Politicians and senior U of T administrators talked green at the Sustainable Energy Fair last Saturday. Around 40 people gathered in Sidney Smith as speakers praised U of T and exhorted more environmentally friendly measures. Among the speakers were Ontario Minister of Natural Resources Donna Cansfield, U of T president David Naylor, and Ingrid Stefanovic, director of the Centre for the Environment.
“We’ll have to reconsider not only how we produce, but rethink how we consume,” said Naylor, who emphasized U of T scholars’ contributions to environmental research. He also mentioned a plan to retrofit the Faculty of Architecture building.
Naylor has been criticized for refusing to sign the Presidential Climate Initiative, a commitment among university presidents in North America which includes completing “a comprehensive inventory of all greenhouse gas emissions” and making a sustained effort to reduce them. Thirteen Canadian universities and colleges have signed on to the Presidential Climate Initiative, as well as hundreds of American schools.
Naylor argued that for a campus as large as U of T, any greenhouse gas estimate would be inaccurate and therefore useless. “It’s like saying you’re going to measure the chemistry of chicken soup,” Naylor told The Varsity, calling the PCI “more show business than substance.” He added that he is more interested in what campus environmental groups are doing.
Paul York of Students Against Climate Change accused Naylor of “greenwashing,” and only paying lip service to environmental initiatives. In an email, York criticized admin for investments in fossil fuel companies like Imperial Oil. He also pointed out that environmentally conscious courses are not required for students in engineering or business, though those fields can have a great impact on the environment.
“I feel that Mr. Naylor had not done his due diligence in terms of making this campus more sustainable,” wrote York. “To suggest that U of T has done its part is not true. It has not even really begun. As with the Harper government, what is lacking is the will, not the means.”
David Berliner, UTERN president and fourth-year environmental health student, followed Naylor with an optimistic speech. He said it is easy to become overly technical when engaging environmental issues. “There’s still room for dreaming yet,” he said, emphasizing the need to address new challenges with creative solutions.
One of Berliner’s priorities is uniting student groups, staff, and faculty to promote dialogue and supporting various efforts to make the campus more sustainable. When asked if he thinks corporate funding is a potential conflict of interest in funding environmental efforts—the fair was sponsored by Bullfrog Power, a wind and hydro power company—Berliner said it doesn’t necessarily have the same ethical qualms as something like drug research. “Done properly, I don’t think there’s any conflict of interest,” he said.
The sustainable energy fair also hosted community and campus groups such as the Green Energy Act Alliance and U of T’s Bike Chain, a group that helps students learn basic bicycle mechanics. Discussion panels, Segway rides, and films screenings rounded out the day’s events.