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Dear Dalhousie and Queens: Please Divest So I Don’t Have to Rip Up My Degrees on Camera

At least 75 per cent of known fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change, but not only are fossil fuel companies committed to burning all of those reserves, they’re spending billions searching for more. Wrecking the climate in exchange for money is officially the worst business model. Truck Nutz, you’re off the hook.

Every time we read another bowel-loosening article on climate change it’s easy to feel powerless because fossil fuel companies are so deeply entrenched in our economy and politics. But one way people are pushing back is divestment. If institutions remove their investments from fossil fuel companies, it sends the industry a message in a language it understands — money — that its business model is no longer acceptable. We don’t like you anymore. You’re losers.

And if you’re an institution that claims to serve the public interest, it’s immoral for you to invest in fossil fuels. It’s not in the public interest to wreck the climate, so you shouldn’t be profiting from that wreckage. The goal isn’t to bankrupt fossil fuel companies, it’s to disgrace them. And as with tobacco companies, the eventual goal is to force them to pay for some of the damage they’ve caused.

Tens of billions of dollars have already been divested by colleges and universities, churches, charities, cities, and others. But Canada — shockingly — is lagging. In fact, no Canadian university has fully divested. But it just so happens that I have degrees from two of those universities.

So to Dalhousie President Richard Florizone: You announced last fall that Dalhousie wouldn’t divest, citing your "fiduciary duty to generate reasonable risk adjusted returns." If you want to generate reasonable returns for a living, go work at a bank. Your job is to prepare students for the future, so you need to stop profiting from an industry that is actively working to make that future uninhabitable.

I’ve started a petition for alumni. The signatories commit to withholding any donations to Dalhousie until you commit to divest. And further, if there’s no change to your position, this fall I’m going to rip up my degree on camera and I invite others to join me.

I’ve started a similar petition for Queen’s alumni. To Queen’s Principal Daniel Woolf: You signed a Climate Change Statement of Action recognizing that Queen's has an “obligation to demonstrate leadership in areas of community, national and global importance.”

Now’s your chance to demonstrate that leadership. Queen’s has formed an advisory committee that’s currently deliberating on divestment and they’ll announce their opinion in the fall. If at that time you choose to side with the fossil fuel industry, I’m throwing a degree-ripping party and you won’t be invited. 

Petition for Queen’s alumni: https://campaigns.gofossilfree.org/petitions/queen-s-university-alumni-for-fossil-fuel-divestment

Petition for Dalhousie alumni: https://campaigns.gofossilfree.org/petitions/dalhousie-alumni-for-fossil-fuel-divestment

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