DeSilva and Harvey-Sànchez divestment podcast series complete

The fifth and final episode in Amanda Harvey-Sànchez and Julia DeSilva’s series on the University of Toronto fossil fuel divestment campaign, successively organized by, UofT, and then the Leap Manifesto and Divestment & Beyond groups.

The episode brings back guests from each prior era, and includes some interesting reflections on what organizers from different eras felt they learned, the value of protest as an empowerment space and venue for inter-activist networking, the origins of the Leap Manifesto group in the aftermath of the 2016 rejection, as well as how they explain President Gertler’s decision to reverse himself and divest five years after he rejected the campus fossil fuel divestment campaign.

Threads on previous episodes:

Ongoing occupation demanding fossil fuel divestment at U of T’s Victoria University

Friday was day 12 of Climate Justice U of T’s occupation at Victoria University, pressuring them to divest from fossil fuels.

They have a guide online for people wishing to visit the occupation.

They also have a petition.

Awarded my dictionary

As distant and improbable as it seemed at times, at tonight’s Convocation High Table I was given the dictionary traditionally awarded by Massey College to PhD graduates:

Photo by Chantal Phillips

This was a much more meaningful graduation for me than attending a U of T ceremony would be, and hearing the biographies of all the graduating Junior Fellows was a reminder of how many critical fights humanity is engaged in right now, and how it will take the best from all of us to fight our way to a successful, liveable, humane future for the world.

Early tomorrow I am off for back-to-back-to-back trips: first to visit our dear friends in Ottawa; then for a couple of days of quiet and reading at a dairy farm in Cambridge, Ontario; and then straight out on my first camping trip in many years.

After that, my full-time job will become finding a new affordable place to live in Toronto. Finding inexpensive accommodation is actually more urgent and important than finding an OK job. Per George Monbiot’s tough but invaluable career advice, financial security really comes from minimizing your expenses, not maximizing your income. The cheaper you can live, the freer you are to work on what is important and bring everything you can to the fight.

Dissertation on TSpace

I am still trying to get them to replace the file with one that has a few minor typos corrected, but my dissertation went live on the University of Toronto’s TSpace platform today:

Persuasion Strategies: Canadian Campus Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaigns and the Development of Activists, 2012–20

Please don’t buy one before asking if I was planning to make you one already, but you can buy a print copy at cost from I am also ordering a batch to reduce shipping costs, so if you want to get in on that let me know.

CO2-energy / climate justice contention on Indigenously-backed fossil fuel projects

My PhD dissertation highlights the distinction between the CO2-energy and climate justice worldviews in climate change organizing.

Put briefly:

[C]limate justice (CJ) activists emphasized the linkages between climate change and other justice issues in both diagnosing the causes of climate change and in crafting their political strategy to control it, insisting that only revolutionary political and economic changes like the overthrow of capitalism will let humanity preserve a stable climate. This analysis and prescription is challenged by CO2-energy (CO2-e) activists who see climate change as fundamentally about fossil fuel energy, with a solution that lies in replacing coal, oil, and gas.

One area where the two viewpoints can be clearly distinguished is how to respond to Indigenously-backed fossil fuel energy projects. The climate justice viewpoint holds that environmentalists should be led by and not criticize Indigenous peoples. For them, if the Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi ‘it community in BC wants to build a coal mine, it is at least much harder to oppose while maintaining their values than the same project proposed by someone else. For CO2-e activists, it is about the fuel to be burned and not the identity of those benefitting, and so it is unproblematic to resist fossil fuel projects regardless of their backers.


Reading my dissertation, step by step

Step #1: Learn a bit of the context and background to climate change politics

I know throwing a whole PhD thesis at someone gives them a lot to handle, especially if it is written in an unfamiliar academic style. Nonetheless, I took pains all through my PhD process to come up with a product which would be comprehensible and meaningful to the community of climate activists.

Several posts down the line, we will come to the “meta question” which motivates the chapter about the ethics of what ought to be done. As someone new to the document and/or climate change policy, I would start by looking at what I considered important explanatory text but which my committee directed I should remove from an over-long document:

Structural Barriers to Avoiding Catastrophic Climate Change

Basically, why is solving climate change a hard problem? We have governments that do an OK-to-decent job at most things, so why are they uniquely bad at caring for the climate long-term when its integrity is damaged by the use of fossil fuels? This first document explores that question in detail, and elaborates upon why old solutions aren’t working for this problem.

Making print copies of my dissertation

My print publication plans for the dissertation have become derailed.

Back when we made the fossil fuel divestment brief at U of T, we printed paper copies for the members of the committee considering the question and for U of T libraries and archives at the Toronto Reference Library’s Asquith Press.

Years ago, I attended a session on academic publishing led by representatives from some major scholarly presses. They said, among other things, that authors would have to pay about $8,000 out of pocket to have an index made; that authors need to apply for government grants to help pay for publication, and won’t be published if they don’t get them; that the process of getting a dissertation published will take about two years; and that the resulting trade paperback will be so specialized and expensive that only a handful of university library systems would ever buy it.

I wrote my dissertation because I think the contents are important and ought to be widely discussed. As such, it was always my plan to release it for free through whichever distribution channels might reach the most people.

I did plan to make paper copies at the Asquith Press, partly as thank-you gifts for major supporters and partly to donate to libraries and other organizations. Unfortunately, I learned on Saturday that “due to staffing changes within our department” the Asquith Press won’t be printing anything until May, and perhaps not even then. They referred me to some alternative printers, but the first one that got back to me wants $1,361 plus $168 shipping for their minumum order of 50 copies, which is about twice as many as I need even at a stretch.

Perhaps I will make one copy urgently to give to someone who wants it promptly on paper, then review the alternative printers to see if any can make the number of copies I want at a suitable price, and if not wait four months or more for Asquith to be back in service.