By Monica Dairo, President, Environmental Students Union
Members of the University of Toronto’s thriving environmental movement marked the 45th anniversary of the installation on October 14, 1970 of a plaque by Pollution Probe, the earliest environmental student group on campus. Forty-five years later, on October 14, 2015 at 3 p.m., there was a dedication ceremony for a new and second plaque at the same site,on the north-west corner of St. George and Harbord Streets, beside Robarts Library.
To celebrate this anniversary, a small committee of student representatives and Dr. Douglas Macdonald (of the School of the Environment) worked with 17 environmental student groups to get the necessary approvals for the new plaque. Like the first, the second plaque reflects the visions of the contemporary environmental student movement. The plaque illustrates the development of this movement on campus and symbolizes the alliance of the environmental student movement at the University. With collaboration between the environmental groups listed on the plaque, the final wording of the second plaque is:
Our fight now is climate change
and our numbers have grown.
Not separate from nature,
united in goal
our commitment to foster a sustainable world
At 4 p.m., the celebration shifted to a School of the Environment seminar, as part of the School’s series held at the Earth Science building. Two talks were given, the first presented by Ryan O’Connor, Associate Member of the Centre for Environment, Heritage and Policy at the University of Stirling (Scotland) and author of The First Green Wave: Pollution Probe and the Origins of Environmental Activism in Ontario (2015, UBC Press), and the second by Ben Donato-Woodger, U of T alumnus and activist. O’Connor first spoke about the history of Pollution Probe during the first wave of the Canadian environmental movement, followed by Donato-Woodger’s analysis of toronto350.org’s on-going divestment campaign on campus to convince U of T to redirect investments away from fossil fuels. The juxtaposition of the talks was meant to complement the ceremony that occurred an hour earlier: the shift from past to present environmental student activism at the University. The talks shed some light on both the priorities and challenges of past and present environmental groups on campus.