To Principal Suzanne Fortier, Chair Stuart “Kip” Cobbett, and the McGill University Board of Governors:
On March 23rd 2016, you, the McGill Administration came to the unfortunate decision not to divest from fossil fuel companies, disregarding our petition for the second time.
On April 1st 2016, 20 alumni sent a strong message to McGill by returning their diplomas to denounce the administration’s refusal to divest from the harmful fossil fuel industry. Notable alumni Karel Mayrand (Director of the David Suzuki Foundation for Québec and Atlantic Canada) and Camil Bouchard (politician and psychologist) led the initiative.
We, the undersigned alumni, write today to urge that this decision be the right one. McGill must divest from fossil fuel companies.
The scientific case is clear—the business model of fossil fuel companies is quite literally incompatible with the future of civilization. The moral imperative is equally clear—climate change is already happening, and is disproportionately affecting poor and marginalized people, both in Canada and throughout the world. These impacts will only worsen over the coming decades, and we have already locked in tremendous amounts of future suffering through our failure to act sooner. The fossil fuel industry’s role in perpetuating and escalating this crisis is well documented, from its funding of doubt, denial, and false science to its sustained opposition to meaningful climate action. The evidence is clear and the situation is urgent; as a leading Canadian and world institution, McGill must act.
As alumni, our lives have been shaped in various ways by McGill University. We want McGill to be the best it can be—to live up to its values and mission. Investing in an industry with a planet-endangering business model is unquestionably a direct contravention of the values that lead us to conduct world-class climate change research and pursue a more sustainable campus. We hope that you, the members of the Board of Governors, will recognize the urgency of this crisis and see it as an opportunity for McGill University to truly live up to its values and be a leader by taking bold action.
To ensure that you do, we are taking action ourselves. We have placed our names alongside the over 2000 students, faculty, staff and community members who have signed Divest McGill’s petition. Some of us are pledging not to donate to McGill until the university divests, because we refuse to watch our institution invest money meant for good in an immoral industry.
We will continue to return our diplomas on the 30th of March 2017, if McGill doesn’t commit to full divestment by then.
As the American historian Howard Zinn put it, “you can’t be neutral on a moving train”—in other words, inaction is political. Zinn’s metaphor is especially poignant at a moment when society finds itself hurtling toward catastrophe, yet continually failing to act with the boldness that the crisis demands. We can only hope that institutions like McGill, as societal beacons for the pursuit of knowledge and the advancement of humanity, will take action—the type of bold action needed to help us avert disaster and collectively steer ourselves towards a more secure, sustainable and equitable future.
If McGill cannot lead, who will?