‘You have to centre justice in that conversation’: UBC students host town hall on climate change

The issue of climate change is at the forefront of the UBC community. On March 6, a collective of UBC clubs held a climate town hall conference in the lower atrium of the Nest, providing interactive booths and three discussion sessions on ways to engage on climate change and climate justice.

The questions posed included what climate justice could look like at UBC, what a UBC climate hub is and how the academic curriculum could best incorporate climate change and climate justice.

Foundational to the initiative was addressing the correlation between the impacts of climate change and the disproportionate effects on the world’s most marginalized communities. The event intended to show the interconnected relationship between the fight against climate change and the fight for social justice.

“As you fight against climate change, you have to centre justice in that conversation,” said Grace Nosek, a PhD law student and an executive for the Environmental Law Group. “The most marginalized populations in the world will be most affected by climate change even though they’ve done the least to contribute to the problem and they’d also be the least equipped to be able to protect themselves against the threat of climate change.”

The purpose of the climate town hall event was to push UBC to become the leading university in the fight against climate change and set the tone for other secondary institutions both across Canada and globally.

“UBC is a place with tons of resources, tons of knowledge and know-how and ingenuity, and if we can’t mobilize these assets to help with fighting climate change and promote climate justice, then we’ve got serious problems because we can’t expect that we shouldn’t play a role and people with fewer resources should,” said Liam Ornie, an executive for the UBC Environmental Policy Association.

Vital to this objective is Indigenous history and their teachings. It is not only intrinsic to the academic curriculum, but the Indigenous role would also extend to helping strategize a more environmentally-friendly campus as well as develop UBC climate policy.

“We want to really ground first-years in Indigenous histories when they come in, just because UBC is such an international school and many people don’t know about the political context of this land. And so one of the things towards climate justice would to be very explicit that our university is positioned on stolen land and that we are still at odds in trying to decolonize,” said Stephanie Glanzmann, co-facilitator of the discussion sessions.

The initiative also highlighted several other important issues that would help UBC be at the front of this fight. Practices such as divestment from fossil fuels was a fundamental decision, as well as the implementation of climate awareness within school curriculum and the creation of a climate hub.

“We want a climate hub, a place that brings together artists and scientists and policymakers to centre justice in the conversation and work with people across these different disciplines, and really have a home for climate on campus and climate innovation,” said Nosek, who helped organize the event.

The conference also reiterated that many scientists have publicly stated the next three years will be critical in mitigating the effects of this human-made problem.

“Every institution needs to step up. We’re facing an existential crisis as humanity but we’re asking UBC to step up because it always makes sense to organize within your own community,” said Nosek.

Substantiating this argument was George Hoberg, professor of environmental and natural resource policy.

“If we’re going to make more progress addressing climate change, you need to rise up in the same way American youth are rising up about guns. Unless that happens, it’s hard to see how politicians are going to start taking climate change as seriously as they need to,” said Hoberg.

“The only thing at the end of the day that’s going to change is if politicians believe that voters want climate action, and right now they think voters are indifferent, and so they don’t do anything about it.”

This article has been updated correct the spelling of Grace Nosek’s name. The Ubyssey regrets this error.