University of Ottawa to divest

This evening, the following motion was passed at the University of Ottawa:

The board should ask the finance and treasury committee to do the following:

  • Develop a strategy to shift Ottawa fossil fuel related investments towards investments and enterprises, especially those in Canada, involved in creating and selling technologies of the future, including renewable energy and other clean technology solutions.
  • Determine a reasonable time period within which that shift can occur
  • Report to the board annually starting in the fall of 2017 on its progress seeking further direction as it may require

    The exec committee further recommends the board reassess this strategy to determine whether market conditions or any other factors require a change in this strategy.

Obviously the team there deserves huge congratulations for their success. Every institution that takes action makes it easier for campaigns elsewhere to succeed, and harder for opponents to argue that taking action is too risky or not necessary.

That being said, this motion is arguably similarly vague to what U of T decided (although they are admittedly not putting UTAM in charge of implementation). The U of T campaign could have taken a radically different approach to the decision here and portrayed it as a partial success building toward something adequate. Such a response would have had to be agreed in advance, however, and given the mood of the U of T group may not have been possible. Even suggesting it may have exacerbated the deep disagreements about what sort of tactics and messaging are desirable and how success should be measured.

Contemplating the Climate Welcome

If I can pull it off in the midst of gathering grading, I am tempted to go to Ottawa for three days to participate in most of the Climate Welcome which is being organized for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:

The Climate Welcome protest, organized by Canada, is modeled on the 2011 Tar Sands Action sit-ins at the White House that led to the arrests of over 1,200 people and helped elevate the Keystone XL pipeline as the largest environmental fight in a generation.

See also: Trudeau’s big test in Paris: oil industry profits or real action on climate change?

It’s a bit odd to see it billed as “organized by Canada”, since I don’t think that is really an organization so much as one employee with a Twitter account and Facebook page. If it’s going to be another “grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis”, they are going to need some members and an organizational structure. If that’s starting to happen in Ottawa tomorrow, it could be reason enough to be present.

The Harperman imbroglio

This little song, written by Environment Canada scientist Tony Turner, has received a lot of media attention:

CBC: Harperman case: Can public servants be political activists?

The Guardian: Canada government suspends scientist for folk song about prime minister

Both the song and the public responses point to one of the big unsettled questions about the appropriate conduct of the public service. What are citizens who are employed to serve the public interest meant to do when the country is badly governed by their political bosses?