Jan. 12, 2020

The Great Pretend – UBC and Its students' tokenism

The University of British Columbia and many of its students, like many other misguided people these days, are practising the highest form of tokenism. The students have pressured the University to divest itself of any investments of its endowment fund in the fossil fuel industry. 

My, my – really style over substance if you ask me. 

This move will make so little difference in our climate that such actions are meaningless and demonstrate to the public just how irrelevant many institutions of higher learning are becoming. 

Just down the coast from the University is Delta Port where massive piles of coal are assembled for export. One of the largest of its kind on the continent!

Now if the students and university were really serious about climate and believe, like they do, of the destructive nature of fossil fuels, then what better place to start than standing right next to this gigantic pile of coal and the trains and ships that distribute the stuff. Isn’t coal the deadliest of all the fossil fuels, according to these people? They could travel the coal trains the hundreds of miles to inland BC to visit the mines. My, they might even to get to know the Province.

Why, they could picket the fossil-fuelled buses that ply the street route from downtown Vancouver to the campus. No, no what did you say? The students ride these buses??? No walking and hiking here. Say, how about those electric bikes with their slave-labour-produced lithium, cobalt batteries? 

Sure, the students and the faculty, on their way to Whistler on fossil fuel asphalt roads, could visit the site of the proposed Woodfibre LNG plant which has a license to produce 2 million tons annually of LNG for 40 years. LNG (liquified natural gas) is a fossil fuel that the students and the administration say will doom the planet. And the gas has to travel by pipeline from northeast BC to Squamish disturbing land. Where are the students? Where is the University on this? 

Do these students know what is going on outside their campus? Have they become so cloistered that their horizons are campus centric? I thought they were there to learn how to become involved in the larger world – like even their own Province?

Oh! And then there is the massive LNG project at Kitimat. How about $40 Billion – an LNG ship (130,000 to 170,000 cubic meters of LNG ) coming and going every day for 40 years. Up and down the Douglas Channel!

Surely students so concerned about the University investments in fossil fuels must be apocalyptic over this huge fossil fuel project just developing? LNG trains, LNG storage tanks, LNG Marine Terminal, LNG Rail Yard, a pipeline over the pristine land from the BC inland. 

Where are the students on projects that they would say really impact climate? Where is the University? 

Don’t tell me that the University receives hundreds of million of dollars from the Provincial Government – about $657 million this year.  The Province  gets some of its revenue from coal mines, gold mines, copper mines, from natural gas being produced and exported around the Province and to the US. How about $2.6 billion of resource revenue this year? And that gas is being produced largely as the result of fracking, a process that the students and the University abhor.  And more revenue when the LNG plants go in operation. And, oh, does the University use natural gas in its heating? 

What a pretend! What a joke! 

This fake divestiture, this false declaration masks a hypocrisy that swallows all their pretences and lays bare a narrative that withers on rational examination.