This article features OPIRG Working Group Fossil Free McMaster‘s Conner Hurd and appeared in the Hamilton Spectator Nov. 17, 2015.

Conner’s story: Working to keep fossil fuels in the ground

Hamilton Spectator

Conner at PIRGTOPIA, Sept. 2015

November 30th sees heads of state from around the world arrive in Paris for climate negotiations that affect us all. Environment Hamilton asked some local residents why they are motivated to take action on climate change. This story comes from Conner Herd, a fourth-year student at McMaster University. He is studying biology and psychology and plans to go into medical research. He is leading a group called Fossil Free McMaster.

Q. When did you first become aware of the real impact of climate change?
A. In my grade school we learned about climate change and the impact it was having on our planet. It was just one of many global issues in our lessons and I assumed that someone was taking care of it. Last year my biology professor at Mac talked about it at length and showed us a movie called “Do the Math.” It explained in really simple terms the basic numbers and the urgency — that if we were to avoid warming of more than the “safe” level 2 C. we had to leave most fossil fuels in the ground. And we only had around 15 years before we cross the 2 C threshold.
Q. How did you feel when you understood the impacts of climate change?
A. I felt a sense of urgency and a need to take action. Particularly after seeing that movie and learning that Canada had backed out of its Kyoto commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I felt awful to start with, but am now more optimistic by being involved and active in pushing for change.
Q. What made you take action?
A. At McMaster there is a group called Fossil Free McMaster which is trying to get the university to divest from any investments in the fossil fuel (oil, coal, gas and pipeline) industry. This comes from a realization that the best way to stop burning fossil fuels is to leave them in the ground. So stop investing in exploration and extraction.
The students running Fossil Free McMaster were graduating and someone needed to pick up their campaign. I realized that my university years were the best time to get involved before I got caught up in a career, so I decided to take over the lead of their campaign.
Story submitted by Dave Carson on behalf of Environment Hamilton. He is a board member of Environment Hamilton and lives in Dundas.