MacDivest announces hunger strike
Six students affiliated with MacDivest will be hunger striking if the university does not meet their demands by March 20
According to Navin Garg, media liaison for MacDivest, the organization began in 2013 under the name Fossil Free McMaster and it has been active under the name MacDivest for the past three years. Throughout this time, the organization has been calling for McMaster University to divest from fossil fuels.
Currently, MacDivest is putting pressure on the university to divest the 30.4 million dollars that it currently has invested in the Carbon Underground 200, the largest two hundred owners of carbon reserves.
“What we want are either firm statements [demonstrating] that they will be putting a policy into place, or, better than that, we want the policy, because we need to know that the university will follow through with what they're saying,” explained Garg.
MacDivest is also calling for the university to remove the gas burning generators that they are building at Cootes Drive.
Garg explained that the gas-powered generators are being introduced as a peak shaving measure or a measure that attempts to lower the highest spikes in demand on the electrical grid. In McMaster’s Net Zero Carbon Road Map Report, they discuss their plan to implement peak shaving generators.
“It is estimated that the generators will be required to operate for an estimated 60 - 100 hours per year in order to ensure that the campus demand is reduced during the provincial peaks,” reads the report.
McMaster has received approval from the City of Hamilton to build the generators; however, they still require provincial approvals.
According to Garg, the generators would have to run for approximately 60 hours per year for 13 years to pay for themselves, at which point the university would begin making money to invest in clean energy.
Garg also emphasized that researchers have developed fossil-fuel-free peak shaving methods and MacDivest called on the university to research these methods rather than relying on gas-powered generators.
Garg explained that the decision to hunger strike comes after numerous other attempts by MacDivest to persuade the university to divest from fossil fuels, including sit-ins, rallies, letters and petitions from students and faculty.
According to Garg, since the announcement of the hunger strike, members of the university administration have met with MacDivest. However, Garg stated that the university is not willing to commit to divestment or to the removal of the gas-powered generators.
“We say what our demands are and our justifications and they say something along the lines of, "Oh, we hear you, we see you, but we can't do that,"” explained Garg.
Garg added that the McMaster administration is not willing to use the university’s investment portfolio politically. As of publication, the university has not respond to the Silhouette's request for comment.
This also be seen though on the McMaster Financial Affairs webpage, which says that, due to the inability of the University to take a singular collective stance, McMaster is inclined not to establish hard social or political guidelines with respect to their investment decisions.
“Investing in fossil fuels is political, inherently, and judging a company as okay to invest in by a specific political metric is political. So, we don't consider divestment [to be] a political thing; we consider it an environmental imperative,” said Garg.
Regarding the hunger strike itself, Garg explained that five to six students will be participating in a fluids-only hunger strike, meaning that they will only be consuming water and electrolyte solution for the duration of the strike. Garg added that MacDivest is considering the use of a 100-calorie nutritional supplement as well but that they are unlikely to implement this in the strike.
While the exact location of the striking students is not yet known, Garg emphasized that the strikers would be in a central location that sees high student traffic.
“The idea of the hunger strike is to be very central and very visible, so that anyone walking around on campus is likely to see us at some point during their day,” said Garg.
This is an ongoing story.