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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.

References

Natural Resources Canada. (2005, February 1). Land and freshwater area, by province and territory. In Statistics Canada. Retrieved September 12, 2012, from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/phys01-eng.htm

Farquharson, V. (2011, November 12). Why Toronto should be more like Edmonton. In National Post. Retrieved September 12, 2012, from http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/11/12/why-toronto-should-be-more-like-edmonton/

Government of Alberta. (2009, September). Energy Economics. In Energy Alberta. Retrieved September 12, 2012, from http://www.energy.alberta.ca/Org/pdfs/Energy_Economic.pdf

The Globe and Mail. (2012, September 11). Shell warns about Alberta’s emission rules. In Industry News. Retrieved September 12, 2012, from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/shell-warns-about-albertas-emission-rules/article4537725/

The Canadian Press. (2012, September 4). Natural Resources Drive 20 percent of Economy. In CBC News. Retrieved September 11, 2012, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2012/09/04/pol-cp-natural-resources-economy.html

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

              Information Administration. Retrieved September 12, 2012, from

              http://www.eia.gov/oiaf/aeo/tablebrowser/#release=IEO2011&subject=0-IEO2011&table=10-

              IEO2011®ion=0-0&cases=Reference-0504a_1630

Austen, I. (2011, December 12). Canada Announces Exit from Kyoto Climate Treaty. In The New York Times. Retrieved September 12, 2012, from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/13/science/earth/canada-leaving-kyoto-protocol-on-climate-change.html

Canadian National Parks: Something To Be Proud Of

7 Nov

It was 100 years ago that the National Parks system was created in Canada. The first of its kind in the world, the National Park system has grown to encompass more than 42 National Parks, 4 National Marine Conservation Areas, one National Landmark, and 167 National Historic Sites. Managed by Parks Canada, these areas have been set aside by Canadians to protect them from development, and to preserve the natural landscapes and wildlife of the country. With that I find it fitting to include a gallery of photos of some of the countries national parks, you can see the photos below.

 

Starting with the first national park in 1885, Banff National Park was merely a stepping stone into the network of terrestrial and marine areas in the park system today. By 1911 the Dominion Parks Branch was created, the beginning of our current system, and by 1930 the National Parks Act was put into legislation protecting all National Parks. These parks play a familiar role in the lives of many Canadians, from canoe trips on great rivers, camping in thick boreal forests, to skiing and snowboarding one of the world’s most spectacular mountain ranges. The expansiveness and the privilege of the natural beauty can often be overlooked, however it is important to value what so many other places on earth do not have, a natural beauty that attracts visitors from all over the world to see.

2011 is the anniversary of this century old system and the Royal Canadian Mint is commemorating the milestone with special coins that you might just come across in circulation and a pretty cool commercial as well. So the next time your find yourself in one of Canada’s Parks, take a minute to appreciate not only the wilderness around you, but the effort involved to create such an icon of sustainability in our great country.

Photos courtesy of National Geographic, you can view the gallery on their website here.

You can also visit the Royal Canadian Mint website here.

Music for Today

2 Sep

Another day begins to the sound of rain on the window. Here are some fitting songs to any morning. Enjoy.

All About Japan

12 Mar

In the wake of the recent events in Japan, I was inspired to share some of my favorite short films and videos about Japan. As the death toll pushes into the thousands, I know that the Japanese people will remain strong and push onward through this tough moment in their history. With strong memories of Japan, I was lucky to experience the culture, food, and the people of this wonderful country one warm summer back in 2009. From hiking in the beautiful mountains, early morning Tsukiji sushi stops, riding the Nozomi trains, and meeting cool people in every city, it is a place I always wanted to go back to. Japan has contributed so much to the world, and they are an amazingly friendly, compassionate, respectful and creative people.

Check out some of these videos all about Japan.

A fantastic portrayal of a day in the busy capital city of Tokyo.

Great video by MylesInLondon.

I have to put the dancing storm trooper in Tokyo video up here too.

Another great video by markusman25.

