A group of students from Divest UVic are calling on the university’s new president to take ‘bolder action’ and divest a $400 million endowments in investment funds from the fossil fuel industry.
The group, led by Emily Thiessen, a local artist and recent grad, painted a “welcome message” in front of the Michael Williams Administrative building on Wednesday morning.
The mural is dominated by blue and black, representing the choice the administration is faced with, said Thiessen, “between oil and water, between oil and sustaining life, clean air, clean water and the climate.” Within the blue and black circle, there are painted salmon and windmills, which symbolize “a better world we want to see.”
According to UVic, of the $400 million endowments, approximately four per cent is invested in companies within the energy sector.
Thiessen wants to see a negative screen put in place to assert that fossil fuel companies don’t meet UVic’s standard for ethical investments and then have the money redirected, ideally into renewable technology.
Emily Lowan, organizer of the event, got involved with Divest UVic last year when there were several “very public” student protests. One was held in January when the board of governors voted to reduce carbon emissions by 45 per cent by 2030.
Lowan calls the policy greenwashing and says it’s incredibly ineffective. She added that the UVic Foundation controls a much larger endowment fund which is not subject to the same policy.
“I just want to emphasize that we cannot continue to waste time and resources on greenwashing policies. We need to come together and find the most effective response to the climate crisis,” said Lowan.
Lowan, along with several other members of Divest UVic, will be meeting with president Kevin Hall on Thursday to discuss the divestment campaign.
Hall said he was interested to hear the group’s views as he shares that passion.
“While I’m new to UVic, I know the institution has world-leading and widely respected research and academic programming related to climate change and environmental stewardship. We also manage our campus operations to high sustainability standards. I look forward to further discussions with our campus community about how we can do more,” he said in a statement.