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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

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.

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.

Tsunami Aftermath Photos Rolling In

11 Mar

With aftershocks still rumbling off the coast of Japan. It is only now that more accurate information is coming in. With the earthquake occurring in the late afternoon Friday in Japan, it is still less than 24 hours since it all began. Much of the initial disaster relief was carried out long into the night in Japan, and now as morning arrives, photos and data are emerging. Here are the latest highlights:

-Casualties are surpassing the 1000 death mark.

-Evacuations continue around the The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which has crews struggling to cool down the reactor.

-Hawaii appears to be relatively unscathed by the tsunami.

-The first waves have already hit the west coast of North America, some damage is being reported in areas in Oregon and Northern California.

-Subway/Transit systems are down in Tokyo, stranding millions.

-Narita International and other Tokyo Airports remain closed.

-The U.S, China, United Nations, and European Union have already spoken up offering relief and support along with other countries.

-Twitter is reporting that up to 1000 tweets per minute were streaming from Tokyo alone.

-The earthquake was thousands of times larger than the earthquake in New Zealand recently.

-Early warning systems were activated minutes before the tremor, and before the tsunami hit Japan.

Powerful images are also surfacing. The following are courtesy of National Geographic, Time and CNN.

There is also growing galleries of images at Time MagazineNational GeographicCNN, and the BBC.

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:

Uncontacted Tribes: First Video

6 Feb

You may remember the images that appeared a couple years ago of one of the last uncontacted tribes. Deep in the Amazon of Brazil, photos were taken from an airplane of the tribe recently discovered. Their brightly painted bodies amidst the jungle appeared in news sources around the world. Now the first video has been released of that very same tribe. On February 4, 2011, the amazing video was released.

More can be read about them here:

Uncontacted or lost tribes are not entirely new. There are different variations of such tribes in remote areas around the globe. Currently, Brazil leads the world with as many as 67 uncontacted tribes according to a 2007 report.

Remote islands in the Andaman Sea host at least 2 tribes known as the Sentinelese. They have apparently violently avoided contact attempts by the Indian government, and have since been left alone. Recent helicopter surveys suggest their population at 250, and they are believed to have lived there for 60000 years.

The last uncontacted aboriginal people in Australia, Mexico, and the United States are believed to have made contact in the 20th century, as late as 1984 in Australia. While such tribes are believed to exist in New Guinea, Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, Bolivia, Suriname, Paraguay, Guyana, French Guiana, and Venezuela as well.

It is clear that watching this video, and seeing these images stirs a unique fascination among us. Maybe its the idea that a people can live without ever seeing or witnessing the civilized world for so long. In the heavily developed world, its hard to imagine that this is even possible. Or maybe it’s because we think we have explored everything, we know everything, there is no new discoveries left in the world. Stories like this tempt our minds to question what we know.

Electric and Compacts: They Are Here

1 Nov

So maybe you’ve noticed them on the streets already, or maybe your city has been plastered with billboards of them, there’s no denying, a new era of the automobile has arrived. Who ever believes that all North Americans drive hummers and other excessively large SUV’s is still living that 2002 generalisation. It was hardly true then, and its definitely not true now, its 2010! Let it go.

North American society is ready for the change, then again, it always was. Because after all, nobody wants to intentionally damage the environment, they just never had the opportunity for change. It is evident the worlds auto manufacturers have built it, and yes the people, they are coming.

It appears that things are fast changing, the streets are filled with the likes of Juke’s, Cubes, and Mini’s. And the CRZ’s, Leaf’s, Cruze’s, and Volt’s are on the way. It’s true, insanely small engine, hybrid, diesel, or full electric cars are fast replacing the fleets of models that ruled the streets before. And they’ve come with a variety of entertaining media campaigns!