Originally published in The Daily Gleaner
By KELLY CORMIER
When three Renaissance College students in Fredericton with a passion for the environment were handed a class assignment in leadership, they decided to tap into a national movement in the hope of making a real difference.
Richelle Martin, Kayley Reed and Christina Wilson are the co-founders of Fossil Free UNB.
Martin said the campaign was created about a month ago out of a leadership and community projects class in an effort to raise awareness about climate change.
‘One of our goals is to spread awareness on campus of the climate change issue we’re currently facing. We’re also asking UNB to divest from any fossil fuel companies that they are currently invested in within five years.’ ‘The biggest companies in the fossil fuel industry are causing large-scale environmental degradation through further developing the industry, and even worse they are spending millions of dollars to convince the public otherwise,’ said Martin. ‘Divestment from these companies is a clear way for educational institutions to live up to their values and help society address the climate crisis fuelled by these companies.’ Martin and her group have been actively spreading the word.
‘We’ve been talking to classes to inform them of what we’re doing and to pass around our petition. We also did an event on Valentine’s Day where we got students to make Valentines saying they were breaking up with the fossil fuel industry. We’ve been approaching people at the Student Union building as well. We’ve been focusing on spreading awareness and getting support. We have some support from professors as well.’ UNB president Eddy Campbell has also met with the group.
‘He would like us to do a presentation for the management committee,’ Martin said. ‘He supports student ideas and has given us some things to think about. He told us what the committee would be concerned about and different things to think about that we hadn’t thought of before.’ Martin said Campbell has been supportive by meeting with them and giving them advice, but has offered no hints as to where he stands on divestment.
This week students across Canada and the United States have organized events and actions to mark ‘Fossil Fools Day.’ The day of action is Wednesday, March 27, but Fossil Free UNB will mark the occasion a day early.
‘Fossil Fools Day is something that was started by Fossil Free Canada. It’s to show how foolish it is that the fossil fuel industry has plans to burn over five times the amount of carbon that our atmosphere can handle. It is both dangerous and foolish,’ said Martin.
On Tuesday from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. the group will be set up at the Student Union building.
‘We’re going to be taking pictures of as many students as we can with their angriest face to show how they feel about the fossil fuel industry. We’re going to use large paper orange X’s, the symbol of the Fossil Free movement, and tear them up to X out fossil fuels from UNB investment,’ she said. ‘All the pictures will be uploaded to our social media sites on Wednesday.’ Martin said this is an important issue for her personally.
‘I feel that universities should be places of innovation and they should be trying to tackle these kinds of problems we’re facing. I believe climate change and global warming is the largest problem we’re facing today as it affects so many different things. It really affects everybody; not only us but it’ll have an even bigger impact on future generations. It’s time for us to step up and really start taking actions.’ Martin said if universities would divest from fossil fuel companies, it would send a huge message, noting it’s happened before.
‘Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, universities from across North America did a large-scale divestment. They divested from any companies affiliated with the South African apartheid. That had a huge impact on public policy then, and I feel this campaign can have a similar impact today.’”