Fossil fuel divestment is the path to climate justice –


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2017, Pressure from students and faculty, McMaster University has set up an advisory board to consider whether to sell its donations from fossil fuels.

In a report recommending actions to reduce carbon dioxide emissions at universities and promote climate change research, Commission recommended against divestment from fossil fuels..The reasons cited included the difficulty of terminating pooled investment funds, including: 200 Carbon Underground (CU) companies(Top 200 coal, oil and gas companies ranked by potential carbon emissions of reported reserves); Relative risk of renewable energy investment. And the rejection of divestment as a purely symbolic gesture.

A similar rationale led Universities across Canada -except Laval -Reject fossil fuel divestment.

However, there have been many changes since then.

The· The relative risks of oil and renewable energy are changing Some companies have built a strong track record in Fossil-free investment.. Most importantly 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report Shows that the effects of climate change are faster and more serious than expected.

Divestment continues Poor sales at Canadian universitiesHowever, it is worth considering why.

Divestment discussion

As an environmentalist, I participate in the discussion of divestment, confident in the science of the dangers of climate change and the role of fossil fuels in accelerating it. My approach is Environmental humanities, Diversity, sustainability, Resilience Imagine different models of climate justice, using tools from feminist and decoronial cultural studies, along with settler colonial culture.

Oil is the lifeblood of our current culture and climate crisis. This insight and its meaning Energy humanity.. Imre Szeman, Sheena Wilson, Adam Carlson, Communication and media researchers said: “Freedom, identity, success: our deepest ideals and most prominent social fantasies are mediated and made possible by the energy of fossil fuels.”

The· Conceptual framework of Oil cultivation -The set of values ​​created by our dependence on oil-shows that oil-fueled cultures do more than just influence our attitude towards it. Petroleum culture saturates everythingIncludes institutions where investment and sale decisions are made.

Shape the divestment debate

How does oil culture shape the divestment debate?

In Canada, one of the obvious factors is the centrality of fossil fuels. National character (Fossil fuel 10% of GDP in 2019).

Another chain of anti-division debate is the “sitting at the table” story.Aside from questions about the effectiveness of Shareholder activistIts powerful appeal owes something to the petroleum cultural value of engagement. If you get a seat at the table, it seems bad to argue with the following questions: why are some seats closer to the table than others? Who designed the table? Who owns it? What is it made of?

Table seating strategy framework as an almost existential choice-“Exit vs voice, “”Do you fight or run away“-Emphasis on the value of mobility and positivity, which are the heart of oil culture.

These values ​​also inform you of the ESG elevation (Environment, society, governance) Investment principle, Welcome to Jason Kenny, Alberta Premier As a valuable weapon against the sale of oil sands.

read more: What is Sustainability Accounting? What does ESG mean?I have an answer

Considered by Some supporters As “more delicate and sophisticated” Negative screening, ESG also gains appeal by using rhetoric Crossing, A term from an important racial theory that describes the overlapping dynamics of power that determine landscapes of inequality (patriarchy, racism, homophobia, etc.).

Intersectionality, oil culture, climate change

In her extensive quest Oil crossingSina Wilson, a researcher in media and cultural studies, points out that oil may have promoted the autonomy of women in the West, but it exacerbates the incapacity of women in the Global South. The biggest blow from climate change..

She says a feminist aura that pervades rhetoric “Ethical” Canadian oil Further plagued by the loss of indigenous women, their political opposition has been dismissed and the community is paying for it.

when Fossil fuel company talks about crossing The term is “Bend over“Feminism (a concept created in 2013 by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Serious criticism), It seamlessly blends the ideals of diversity and competitive self-progress.

The point of divestment is to send a negative message against the aggressiveness of leaning forward. Social license In industries where the potential for harm exceeds the strictest application of ESG principles

You can go back to the table metaphor to understand why colleges are struggling with this message. Tables are where meals are shared and decisions are made about resource allocations, policies, and procedures.So Run out of public funds, The company has moved to the top of the higher education table. Investment can shift from sector to sector, but it is imperative that business returns stay at the forefront, even if the conversation goes as follows: Social responsibility..

In March 2021, at the end of the fiscal year, which reduced not only oil profits, but also the culture of hypermobility, connectivity and devotion that mediates them, President David Farrer announced: statement Call on the board to withdraw from fossil fuels “as soon as possible”. The future direction is clear, but the timeline remains ambiguous.

Universities should say “no” to make a small but consequential distinction from gradual withdrawal from unprofitable sectors. It has been shown to be unfair and unstable, but strangely it requires you to move away from a table that is difficult to leave.

Author: Susie O’Brien-Professor of Cultural Studies, McMaster University

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