Green week sparks sustainability dialogue


A week of events related to green issues, called Reinvest in Our Future Week, was held by the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) last week to generate conversation about environmental issues on SFU campuses.

The events were held in conjunction with SFU 350, Sustainable SFU, SFPIRG, and the Wilderness Committee.

For SFSS VP Finance Adam Potvin, the week was an opportunity to bridge the gap between proponents and opponents of fossil fuel infrastructural expansion. He hoped that with a deeper understanding of the issues, the community could engage in more productive dialogue.

“I’ve always been frustrated at the lack of understanding between the two sides,” explained Potvin. “I felt like there was no real middle ground, and I thought that both sides [the right and the left] were kind of talking past each other.”

He continued, “What I want to see is a more nuanced approach that seeks to combine realising that oil is a necessity [. . .] but at the same time there needs to be an effort to steer our community towards renewable energy.”

The week kicked off with an event titled Visioning our Future on March 23. Students and community members discussed what they wanted to see in our community’s future, both economically and environmentally.

Tessica Truong, environment rep for the SFSS, was particularly impressed by the dialogue at this event. “At first the tone of the conversation was a bit pessimistic [. . .] but soon it moved to [defining] what SFU’s role could be, not just as a research institution but a hub of innovation,” she explained.

Later in the week, community members and SFU students gathered in the Maggie Benston Centre to discuss issues related to the proposed Kinder Morgan Pipeline expansion through Burnaby Mountain. For Potvin, this event was what he had been looking forward to most.

“The Kinder Morgan dialogue is probably the marquee event in my mind,” he said. “I think just because it’s so applicable to SFU and the SFSS.”

Some of the topics on the table included how to engage SFU students in the SFSS submission to the National Energy Board (NEB), environmental concerns, and the NEB consultation process. Terry Waterhouse, SFU’s chief safety officer, was also present to discuss concerns around the tanker farm at the bottom of Burnaby Mountain, among other things.

The week of events culminated in a panel discussion on Thursday afternoon where students and staff discussed The Role of the University in Society: Divestment as a Case Study, and a talk on Friday called “How does climate change impact my health?”

Students in the Divest SFU movement have been pushing the university over the past several years to shift its investments from fossil fuel companies to other, more sustainable sectors.

To keep an open dialogue on these issues, Potvin explained that organizers wanted to brand the event as a “Reinvest” rather than “Divest” conversation: “We’ve kind of wanted to focus more on the proactive side of things. Rather than the whole, ‘Rah rah down with oil,’ it’s more ‘Rah rah let’s look at renewable energy.’”

Truong commented on the overall intent of the events: “I think what will emerge from the conversations is what students want. What are they concerned about. And I think those will definitely be included within our submission [to the NEB this September].”