Save Old Growth interrupts classes at SFU and UBC to raise awareness for their initiative

A video of a class being interrupted circulated on Reddit raised various reactions

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Two activists disrupting a lecture.
Save Old Growth activists target environmental science classes for their interruptions. PHOTO: Zain Haq / Save Old Growth

By: Yelin Gemma Lee, News Writer

Since the beginning of March, Save Old Growth has been interrupting classes at SFU and UBC once a week to raise awareness for their environmental activism campaign. The campaign aims to stop old-growth logging in BC by blocking the Trans-Canada Highway. Although there are some classes selected at random, they’ve been aiming to interrupt forestry classes at UBC and environmental science classes at SFU. 

The Peak spoke to Save Old Growth founding member Zain Haq to learn more about these interruptions. He explained each interruption involves four activists: one to speak to the class for 30 seconds to a minute, one to hold up the Save Old Growth banner, and two to hand out leaflets with details to their next civil disobedience talk. According to Haq, these interruptions have resulted in one to five students in these classrooms coming out to their talks. 

“The first step is to go and ask for permission, if the professor says yes, great, they’re on the right side of history, and if they say no, we respectfully disagree and make the announcement,” said Haq. “If the professors get physical, the person making the announcement kneels down, and continues to make the announcement. At least one professor has gotten physical to the point of becoming violent.”

Haq said although reactions and responses were mixed between classrooms, there wasn’t much variance within a single classroom. 

“In some classes, we get applauded, in others, we get booed,” said Haq. He said the group focuses on those who seemed interested in the campaign and not those who opposed the class disruptions.

Nicole Kirigin, incoming SFSS vice-president university and academic affairs, recorded and posted a video of Save Old Growth’s disruption on YouTube and the video was found circulating on other online channels such as Reddit. The Peak reached out to Kirigin for comments but did not receive a response by publication deadline.

The video shows students laughing or murmuring amongst themselves, while the professor appears concerned while calling someone.

The Peak reached out to Dr. Gordon Rose, whose class was disrupted in the video for comment, but did not receive a response before publication deadline. 

Haq explains why his group chose this method of reaching out. “If you hand out someone a leaflet in the hallway, it’s easy to ignore, but you can’t ignore people who are non-violently interrupting classes and telling the truth about the climate emergency. 

“The climate emergency (floods, fires, storms) don’t ask for permission before occurring, they happen as an act of nature. Those who are transgressively telling the truth, are acting on behalf of nature because nature will kill us if we don’t act now.”

To learn more about Save Old Growth and updates on their initiative, visit their website or their Instagram page.