Following a major protest last year and a summer in which environmental issues occupied the headlines (remember that heat wave?), Divest Dal shows no signs of slowing down.
Divest Dal is a student-led campaign which pushes Dal to – well – divest from fossil fuels. Last year, the group organized a nine-day sit-in at the Studley campus quad to get their message heard.
As a result of that campout, Divest Dal was awarded 10 minutes of speaking time at the November Board of Governors meeting at Dalhousie.
“Following from that we were able to work with the student Board of Governors reps to bring forward a motion to the February Board of Governors meeting around Dal working on a third-party fund search, looking into fossil free funding or investing options,” said Laura Cutmore, an organizer with Divest Dal.
“This is a really exciting moment for Divest Dal right now because we’ve been working with one of the student board of governors reps who sits on the investment committee to look into how divestment could actually work at Dal.”
New school year, new goals
This year, their main goal remains the same: to get Dalhousie University to fully remove its investments in the fossil fuel industry.
To raise awareness, the group organizes events like tattooing actions and sit-ins, but there’s a lot more to it than student outreach.
“We’re always also working behind the scenes,” said Cutmore. “For years we worked with senators on Dal’s Senate and now we’re working with the Board of Governors.”
Divest Dal is also taking a firm stance against pipelines such as the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project in Alberta and British Columbia. Back before the pipeline expansion was approved in 2013, the group organized a sit-in at MP Andy Fillmore’s office, where 20 students from Divest Dal occupied his office and spoke to him about “why approving this pipeline would be really detrimental to our climate, our futures as young people and why ignoring Indigenous lack of consent is so problematic.” Last year they held a fundraiser to raise money for seven First Nations bands who took the federal government to court over the approval of the pipeline.
That court case was heard in the Federal Court of Appeal in late August, and the court ruled that the Trans Mountain pipeline would not be allowed to expand as they had planned. The First Nations groups argued that they were not adequately consulted before the decision to approve the project was made.
“It sets a really exciting precedent for the necessity of proper consultation and consent from Indigenous communities,” said Cutmore. Divest Dal will continue opposing the pipelines.
Cutmore stressed the importance of being environmentally conscious.
“We have just come out of a summer where climate impacts were all over the headlines. Even for a couple days out here in Halifax, our skies were hazy from the [British Columbia] wildfires.”
Seeing local headlines such as oil spills in the Halifax Harbour and off the coast of Nova Scotia also show the harm the fossil fuel industry can do to the environment.
“It’s really critical for us in this moment to lay the blame on climate change and environmental devastation where it belongs, on the fossil fuel industry.”
While Divest Dal opposes the fossil fuel industry, they do not begrudge those who make their living by working in it.
“We were never blaming the workers of the fossil fuel industry. We want a just transition for all workers,” Cutmore said.