A big year for climate change means a big year for Mac Divest

Novera Shenin
October 21, 2021
Est. Reading Time: 5 minutes

C/O Ro's Shaded Lenz, Instagram 

After spending all of September breaking barriers, Mac Divest is back and here to stay

It is no secret that the climate is changing before our very eyes. From increasing heat waves in the summer to a predicted violent winter, the typical weather patterns of our past are slowly ceasing to exist. "Climate doomer-ism,” a nihilistic belief in the irreversibility of the climate crisis is becoming increasingly common as people become desensitized to a slew of time sensitive statistics. This mentality can especially be seen when natural disasters hit other countries. After all, what is there to do as one individual, when a disaster of epic proportions appears to become more and more of a reality? 

Organization and mobilization are the philosophies adopted by McMaster Divest, a campus-based climate advocacy group dedicated to ending McMaster’s $40 million in investments in fossil fuels. Mac Divest is funded by the Ontario Public Interest Research Group. The group does the necessary research, policy, and protest organization work to facilitate conversations around divestment in order to encourage the university to divest. Fall 2021 has been significant for Mac Divest, who after a summer of campaigning, have been tirelessly protesting McMaster’s investment decisions through murals, speaking with those in charge, expanding the goals it addresses and coordinating actions to address the climate crisis with local grassroots organizations.  

“Divestment is ridding McMaster of all of its investments in fossil fuels . . . Divestment is becoming more and more likely to happen at McMaster since many prestigious universities, states, provinces [are] divesting. Given Mac’s prestigious reputations, we are hoping divestment becomes a reality here as well,” said Maymoon “Moon” Bhuiyan, a material sciences student extensively involved with Mac Divest. 

In addition to striving towards its long-term divestment goals, Bhuiyan and his co-executive of Divest, arts and science student Adeola Egbeyemi, are actively coordinating protests, speaking at protests, voicing solidarity and cooperating with Hamilton climate organizations. 

“We do direct action work such as speaking events, protest by art and of course support divestment campaigns across Canada. McMaster Divest is one of the bigger movements, as we grew very fast. We want to lead by example and so getting McMaster so close to divesting shows solidarity with the work of other universities as well,” explained Bhuiyan.  

Bhuiyan and other McMaster students have been arranging a series of protests to not only put pressure on the McMaster community, but also policymakers in Hamilton. Bhuiyan believes that protesting and making establishments uncomfortable with their environmental decisions is crucial to passing legislation in favor of mitigating the climate crisis. This rings true now more than ever as policies and awareness surrounding climate change are on crossroads of transitioning away from fossil fuels. 

Currently, Mac Divest is working with other environmental clubs across McMaster and Hamilton to urge the City of Hamilton to sign the Fossil Fuels Non-Proliferation Treaty, a treaty designed to end all new investments and production of fossil fuels. Bhuiyan hopes pushing against the municipality will pressure Mac to consider divestment. 

Photo C/O: Maymoon Bhuiyan, @bhuiyanmymoon , Instagram

Photo Caption: Bhuiyan stands at Hamilton City Hall at the “Canada Is On Fire” protest. 

Sept. 8 marked the day of the “Canada Is On Fire” protest led by Mac Divest and Hamilton 350 at Hamilton City Hall. Bhuiyan spoke at city hall, urging officials to sign a policy decreasing their use of fossil fuel consumption to varying responses. While Some city officials were reluctant, divest saw success after compelling Matthew Green, a New Democratic Party member of Parliament to sign with other politicians present at the protest.  

On Sept. 24, Bhuiyan organized the Hamilton Climate Strike march with his friend Felicia Mikrogianakis, a material sciences student at McMaster who works with Fridays for Future Hamilton, an international youth-led climate organization started by Greta Thunberg. The march had over a hundred attendees despite only a week of advertisement, demonstrating that the climate crisis is not brushed aside by Mac students, or the Hamilton community at large. It is gaining traction. 

Divest plans on holding a meeting with the McMaster University Board of Governors on Oct. 28 to vote on the divestment of fossil fuels. Chair of the board, Bradley Merkel, is the former ExxonMobil Director. As the Chair and with years of experience in fossil fuel industries, Merkel’s vote will be monumental to determining if McMaster is convinced to reorient its investment strategies.  

“We will not endorse a partial divestment as divestment. We will continue to fight for full divestment, and we will get it soon,” said Bhuiyan.  

Bhuiyan, an activist who specializes in racial justice, credits his experiences and learning to major activist movements prominent in his home state of New York, such as Black Lives Matter. He is determined to ensure Mac Divests’ goal expands beyond sole divestment and is inclusive of all social issues intrinsically connected to climate justice, namely racial climate justice. 

Divest is expanding its long-term goals to collaborate with Indigenous groups, believing climate justice to be tied to Indigenous sovereignty. 

Bhuiyan is currently working with organizations such as Greenpeace Hamilton and Hamilton 350 addressing the impact of Baffinland Iron Mines Corporations’ mining operations on Inuit land in Nunavut. Namely, Divest and Bhuiyan intend on opposing the expansion of these open iron ore mines proposed by ArcelorMittal, a steel conglomerate. 

“This expansion will change everything. It will impact Inuit food security, safety, the Inuit way of life. We are currently drafting a letter to the next honourable minister of Northern Affairs and then the Nunavut Impact Board to voice on university support to stop this expansion,” said Bhuiyan.  

On par with its new mandates to further racial climate justice, Divest is also currently involved with the International Coalition of Human Rights in the Philippines to address Canadian investment of fossil fuels in the country. Divest is focusing on bringing to light the actions of two major Canadian mining giants OceanaGold Corp and TVI Pacific and their subsequent social and environmental impact on the Philippines.  

“Many groups including the Filipino McMaster Student Association are speaking up. This is a big push against mining. Canadian mining in the Philippines is a perfect example of neocolonialism, where these large companies are making money off of the backs of people in the Philippines, while the people continue to suffer. McMaster is just giving executives to these horrible companies. There are two executives on OceanaGold with McMaster degrees,” said Bhuiyan. 

Mac Divest intends to keep its momentum up with many other projects planned for the academic year. One of their main goals is to focus on increasing collaboration with the other environmental groups on campus.

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