By: Minahill Nasir, SFU Student
SFU350 is set to receive the SFU Chancellor’s Distinguished Service Award this October. Earlier this year they also received other recognitions like the FENV Changemaker Award and Thakore Visiting Scholar Award.
The Peak interviewed Liam Mackay, one of the core leadership team members at SFU350 to learn more about their success. Mackay is in his fourth year studying environmental science.
SFU350 is a student-led club on campus which promotes climate action. Last September they released the Climate Emergency Declaration campaign letter to the SFU Board of Governors. One of the main demands in the letter was to establish a student-led climate hub. The vision for the climate hub was a student-led space where students, faculty, and staff are included in conversations related to projects. Mackay explained they hope to make collaborations between faculty and students “a lot more seamless” within the space.
The City of Burnaby awarded SFU350 an Environmental Star Award which is “an award for smaller scale actions that serve to catalyse larger initiatives.” According to Mackay, they won this award “because we catalysed SFU to take larger actions.” Mackay also noted his excitement for The Chancellor’s Distinguished Service Award, because it has “never been won by a club, typically it has been won by alumni or individuals who performed a distinguished service for the university.”
Mackay explained how the news of receiving this award changed the atmosphere in the club.
“We felt like we were getting real acknowledgement from the university, some real recognition. It was really exciting because as a student group we had all these challenges in the previous year trying to navigate the university and all of a sudden the university is saying, ‘you know what, we are going to recognize these efforts and we are going to award you this distinguished service award,’” said Mackay.
Last year, SFU350 painted a mural in the Convocation Mall at SFU Burnaby to promote climate awareness. They were originally told by SFU those involved would face disciplinary action. However, that was later revoked and SFU released a public statement saying, “student misconduct will not be pursued.”
The Gandhi Student Peace Award, won this year by SFU350 “normally honours SFU students who have been active in the volunteering community [ . . . ] it doesn’t necessarily need to be related to climate change, it just needs to be related to peace, justice, and human rights.”
SFU can help SFU350 by supporting the remaining five of the seven demands in their Climate Emergency Declaration, according to Mackay. Two of their main demands of SFU was to declare a climate emergency and divest from fossil fuels. SFU announced in November 2021 they are aiming to be fully divested from fossil fuels by 2025. Then, in April of 2022 they officially declared a climate emergency.
“That letter was all encompassing, it took a few years of consultations and drafting and coordination between various groups to create the letter. It’s not just a one off thing, it was meant to be a prescriptive letter,” said Mackay. “What I mean by that is that sending this letter off almost gave a blueprint for SFU to see what the student body wants in terms of climate change and climate justice. These seven demands were very [clearly] described in the full letter.”