Visual action lends fuel to QBACC’s fire

QBACC continues to put pressure on Queen’s to divest from fossil fuels

Members of QBACC hung a sign advocating a fossil fuel-free Queen’s from the second floor of the ARC on Feb. 12.
Members of QBACC hung a sign advocating a fossil fuel-free Queen’s from the second floor of the ARC on Feb. 12.

Though Queen’s has pledged to explore the feasibility of fossil fuel divestment, Queen’s Backing Action on Climate Change (QBACC) isn’t taking the pressure off.

As part of their “Responsible Investment” campaign, QBACC held a visual demonstration at the ARC on the afternoon of Feb. 12.

The demonstration began with a speech from Ryan Broe, QBACC’s co-director, who said “it is time for Queen’s to address its investments. Let’s end Queen’s University’s relationship with fossil fuels.”

Broe, ArtSci ’15, also mentioned the ongoing political support given to the fossil fuel industry and the urgency for students to take action, noting, “Over 60 per cent of lobbyists in Parliament are involved with the fossil fuel industry, but we [students] can make a difference.”

As a fourth-year undergraduate student, Broe stressed the significance of holding these public demonstrations to reach out to younger students and build a strong, ongoing foundation at Queen’s.

“We need to make sure we have a basis to pass the torch,” he said.

Following his speech, a banner was raised atop the recreation entrance, reading: “We Choose a Fossil Free Queen’s, Invest in our Future”.

QBACC’s campaign asks the University Board of Trustees to divest from funds received from fossil fuel companies invested in with money from the Queen’s Pooled Endowment Fund (PEF). Money from the fund comes from donations to the University, and withdrawals from the fund go to funding scholarships, among other things.

The group’s visual action was in response to a growing student interest in divestment, as asserted by a majority of student voters in this year’s AMS winter referendum.

The referendum posed a non-binding plebiscite question asking if voters agreed to having the AMS assess the feasibility of divestment from fossil fuels in its Restricted Funds portfolio and the PEF. 73.5 per cent of voters, or 4,127 students, cast their ballot in favour of an assessment.

“The campaign is growing in momentum within the student body, as well as gaining a lot more support from the faculty, giving us more credibility as a whole,” said Courtenay Jacklin, a QBACC representative.

As a biology student, Jacklin, ArtSci ’15, said she’d applied her background to the issue in deciding to participate in this initiative and help spread awareness.

“It is important to create awareness, and students should make the effort to understand both the foundations and significance of this issue in order to shift our attention from fossil fuels to renewable energy,” she said.

There are similar divestment campaigns occurring at other universities across Canada, including UBC, McGill and Dalhousie. On Feb. 13-14, supporters of these campaigns hosted actions around the world in solidarity with Global Divestment Day.

QBACC hopes this public demonstration will mark the first of many more active demonstrations to follow. The renewable energy platform has gained immense support and continues to grow worldwide.

Ellen MacAskill, a Queen’s exchange student and QBACC representative, said she felt obliged to get involved in this initiative after having experienced a similar discourse at her home university in Glasgow.

“There is a sheer amount of financial power sent from academic institutions and, unfortunately, activism can sometimes work in an academic cycle,” MacAskill said.

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