Commentary | Why I will hand back my degree


Twenty-one years ago, I finished my last exam and left the McGill campus for the last time. I remember how proud I felt. At my graduation, Elie Wiesel was the keynote speaker. I will always remember his words: “The opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference.” This was his way of telling us that our degree came with responsibility. The responsibility not to turn away in the face of moral peril, to stand up for what is right.

Climate change is the defining issue of our times. It is a scientific fact. Acting to prevent it is not only a technological, economic, and political challenge: it has become a moral imperative. When it invests part of its endowment fund in coal, oil, and gas, McGill is betting on fossil fuels against our climate. This is an example of the indifference to human harm Wiesel so eloquently talked about at my graduation.

Dozens of universities in the world, including Stanford and Oxford, have announced that they will divest. In doing so, they are not only making an ethical decision, they are also protecting their assets by reducing exposure to what economists are now calling a carbon bubble.

The time has come for McGill University to do the right thing. Indifference is no longer an option on climate change. As one of Canada’s greatest scientific and educational institutions, McGill University must show leadership, integrity and vision.

Unless it announces its intention to divest, I will be handing back my degree on March 30. I encourage all alumni to join me and the McGill alumni for divestment:

—Karel Mayrand, Director General for Quebec of the David Suzuki Foundation and Chair of the Board of Directors of Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project Canada