In 1996, the year Tina Oh was born, there were 362 parts per million of carbon in the air. According to Oh, 350 parts per million were considered to be safe.
“I was born into a dying world,” Oh said in an interview with The Aquinian.
“We’re just trying to survive at this point.”
Instead of letting her voice fall silent, Oh became involved in a number of climate justice activist groups, including Divest Mount A., Climate 101 and COP22.
Oh, a fourth-year Mount Allison University student, will be giving a lecture at St. Thomas University on Feb. 20 in McCain Hall room 202 at 4 p.m.
Protesting against the Kinder Morgan Pipeline in 2016, Oh was one of the 99 students who were arrested to show Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “that young people were telling him to reject the pipeline.”
Gaining the attention of the media may have spread the group’s message, but it also allowed Oh to be on the receiving end of hate. Between death threats and having a woman follow her home, Oh is no stranger when it comes to harassment. But according to her, that is just part of the job and she takes each moment as a learning opportunity.
“They have a story too and I have to kind of pay attention to that.”
Like many Albertans, Oh’s father had worked in the oil sands, so she understands the concerns of divesting from a fossil fuel-based economy, especially with most of the environmentalists and activists being from outside of the province.
“I think [Albertans] feel really defensive when someone from the outside comes in and criticizes the Alberta oil sands without really understanding the connotations of how Alberta oil has always has supported, always brought food onto the table for a lot of households,” Oh said.
She added Albertans have to understand “there is no future there for us and we have to kind of figure out what to do next.”
In Oh’s first semester of university in 2014, the price of oil dropped significantly. Thousands of people lost their jobs as the stock fell. With this unstable economy, Oh wants to help Albertans in the oil industry to find jobs elsewhere.
Climate justice is more than just moving toward renewable energy and combating climate change, it also aims to help transition workers who work in the oil sands into other fields of work.
According to Oh, this is a large part of environmental justice.
“We can’t leave people behind,” she said.
Universities are the first step in creating a social change. In her lecture at STU, Oh will speak about how universities should be the leaders of the social movement to divest fossil fuels but remain one of Canada’s largest hypocrites.
Oh said she specifically wanted to talk at STU because she really wants students here to understand what is happening in Alberta is also happening on campuses in N.B., especially with the “incestuous” relationship between the province and the Irving Oil company.
While universities like STU teach the truth of climate science, they still profit from “an industry that doesn’t allow those young students to have a chance in a habitable world.”
Oh said divesting away from oil companies, like Irving, would demonstrate leadership in climate justice.
Students can also make a difference by joining climate justice campaigns online or creating their own group on campus. While getting involved may be the hardest step, Oh believes “things can really blossom and move forward” from there.