Really, our Canadian universities fund “planetary destruction”?

Bambi would like to comment on the following article in NB Media Coop by Ms. “Hannah Moore”: Universities funding planetary destruction.

If readers from the Middle East or from another “hot” part of our planet see this title, they would imagine that Canadian universities fund nuclear wars, armed conflicts, or deliberate physical destruction of nature or property ?. Hopefully, this would not be a turn off for them, if they are dreaming of immigrating to our beautiful country or to come to study here.

OK luckily, this is not what this article is about. It is “just” about St. Thomas University’s endowment fund of about $1 million in fossil fuel industry stocks.

First, Ms. Moore’s article starts by pointing out to the hypocrisy of higher education institutions. Indeed, she wrote that “higher education teach the science of climate change and the social and economic aspects of environmental degradation and yet they continue to invest in fossil fuels and profit from these industries”.

The author seems to have a valid point here. However, perhaps this apparent hypocrisy would have been mitigated had (1) our schools produced more critical (and creative) thinkers, and fewer trendy activists, to address critical issues in a broader way, that is without falling into the trap of dogmatic thinking and (2) our funding agencies supported more research on important matters such as environmental problems. Yes, more science based on rigour, ethics, and diligence, without risk of radicalization and roboticization of the producers or consumers of that science.

Indeed, scientists are researchers, not politicians. They are supposed to translate scientific knowledge to decision makers (and other audiences). Students are critical learners first and foremost, that is before resorting to or beginning a career of activism. Their critical thinking is essential as it is their natural antidote to the eventual risk of becoming bullies of political correctness.

Second, despite the funny title of this article, it is generally well-written. Perhaps, the paper would have been stronger had it included references, especially in lines 5-7 (to show us the scientific evidence).

It would have also been informative to stop to think about the cited UN statement about global heating that must be kept to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Why 1.5? Why not more? Why not less?

Bambi is not an expert in neither climate change science nor politics. She just uses her rationality to question scientific (or so-called scientific) claims in order to understand matters.

This being said, let’s assume that 1.5 degrees Celsius is the magical number indeed. How would we ensure concrete solutions to the problem of global warming? Even if we divest tomorrow morning, how will this translate into actual solutions?

Third, the article states that “the student-led campaign at STU has gathered unanimous support from the Students’ Union and the Faculty Association. Both groups agree that STU should discontinue funding, and profiting from, the fossil fuel industry.” Great but is the word “unanimous” the most accurate term here? Precisely, what was the voter turnout and what was the precise result”? It would be informative to have this information.

Fourth, Ms. Moore talks about how our oil companies are so powerful and influential. There is for sure some truth in her claim (although there are usually small, medium, and large companies in any sector). Despite this, should we kill our whole economy in our aspiration for a cleaner, greener planet? Can’t we aim to diversify our economy instead whilst working on our research and renewable energy commercialization?

Finally, Bambi could be wrong, but her understanding is that the Irving Oil Refinery is not a publicly traded company. Ms. Moore talks about the significant economic and social power that makes many New Brunswickers afraid of speaking against it. Maybe for some, who knows? But how about all those who do not wish to speak against it (even if it is far from being a “business angel”, so to speak)? Those who earn a living from it or because of it? Or those who care for both our environment and economy, even without any ties to this company?  

The latter may include some people who, like Bambi, may have mixed feelings at times: On one hand, they are fond of the success of such a Canadian giant. On the other hand, they may sometimes question some of its practices or influences. Regardless, Bambi has always hoped to see us diversifying our economy to make room for more competition. Healthy competition would foster the success of new entrepreneurs in our province, ideally even in a sustainable renewable energy sector.

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