Madeline Lawler
The Silhouette

The other day, I was daydreaming and pondering the state of the world and the future outcome of its people, as one is wont to do. I asked myself, “How have we lived on a planet for so long and provided it with the burden of the industrial revolution?” We have acted harmoniously with the world prior to this time period, only taking what we needed. Now the Earth just seems to accept our toxic behaviour without kicking us off the planet. Or has it clued in and begun to retaliate?

One of the main activities we partake in as a species, which causes so much destruction, is pumping out oil and gas as if there is no tomorrow. The federal government has created the narrative that in order for the Canadian economy to thrive, we need to continue to produce these polluting by-products. Yet, there seems to be a catch for the acts behind their smoke and mirrors.

A major impact of burning fossil fuels is climate change, which affects each and every one of us, no matter what social class we exhibit. This is an issue which is happening not in future, but as of right now. I don’t think people fully understand the ramifications of this problem. They simply believe that science and technology will create a solution for us to continue to live the way we do. However, with seven billion people on this planet, our current lifestyle is a major part of the destruction at hand. Without addressing this, we are left with band-aid solutions.

Some climate scientists say that the global temperature can rise up to a maximum of two degrees Celsius before catastrophic climate change effects occur. This temperature limit is equivalent to keeping our carbon emitting activity to the maximum of 565 gigatons (565,000,000,000 tons) of carbon. Fossil fuel companies have 2,795 gigatons in their reserves and are ready to just burn them for profit. This number is five times higher than the previously mentioned maximum.

As we have continued to burn fossil fuels, impacts have become immediate. In July 2006, the major heat wave in North America resulted in 140 deaths, including some with working air conditioners. During 2011 and 2012, major weather events, including storms, floods and fires, have cost up to $188 billion in damages. These are just two of the major events that have occurred largely as a result of the lifestyle habits from first world countries. Our lifestyle practices are considered as necessities when they are actually luxuries and conveniences we have gotten used to. With our society structured around fossil fuels – a risky and expensive way for us to live the high life – events like the examples above will become common place, making our world a potentially unliveable place for everyone. Our food and drinking water – the real necessities for us to live – will become scarce resources for our growing population.

As important as it is to strengthen our economy, it is essential to divert from an oil based economy that is a large cause of the destruction and devastation of our home. Institutions like McMaster have the fiduciary responsibility or the requirement to care for the assets and rights of its students. This duty gives students opportunities to begin a career and life for themselves. What trumps this duty is the moral responsibility that institutions have for our future, as well as future generations and our planet, which gives us the ability to live. Before the impacts of climate change worsen exponentially, it is necessary for us to make the economic shift away from investing in fossil fuels.

McMaster needs to divest from fossil fuels. Why not be ahead of the game and declare right now that it is unacceptable to be investing in such an irresponsible industry with no long term future?

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