Divest UVic’s reverse psychology

Divest UVic pulled an interesting April Fool’s joke on campus April   1. The group set up a satirical rally around the fountain that condemned the Divest movement and voiced the need for UVic to invest more in fossil fuels. According to a press release, the rally was a part of a nationwide day of action against the fossil fuel industry, known as “Fossil Fools Day,” that spread from Tofino to Halifax.

Along with a replica of a pumpjack made of cardboard and a long replica of a pipeline, the group displayed signs with such sayings as “We heart climate change” and “Big oil needs big love.” One member of the rally, UVic student Malkolm Boothroyd, sported a jacket covered in the logos and names of oil companies and spoke to the crowd through a microphone. He started off by saying he was finally wearing an outfit that he felt fully comfortable in.

“It is unacceptable that the University of Victoria only has $20 million invested in the fossil fuel industry,” he said to the crowd. “We must put even more money into bankrolling the most destructive industry on the planet. The University of Victoria must put pipelines, petroleum, and pollution in its portfolio.”

Standing along with Boothroyd were three supporters of the Divest movement—or for the sake of this rally, supporters of investment. Among them was Matt Hammer, current director of finance and operations for the UVSS and avid supporter of the Divest movement. During Boothroyd’s opening speech, Hammer held his protest sign high and shouted in agreement as Boothroyd satirically encouraged the crowd to support further investment in fossil fuels.

Alongside the rally was a Divest UVic table where passers-by had an opportunity to sign a petition to support divestment. The movement, which the UVSS board of directors voted unanimously to support in February, wants UVic to immediately freeze all further investments in fossil fuels as well as divest (meaning remove their investment) from all existing fossil fuel holdings within three years. They are currently circulating a petition to present to the university on the matter. Their goal is to collect over 2 000 student signatures, as well as support from faculty, staff, and alumni.

In a press release, the organizer of the rally, Emily Thiessen, gave her parody commentary, “We know that UVic is proud to invest in these companies when they’re spilling oil and poisoning communities in distant Indigenous lands, so why can’t we have these disasters happen right here on campus?”

The point of the rally appeared to be to get the attention of students in a way that made them both shocked and amused. Boothroyd continually referred to the fossil fuel industry as the “dirtiest industry on the planet” and spoke of the importance of bringing such a destructive industry to UVic. He stated that the Divest UVic movement was trying to take power away from the fossil fuel industry.

“When you hear the news about another climate-related disaster—another oil spill, another frakking operation poisoning a community’s water source—whenever you hear about this destruction, it’s great to be able to open up your investment portfolio and see the names of the corporations responsible right there,” he said in jest. “And I fear that if divestment takes away the financial and social wherewithal of the fossil fuel industry, then these catastrophes might stop.”

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