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Energy Development & Society

14 Sep

Energy Development has shaped society. The notion that energy development shapes society can easily be attested to growing up in a place like Alberta. Even as I write this for my Global Energy Development and Society class, I can’t help but think to the buildings around my campus. The Petro-Canada building houses the Nexen Theater, and subsequently, the very room in which I attend my weekly classes after work. It’s no surprise to find that my school, NAIT, is a polytechnic institution which receives heavy funding from the oil and gas industry.

Evidence of the industry’s affect on the city is easy to see if you know what to look for. Refineries and upgraders populate the eastern edges of the city and up into the industrial heartland, mobile crane booms soar up over the flat stretches of land between the city and the international airport, assembling industrial ‘mod’s’ that piece together like Lego when they arrive on site at their destination. Even beyond the oil sands of Alberta, Edmonton serves as the gateway to the north, with bustling airports and logistics’ companies sending people and equipment up to the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and the Yukon. These three territories alone make up 39% of the total area of Canada, a land mass larger than that of India (Natural Resources Canada, 2005). Yet despite its small population, the region houses a resource rich environment, from oil and iron to gold and diamonds, it’s an industry that dominates the workforce of the local population.

When posed with the question; ‘should society shape energy development?’, instead of energy development shaping society, it seems like the clear answer should be yes. Our society should have energy development that not only compliments and provides for the needs of people, but ideally does so as cleanly and efficiently as possible. This can be deemed as minor adaptations and improvements to existing technologies, or fundamental shifts in the way we currently harness energy.

Fundamental shifts cause problems in that if they are not universally accepted by all parties involved; the balance of the movement is lost, providing unfair advantages and opportunities for some, and detrimental setbacks for others. This can best be identified with the Kyoto Protocol, which has essentially failed since its inception in 1997, leaving many nations and environmental groups looking towards post-Kyoto. The Kyoto Protocol was revolutionary at the time of its inception, you had a series of industrialized nations agreeing to reduce emissions and set environmental standards. It seemed as though this initiative would change the way the global community looked at development and the environment. However the treaty itself was never actually globally accepted and “mandates were not imposed on developing countries like Brazil, China, India and South Africa” (Austen, 2011). As a result, nations like the United States would not ratify the treaty, as they foresaw unfair economic restrictions on their economy compared to other heavy polluting nations such as China, which disregarded the treaty for similar reasons.

Since those initial talks in 1997, China has since overcome the United States as the world’s largest carbon dioxide emitter, and now produces more carbon dioxide than the United States and India combined (U.S Department of Energy, 2012). Canada too, since initially supporting the protocol has since left the treaty this past December (Austen, 2011).

The complications of energy development and our society are reflected across all levels of economic development.  These same issues resonate in the economies of national scale as well. Strict environmental restrictions may be supported by the majority of Canadians, but would surely face pushback from provinces such as Alberta in which “energy development is the key driver of the economy” (Government of Alberta, 2009). So crucial to the Alberta economy is oil and gas, that a University of Calgary study suggested that the size of the economy “without the impact of oil and gas, would be less than half its current size” (Government of Alberta, 2009). Suddenly I reflect to my current employment, the facilities I use at NAIT, and where Alberta would be without the resources everyone seems to love to hate, but would find difficult to live without.

Even if we know the answer to whether society should shape energy development, is it actually possible; ‘can society shape energy development?’.  A recent report by Shell Canada indicated that after Alberta enacted stricter air and water pollution limits this year, their projected expansion plans including the Jackpine mine,  would infact “exceed some of those limits” (The Globe and Mail, 2012). It’s clear that the Alberta government is trying to shape the way energy is developed in the province, but the effectiveness, and the implications have yet to be seen. Simon Dyer, policy director at the Pembina Institute has indicated that regulators “will need to start turning down projects to stay under the limits” (The Globe and Mail, 2012). Where will that leave Albertans, and Canadians as a whole? This is a country which relies on the resource industry for “20 percent of the economy” (The Canadian Press, 2012).  What sacrifices will have to be made? Will the rest of the global community be willing to make the same sacrifices? What is the timeline for such changes in energy development? These are all questions which we must ask.

Finding the balance between our energy needs and our society is a difficult task, but nonetheless I believe that real change is possible. While we may have developed a society reliant on certain types of energy, it is possible to diversify. I believe that change must occur, but at an acceptable pace so as not to devastate the livelihoods of so many. Finally, I believe that real change in energy development will come from those same economies, companies, and organizations that are already involved in the current energy field. For just as Alberta hosts an energy based economy; it is also a place of ingenuity and innovation. Next to those refineries is the largest and one of the most advanced waste handling facilities in North America, which boasts a one of a kind “waste to biofuels facility” (Farquharson, 2011). A preserved river valley boasts the largest urban parkland on the continent, and institutions such as NAIT and the University of Alberta are leaders in energy technological advancement.  Logical, and efficient solutions are already being brought to the table, and this is an indication that society is choosing to shape energy development.


Natural Resources Canada. (2005, February 1). Land and freshwater area, by province and territory. In Statistics Canada. Retrieved September 12, 2012, from

Farquharson, V. (2011, November 12). Why Toronto should be more like Edmonton. In National Post. Retrieved September 12, 2012, from

Government of Alberta. (2009, September). Energy Economics. In Energy Alberta. Retrieved September 12, 2012, from

The Globe and Mail. (2012, September 11). Shell warns about Alberta’s emission rules. In Industry News. Retrieved September 12, 2012, from

The Canadian Press. (2012, September 4). Natural Resources Drive 20 percent of Economy. In CBC News. Retrieved September 11, 2012, from

U.S Department of Energy. (2012). World carbon dioxide emissions by region. In U.S Energy

              Information Administration. Retrieved September 12, 2012, from



Austen, I. (2011, December 12). Canada Announces Exit from Kyoto Climate Treaty. In The New York Times. Retrieved September 12, 2012, from

Edmonton Police Services launches Crime Map.

