to reduce our carbon footprint and lower our greenhouse gas emissions. We know that we need to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, stop fracking and start relying on cleaner sources of energy.

This should not come as news to anyone. What is new, however, is the knowledge that Concordia has invested in fossil fuels, specifically in the Alberta tar sands.

Our university markets itself as a socially progressive institution, yet it relies on old sources of energy, with seemingly little desire to switch to cleaner, sustainable alternatives.

Divest Concordia is an organization trying to stop the hypocrisy of tar sand investment from a university that claims to be sustainable. The university’s 2010-2011 financial statements reveal that Concordia has invested $11.7 million in the fossil fuel industry, a figure that includes pipeline investments.

The highly controversial Keystone XL pipeline gives some perspective on the dangers of fossil fuels and their transportation.

Keystone is wrought with problems. While the United States is still debating whether the negative effects on our climate outweigh the thousands of jobs the pipeline will create (we now know that these jobs would be temporary), Prime Minister Stephen Harper has supported the project since the first application was filed in Sept. 2008.

Many environmental experts have warned that the pipeline, which would run from Fort McMurray, Alberta to Patoka, Illinois, and Houston and Port Arthur, Texas, would be one of the worst environmental disasters yet.

The most obvious reason for that is its size. The Keystone pipeline is set to be one of the biggest pipelines in North America, and the chances of a pipe bursting are increased by its size alone.

And the result of that could be devastating.

Remember the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the photos of dead animals and the sheet of oil that lay over the water in the Gulf of Mexico? Even though the spill happened over three years ago, the effects are still being felt.

Aside from the estimate that only about two per cent of dead marine species have been uncovered, those that survived have become part of the food chain, after having absorbed the chemicals from the oil.

The most significant of these chemicals is methane, one of the greenhouse gasses that climate scientists have been warning us about for decades.

But animals living in the Gulf or people living around it—many of whom are now sick from toxic chemicals—are not the only ones being affected by the spill.

Think about the mass production of fish. The marine life taken from the Gulf and consumed is packed full of chemicals, and those chemicals go straight into the bodies of people who eat them.

What’s worse, only about two-thirds of the spill has been cleaned up to date.

Like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a burst in the Keystone pipeline would have devastatingly negative effects, including infecting the public’s drinking water, soil and air, as well as a significantly increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

Considering the spike in natural disasters like tornadoes and hurricanes as a result of climate change, the chances of the pipeline being damaged are only further increased.

In short, the pipeline could embody the vicious cycle that makes the cause of climate change also the effect of climate change.

Although the pipeline is currently under debate, it remains a topic of concern. A quick Google image search of Tar Island, Alberta, further illustrates the damage the tar sands cause.

Upon searching it, all you’ll find is a whole lot of nothing. The tar sands destroy almost everything found in nature.

So, knowing this, how is it possible that Concordia University, our university, a university that has made visible steps to be greener, is involved with something so detrimental to the environment?

Like so many others, I’ve felt powerless when it comes to trying to reverse climate change. Amidst all the propaganda and rhetoric from corporate-owned climate scientists, I’ve felt frustrated and defeated.

When it comes to climate science, it seems one step forward has always been followed by two steps back.

Now I feel re-energized. It may not seem like much when considering the whole picture, but taking part in stopping the university from investing in fossil fuels is a step in the right direction. It is abhorrent that the place where we learn can be so hypocritical and so deeply flawed in its position on climate change.

Now we finally have a chance to make some sort of difference. Divest Concordia and other campaigns like it have opened the door; now it’s time to step forward.

Concordia needs to know that what it’s doing is not right, and it’s time we told them so.