Queen’s should listen to its student protestors about the climate crisis

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Every year, Queen’s boasts about its sustainability efforts, from selling reusable straws to offering electric vehicle charging stations. But when it really counts, the school falls silent. 

It’s up to the student population of Queen’s to ensure this silence stops.

Sept. 20 kicks off a week of worldwide climate strikes coinciding with the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York. Next Friday, Queen’s students will flood campus to demand the University take immediate action concerning the climate crisis.

While most of the protests over the next week will target the provincial and federal governments, Queen’s has more localized issues to address first. The four demands published by Queen's Backing Action on Climate Change (QBACC) and Divest Queen's—the hosts of the university strike—make this clear.

The first demand, arguably the most important, is for Queen’s to divest from fossil fuels. The Queen’s Journal has discussed this at length, urging the University to do so and revealing the school’s deeply-held ties to the Canadian oil and gas industries. 

The strike’s next order of business is to ask that the University release a clear timeline for retrofitting campus buildings to become more energy-efficient. In May 2018, Queen’s received provincial funding to retrofit West Campus buildings with a new natural gas heating system and high-efficiency boilers, to be completed by April 2019. However, QBACC and Divest Queen’s state that no clear timeline or budget has been provided for Main Campus retrofitting.

The final environmental concern surrounds the University’s overall waste output. A 2016 waste audit revealed that the school contributed an average of 1,015,836.74 kilograms of organic waste to landfills annually. This isn’t surprising, considering our school lacks a comprehensive compost program: the University offers only nine locations with organic waste collection boxes in public, non-office student spaces.

The climate crisis is no longer a far-off fear—it’s happening right now. Queen’s, through its Queen’s Climate Action Plan, has a goal to become a net Zero Carbon campus by 2040. That number needs to be re-evaluated. In 21 years, it might be too late for these actions to have an impact.

Ultimately, the school needs to stop operating under the false pretense that it prioritizes sustainability, because it refuses to take the steps necessary to truly make a difference in its carbon footprint. 

To convince Queen’s that doing so is worthwhile, students must speak up. Attending Friday’s climate protest is an excellent place to start.

Make your voice heard so the generations of students after us can learn in a healthy world.

Tegwyn is The Journal’s Assistant Lifestyle Editor. She’s a fourth-year History student.

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