17 Jul

In the news recently was the launch of the Edmonton Police Services crime mapping tool. This tool utlilizes the google maps application, and is a much needed technological advancement in crime prevention for a city such as Edmonton.

I first read about it in the Edmonton Journal, you can read the article here.

Users can goto and select the neighborhood they want to search, you can even select the types of crimes you want displayed. Soon you will be greeted with a map of your neighborhood dotted with the locations of recent crimes. If your neighborhood looks like it has chicken pox, that might not be a good sign.

Other cities have used this type of mapping for years, and it is good to see Edmonton get on board. Its crucial that residents of the city see where and when crimes happen. This raises public awareness, and can prevent future crimes from happening. If we become aware of crime hotbeds, it better prepares us to keep an eye open for any suspicious activity. Criminals also become aware that their crimes location and details are made open to the public, which in some instances work as a prevention tactic.

This is definetely a big step forward for the City of Edmonton and EPS.

Peter Pan Syndrome

27 May

So I thought I would share some of my old blog entries from live spaces, this one is from March 2007.

March 05, 2007

Peter Pan Syndrome

I first encountered the term when I was backpacking in Australia, just outside of the town of 1770 myself and 2 friends were at a Sunday’s farmers market. It turned out to be a handful of vendors in a green field on a quiet country road. We had anticipated a larger event, as we seemed to be one of the few who stopped by to scour goods for sale. Purchasing some fruit and homemade jam for breakfast, it was then before we were leaving that I became interested in one particular table. It was full of children’s books, the little square cardboard covers of the gold-leaf series. As a kid I had read, and had many read to me, it was inspiring to see these same books on the other side of the world. It was then as I fingered through the titles that Peter Pan flipped over. It was then that I realized that this simple short story was definitive of my experiences at the time. The land I was exploring was my neverland, and I was the child who was afraid of growing up, hoping my days of adventure would last forever… We left that day with our goods, and one 25 cent Peter Pan book tucked into my backpack.

Later I had read about Peter Pan syndrome a fair bit, and I stumbled across a web site; Never Grow Up: a tribute to peter pan syndrome. As I scrolled through the words of essays written by the author and visitors, I found the contents of a particular essay quite intriguing. It was entitled “Peter Pan Syndromers as Over Achievers”. In it, Evan Bailyn writes:

“Peter Pan Syndromers are usually painted as grown-ups who cling to their childhood due to a fear of adult responsibility. But emotionally stunted underachievers make up only a small percentage of the Peter Pan population. Dan Kiley, author of the Peter Pan Syndrome concept, never accounted for Peter Pan overachievers: eternal children whose competitive instincts compel them to achieve high standing in the very society that they secretly shun. These people learn how to game the adult world by conforming to its conventions, all the while secretly plotting to escape as soon as they have attained the resources to do so.”

How fascinating, as I read the last sentence I quickly found the similarities in my own life. Some of us out there fit right into the model quite well, others are only there as a means to escape. We obviously all carry aspirations of achieving something better in life. But many fall all too well into enjoying minute freedoms within the daily grind, while forgetting all the things they dreamed about as a child, the things they told themselves they would do, the people they would be.

After paying some utility bills, I exchanged emails with my sister, wondering how we had grown old so fast, gone were the days of rubber boots, catching frogs, filling our bellies with fresh peas from the garden on hot summer days. My sister; now pregnant, and now both of us homeowners. Things most certainly have changed. The timing of another friend sending me a song by an artist from Sweden singing about the ongoing train of our lives, and how we can’t stop it, only seemed too perfect for these last couple days.

The hands of time will always tick past us, and we can’t change that. But we can ensure we live for each of those moments, in a conscious mind. If we spend a moment each day thinking about the past, and what we wanted to achieve when we were older, then you’ll be more inclined to question where you are right now. Are you headed in the right direction? Are you happy? Are you unsure of what you’re doing?

That little kid inside is always there, whether you’ve trained yourself to quiet them or not. The naivety and innocence of a child untainted by those around themselves is a truly magnificent thing, and can offer some helpful guidance in any adult’s life. Some of us are still listening to them, you may be living it, you may have forgotten it, while others of us hear them all too well. We still let the manifestations of its words slip out into our daily lives from time to time, but secretly we chug along at our jobs, our lives, with the ever mindful idea of becoming free once again….

“Yet few others understand. Society runs like a well-oiled machine. The media enforces its ethics and people become intoxicated with normalcy. Meanwhile, the stubborn Peter Pan Syndromer is wondering what is going on around him. Why is everyone walking the same way, wearing the same clothing, using the same expressions, believing in the same philosophies? He feels the need to find someone like him, another eternal child with whom he can run away, back to the simple land of laughter and imagination. To do so he must escape from the land of taxes, bills, and bosses. So he works hard. He pretends to be normal, playing by all the rules. And he makes money. One day, he will use that money to emancipate himself from the rigid limitations of the world. Even if he has to wait until he is old, he will eventually become a kid again.

In every large company and organization, there is at least one Peter Pan Syndromer. He’s dressed like a drone but he wishes he weren’t. He wants to be free. And he will be – someday.”