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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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The Look on Their Faces: Bin Laden Dead

3 May

Since the photos of Osama bin Laden dead have yet to be released, there is one photo that is quickly becoming one of the most popular. This photo shows Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden along with other staff as they watched live feed of the raid on the compound that housed the most wanted man in recent history.

On sunday, the man responsible for the worst terrorist attack in the United States which instantly took the lives of nearly 3000 people, was shot dead by navy seals in a compound in Pakistan. And as those events unfolded just outside of the capital city of Islamabad, the heads of the administration that have actively been hunting him watched intently. The look on Hillary’s face, and the seriousness of Obama indicating that this was a shocking, but major moment for not only the U.S, but the world.

This photo will surely prove to be one that captured a major historical event in the coming years. It will be a photo that makes magazine covers, newspaper front pages, and in books and media to come. But in the meantime until the death photos of Bin Laden surface, it will continue to be the most popular photo depicting the scenario that unfolded that night.

Battlefield 3: It’s Coming

19 Apr

If you have been following the ‘Fault Line’ trailers of the upcoming game Battlefield 3, you know that this game release is building a lot of momentum. The teaser gameplay trailers have kept us interested in one of the slickest looking games to date. And with the recent release of the full ‘Fault Line’ 12 minute trailer, one can only get a little more excited. But if you can’t wait to get your hands on a copy, you have to wait a little longer, the game is not set to be released until November 2011.

Set in 2014, the current trailer scenes document a squad of marines in Iran carrying out missions against the PLR. From walking through the marketplace, gunfights on the street, to crawling across the rooftops, the visuals are impressive.

From a generation that used to play Wolfenstein 3D, and Duke Nukem 3D; games that included the ‘3D’ heading just to let us know we were stepping out of the traditional 2D realm, BF3 is a fantastic example of how far gaming has come. Check out the new trailer below, but be sure to watch it in HD.

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 🙂

Egypt Protests: Memories of Tahrir Square

29 Jan

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Egypt is not like it was one week ago, Cairo is in chaos, protests in Alexandria and Suez, the country is changing. Egyptians want change, and the target of their frustration is President Mubarak. For the past 5 days the situation has gotten increasingly tense, the police force is virtually non-existent, stations burned out, even the National Democratic Party’s building is burned and looted. Tanks and APC’s are rolling into the city as the military is  brought in for the first time in decades to deal with a civilian situation, in an attempt to restore order.

But perhaps the most fascinating thing about the protests, is the ability to watch them unfold though videos and photos, and accounts of people on the ground. Only recently has it been possible to witness history as it happens, it may not seem like it now, but this is history. Go to any major news website and you can watch videos coming through almost constantly, this type of information sharing having only been possible recently.

As crowds filled Tahrir Square, and I scanned images of burned out army vehicles and street fires in the square, I couldnt help but think about the last time I was in Cairo. During my month in Egypt, when in Cairo I would stay at a little hotel right on Talat Harb, one of the streets connecting to Tahrir Square. We would grab a drink at the north end of the square and walk a couple of minutes back to the hotel. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be there now. Everything has changed.

As the situation in Egypt unfolds, take a minute to witness some of those changes, for history is not always confined to books.

The Pacific, and Avatar

12 Nov

On remembrance day yesterday I caught a glimpse of a commercial showing a new mini series created by Tim Hanks and Steven Spielberg. After some research, I discovered that this new mini series is known as ‘The Pacific’ which will be playing on HBO. Taking place in WW2 focusing on the war effort in pacific ocean, Im looking forward to see if it will be on par with the Band of Brother series HBO did years ago. Check out the trailer:

Another movie Im actually interested in seeing is one called ‘Avatar’. Every 5 years or so James Cameron comes out with an epic movie, Terminator, Aliens, Titanic, ring a bell? Well this newist movie is set to hit the big screen December 18, 2009. So if you like movies about humans exploring new planets and being engaged in epic battles with aliens, it is a must see! Check the trailers:

A Day to Remember

12 Nov

It is 11:52pm November 11, 2009 as I start writing this, its still remembrance day in Canada. And on a day when it seems fewer and fewer people realize why its a national holiday, I thought it was fitting for a post about remembrance day.

This is most importantly a day to remember so many people who have fought for our freedoms in this country, the freedoms we take for granted sometimes. The world wars, and so many others shaped the 20th century, but also shaped our lives. Many young adults in my generation have grandparents who were somehow involved in WW2, this is a legacy that lives on especially on this day. For it was through the efforts of great men and women before us that we are able to live our lives how we choose, in a country full of opportunities.

We must not also forget that the world is not perfect, and there are still battles to be fought, in many forms. There is an increasing threat to our way of life, to your way of life. For there are those that do not believe in democracy, in freedom of speech, or even in the rights of individuals. The threat is real, whether we choose to ignore that fact and go through each day trying to put the thought out of minds, it will still exist.

But just as in the past, today we have heroes as well, those heroes fight not on the beaches of Normandy, in the forests of France or in the streets of Berlin, they fight in places such as Helmand Province, in cities like Kandahar, and Kabul. This is the new battleground for so many in the Canadian Forces, each day as we live our lives, there are young Canadians far away from home, defending our not only our values, but the rights and freedoms of individuals of those unable to protect themselves in those very places.

I read an article today from the Edmonton Journal which was very well written, and I think it deserves a read through on a day like today especially. Take the time to read that article here.

I hope you took a minute to think about all those in the forces past and present today, and maybe spurred some conversation as well. For it is our duty to never forget, and always remember.