UPDATE: McMaster Divest hunger strike begins with a rally
Five McMaster students are striking for divestment and to suspend the Cootes generator project
On Monday, McMaster Divest announced that five McMaster University students have officially begun hunger striking. The strikers are located in the MUSC atrium, where they have set up signs and posters advocating for divestment from fossil fuels.
The strike began with a rally at 11:00 a.m. on March 20. The rally featured speakers from McMaster Divest and from other community organizations, including Environment Hamilton and Grand(m)others Act to Save the Planet.
Speakers led chants and discussed the impact that fossil fuels have on the environment.
Don McLean, representative of Hamilton 350 and an honorary degree holder at McMaster University, expressed his support for the strike. He emphasized in his speech the disproportionate impact of climate change on the Global South, highlighting that investment in fossil fuels harms the home countries of many international students.
“What the students in Mac Divest are doing is right, it’s just and it’s brave,” said McLean, in an interview with the Silhouette.
In an email to the Silhouette, McMaster University stated their commitment to a net-zero carbon campus and to divestment, but they also acknowledged that their approaches and timelines differ from McMaster Divest. The university also stated that they will be providing striking students with physical and mental health services, as well as regular checks with McMaster's Emergency First Response Team.
Dr. James Quinn, who has been a professor at McMaster since 1992, spoke at the rally about the urgency of the climate crisis, advocating for more immediate climate action.
In an interview with the Silhouette, Quinn also discussed the gas-powered generators being built at Cootes Drive, arguing that the desired result of peak-shaving could be achieved through conservation instead.
According to Quinn, the university attempted conservation as a peak-shaving method once in 2016, shutting down air conditioning units during select peak times. This, Quinn said, negatively affected ongoing lab experiments at the time and received some negative attention.
“They didn’t do it the right way. But, in this day and age, when people understand what a climate crisis [is], if it was handled properly, it would be easy to repeat [the conservation] approach,” said Quinn.
On Mar. 15, McMaster Daily News released an article stating that McMaster has remained committed to divestment from fossil fuels and that fossil fuel companies make up 2.7 per cent of McMaster’s investment portfolio, down from 4.5 per cent in 2018.
“The university has committed to reducing the carbon exposure of our investments by 65 per cent by 2025; 75 per cent by 2030 and the rest as soon as possible after that,” reads the article.
According to a McMaster Divest Instagram post, McMaster Divest is advocating for a commitment to total divestment by 2025 and reinvestment in clean energy, with full public disclosure.
This is an ongoing story.
This article was updated to include a statement from McMaster University