8.9 Earthquake in Japan: Tsunami Videos

11 Mar

1:47am, March 11, 2011. Many in North America will be waking up to news of the earthquake in Japan. The 8.9 magnitude quake was measured by the U.S Geological Survey, with an epicenter 373 kilometers from Tokyo, according to CNN coverage. This massive earthquake comes just a day after a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Japan’s Honshu island. To put this recent quake in perspective, the largest ever recorded earthquake was measured at 9.5 in Chile in 1960.

The earthquake has been said to last for minutes, and could be felt throughout the region. And although tsunami warnings were quickly issued for over 20 countries, it was little warning for the walls of water that are hitting Japan. The process of issuing warnings can offer little help to those areas which would be affected by a tsunami by a tsunami 30 minutes after an earthquake. According to BBC, the waves moved at speeds up to 800km/hr. [Update 3:07am: Tsunami warnings are now being issued as far as Hawaii, and the west coast of the U.S.] Shocking footage of the resulting waves are coming in as media from around the world is covering the story. If you haven’t already seen, you need to watch these videos:

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2011/03/11/sot.tsunami.hit.japan.cnn?hpt=T1

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2011/03/11/sot.tsunami.hit.japan.cnn?hpt=T1

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2011/03/11/sot.tsunami.hit.japan.cnn?hpt=T1

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2011/03/11/sot.tsunami.hit.japan.cnn?hpt=T1

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2011/03/11/sot.tsunami.hit.japan.cnn?hpt=T1

Home

7 Oct

I just finished watching a documentary called ‘Home’. It’s a film about our home, not the roof over your head but the planet you live in, earth. I sat in my dark living room learning about our planets extraordinary beginnings, and its progression through its own life. Then came humans, you and I, and as the music and images build tension, you start to lose faith in the role of mankind. The film paints a gloomy picture of the effects of humans on the planet, and it builds up to a climax where you think the film couldn’t get any more depressing. But luckily there is a turning point in this film, as the good things that mankind has done, and can do are outlined, leaving you with a spark of hope in a dreary mind.

Here is some of the good and the bad, according to the film:

Over 50% of the grain traded around the world is used as livestock feed or biofuels.

13 million hectares of forest disappear every year.

100L of water produces 1kg of potatoes, 4000L produces 1kg of rice, 13000L produced 1kg of beef.

Since 1950, fishing catches have increased from 18 million to 100 million metric tonnes per year.

The average global temperature in the last 15 years is the highest on record.

1 in 10 rivers in the world no longer reach their delta’s for months at a time due to heavy irrigation.

95% of soybeans produced in Brazil are used to feed livestock and poultry in Europe and Asia.

3/4 of the varieties of crop developed through mankind’s history have been wiped out.

Antarctica has immense natural resources which no country can use for themselves.

2% of the worlds territorial waters are protected, not much, but thats 2 times more than 10 years ago.

13% of the continents of the world are covered in natural parks.

South Korea restored 65% of its depleted forests through reforestation.

The U.S, China, India, Germany and Spain are the biggest investors in renewable energy.

Although the dialogue and text may be a little rough around the edges, the imagery is stunning, and the message is important and clear. We must change.

Fall is Here

3 Oct

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I apologize for not posting in a while. I had been working for roughly 2 months straight up north. But recently returned home last week. My time up north for work is very different from my life at home, its a different life that most of my friends, or family do not know much about. This summer in 2009 I experienced more of northern Canada than the 5 years I have been working up there. I am grateful for being able to travel to places in the arctic and see things that few Canadians let alone anyone else ever get a chance to see. For those who are interested, I rather crudely put together some highlights in a short video. You can watch it on my youtube channel, or watch it here:

Its raining outside, and the weather is changing, summer has left us, and fall has taken over. Icy frost on your windshield at the break of dawn, the leaves blowing in the wind across the backyard, and halloween itching closer and closer with each day. So with raindrops stuck to my window on a chilly autumn evening, I decided it was a perfect moment to update my blog.

I have been working in my basement doing long awaited project work these last few days. And trying to enjoy every evening to the best of my ability. What a difference it is to sleep in your own bed after not being able to have that luxury for so long. Some of the many simple things in life that if you take the time to notice, you truly have to appreciate. I think this is going to be a good season, with a possible canoe trip in the works, and halloween just around the corner, and even talks of another journey on the other side of the world. Your life is defined by opportunities, even the ones that pass you by.