As three young University of Victoria students living in a climate crisis, our lives have been impacted by the ever-increasing consequences of a changing climate. This is why we are members of Divest UVic — a campaign lobbying the university to fully divest from fossil fuels before 2025. We are also each working towards degrees that focus on how we can change our societies to mitigate climate change and flourish simultaneously.
Extreme heat waves are leading to an unprecedented death toll across the province. Not as severe, but nonetheless significant, these conditions are negatively affecting our physical and mental health, disrupting our ability to work, study, and sleep.
Wildfires are destroying communities and ecosystems while leaving us with dangerous air quality. The climate crisis continues to disrupt our daily routines, and is now, more than ever, challenging all aspects of our health while shifting the landscapes of our lives.
For example, in September 2020, one of us (Hailey) couldn’t leave her room for days because of the air quality outside and its effects on her asthma.
Due to the pandemic, Hailey was able to attend online classes from her room and have friends bring her meals; however, this coming school year will be different. What will students such as Hailey do in September when classes are in-person, but the sky is filled with smoke?
Our decisions to attend UVic were shaped by the university’s stated dedication to sustainability, and examples of climate action through courses, clubs, and management practices. All these elements that made us so excited have slowly faded during the courses of our degrees. This is because in these classes, we have learned the difference between performative and authentic climate action.
Despite the creation of a Responsible Investment Policy and claims of being a climate leader, we are deeply disappointed that the university we trusted to best embody our values and prepare us for tomorrow is failing to lead the way for a stable future.
As of March 31, 2020, the UVic Foundation is responsible for managing more than $470 million in assets in total — many of which include investments in Teck Resources, Imperial Oil, Coastal GasLink, Enbridge, Suncor Energy, Precision Drilling, Hong Kong and China Gas, and countless more.
By continuing to invest in fossil fuels, UVic is directly contributing to the worsening health effects brought by the climate crisis. Divesting and reinvesting is one of the most impactful ways UVic as an institution can mitigate climate change for the well-being of its students and staff and the environment.
The very institutions that are meant to set us up for success continue to be invested in climate and environmental destruction, effectively undermining our futures.
It is imperative that educational institutions, including #UVic, join schools across Canada that have committed to fossil fuel divestment, write @EJburian @robinfornow & Hailey Chutter. #ClimateEmergency #DivestUVic #Divest #FossilFuels
It is imperative that educational institutions, including the UVic, join schools across Canada that have committed to fossil fuel divestment, such as Université du Québec à Montréal, Lakehead University, University of Guelph, University of British Columbia, and Concordia University.
We need our institutions to take the lead on climate solutions and justice because this was not just the hottest summer we have experienced in our lifetimes, it is going to be the coolest summer of the rest of our lives.
Heatstroke, respiratory conditions (from poor air quality), increased eco-anxiety, substance use, and depression are just some of the mental and physical health impacts we are facing. This reality is overwhelming, but even more so is the lack of urgency the University of Victoria continues to demonstrate regarding the climate crisis.
Hailey Chutter, Robin Pollard are Emma-Jane Burian students at the University of Victoria.