Every Friday this semester, Divest McGill is holding demonstrations on the steps of the Arts Building. These weekly gatherings were organized to protest McGill’s continuing investments in the fossil fuels industry. Divest aims to raise awareness about current climate issues and the practice of divestment through these “Fossil-Free Fridays.”
The initiative is part of the “Fridays for Future” movement, led by 15-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. In December 2018, she delivered an internationally renowned speech on the impacts of climate change at the United Nations’ Climate Conference (COP24). Using her new visibility, Thunberg rallied young people to take action against climate change. The movement encourages youth to go on strike every Friday and voice their concerns regarding the future of our planet.
“We wanted to partly affiliate ourselves with Fridays for Future to show our support and gain some momentum. We also wanted a larger presence on campus because not a whole lot of people are fully conscious about what divestment is,” said Violette Drouin, a member of Divest McGill.
Of the 645 publicly traded companies McGill invests in, 35 are among the world’s largest fossil fuel corporations. Divest McGill’s mission is to make students aware of this fact, encourage the University’s administration to take action, and ultimately, divest. “Our mission is to get McGill to divest its endowment fund from fossil fuel companies, with the goal of making it a statement that they really are divorcing themselves from anything related to industries that are harming the environment. Here, the main effect of divestment is a political and social one,” explained Drouin.
Movements like Divest McGill promote climate action, urging administrations to take a stand against pollution. Although support on campus for divestment is growing, Drouin believes “things are progressing at an extremely slow pace.” She explained further, saying, “the Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility is supposed to give a response to their re-evaluation of divestment at the end of this calendar year. However, this […] could take much longer.”
Through Fossil Free Fridays, and their other initiatives, members of Divest McGill hope to send a clear message to the administration. “We’re here, and we’re not going away until divestment from the fossil fuel industry is complete,” asserted Drouin.