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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

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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.

Mud Fight!

7 Sep

Rolling in the mud: not just for animals. Doesnt this look like fun?

911-10 Years Later

31 Aug

It was 10 years ago that I woke up to goto school, and flipped on the television only to realize that it would not be an ordinary day. 911 2001, will always be one of those moments when people think back and can pinpoint exactly where they were when they first heard of what was happening in New York City.

As September 11, 2011 approaches, and with a coming trip to New York on my horizon, I was curious as to what the site was like today. Currently the site of the once massive World Trade Center buildings holds a host of memorials and busy construction activities. It seems there is no stop to the movement, constantly building, rebuilding, never replacing, but creating something new in a place so needlessly destroyed. Even as hurricane Irene pushed through the city, the site was flooded, but the construction activity continues.

There is one man who see’s more than a mess of construction on the site, but rather a beautiful process of rebuilding. Marcus Robinson is an artist and photographer who has been documenting the world trade center site for the last 6 years. And with those horrible events 10 years in the past, maybe we can bring some good and beauty to the world. Take a look at the video, and check out his website.

http://marcusrobinsonart.com/

http://cnn.com/video/?/video/us/2011/08/29/robinson.ground.zero.cnn

Missouri: Shocking Tornado Video

23 May

If you have been following the news lately, you would know that a string of Tornado’s have been wreaking havoc in the central section of the U.S that makes up tornado alley this spring. The latest tornado hit Joplin, Missouri and killed 90 people so far. The storm is being classified as the 4th deadliest since 1950 record keeping in the U.S.

There has been a pretty disturbing video taken of a group of people at a store as the tornado hits. The audio in this video being a good example of just how terrifying a tornado experience really is. Watch the video below, the winds really pick up at about 2:00 as you hear the glass breaking in the store, and at 3:00 the tornado seems to pass right overtop of them. We can only hope for the best as this spring turns out to be one of the worst in tornado history.

Reasons to Believe

17 Apr

For each tank that is manufactured in the world, 131000 teddy bears are made.

For each stock exchange that plummets, there are 10 versions of ‘What a Wonderful World’.

For each corrupt person, there are 8000 donating blood.

For each wall that exists, there are 200000 welcome mats.

While a scientist is designing a new weapon, 1 million moms are making chocolate cakes….

There is a recent commercial circulating in Latin America right now, and its gathering a lot of attention. What you just read is a section of the ad appropriately named ‘Reasons to Believe’ that is put out by Coca Cola. I am not sure why this ad has not been released in an english version elsewhere, but I think it definitely should be soon. Until then, there are a couple translated versions floating around on YouTube, and I am here to share one of them with you. Put aside all your liberal-anti-big-business-damn-the-man thoughts and just enjoy a simple ad with a great message to start your Sunday 🙂

The High Line: Elevated Park

7 Apr

Theres a new park open in the lower west side of Manhattan in New York City, and its no ordinary park. Built atop the old freight rail tracks once known as the West Side Line, this 2.33km elevated parkway is one of the most unique models of urban renewal.

The elevated rail line used to serve the factories and warehouses in the district, with parts of the line running right through some buildings. But in the 1960’s the line was officially closed down. For years the looming ironwork of the line was slated to be demolished, but just recently was revitalized into a beautiful parkway. With native trees and plants, a street view ampitheater, and amazing views, the High Line park has been well recieved. The new park sits above the traffic of the busy streets below, and is even encouraging new real estate developments around it.

Now take a look through the photos and enjoy.