On climate action, schools should put their money where their mouths are

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Through a recent resignation, McGill University has proven that a failure to divest can come at a cost to students and the quality of their academics.
 
Last week, a former McGill professor resigned in response to the University’s refusal to divest from the fossil fuel industry. Like McGill, Queen’s community has a vested interest in the University’s complete divestment from fossil fuels. 
 
Despite this, pushing for divestment remains a student and faculty interest routinely underserved by our administration.
 
A University’s investments impact the school community, down to the individual level. Students and staff alike can be put in a position at odds with their personal environmental convictions when their tuition and research directly support institutions like Queen’s and McGill, which refuse to divest from fossil fuels. 
 
Activists and environmentalists alike find themselves to be unwilling participants in the support of environmentally detrimental industries such as oil and gas.
 
When universities refuse to actively consider divestment demands, they create an unwelcoming environment for students and staff who rightfully consider the climate crisis a pressing concern. Professors shouldn’t feel so unheard by their employers that leaving their jobs is the only way they feel they can avoid compromising their positions on divestment. 
 
Institutions, organizations, and businesses align their priorities with their investment choices, and universities are no exception. For universities that want to tout their firm stance on environmentalism, divesting from fossil fuels should be an obvious move. 
 
Divestment works. It signals to members of a university’s community that the school stands with them on meaningful climate action. Even more importantly, divestment keeps universities’ money from subsidizing industries actively destroying our planet. 
 
In divestment’s stead, institutions like McGill and Queen’s have laid out “action plans” for reducing campuses’ carbon footprints over the course of several decades. But if the schools are serious about their environmental commitments, vague carbon emission targets don’t do nearly enough. 
 
Our schools need to back their policies and pledges with tangible and definitive action now—beginning with a full divestment from fossil fuels.
 
Universities with stakes in the fossil fuel industry should be concerned by the threat of more professors and students following in the former McGill professor’s footsteps and leaving. 
 
Institutions are responsible for making informed, socially-conscious investments. If schools like Queen’s and McGill won’t commit to divestment, students and staff may have to take similar responsibilities upon themselves. 
 
Just as investors do, faculty and students have the power to evaluate which universities are worthy of their time and money based on their environmental impact.
 
 

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