What is wrong with you people?! - Those were the words immediately out of my step-dad's mouth as he heard about my exciting new position at Ecology Ottawa.
That new position, is replacing my friend Avery Dawes on the Tar Free 613 Campaign, a grassroots movement opposing TransCanada's Energy East pipeline here in Ottawa, which is proposed to transport 1.1 million barrels of oil a day right through Ottawa's watershed. To me, the Energy East pipeline represents a $12 billion commitment to oil and gas infrastructure and everything that's included: worsening climate change, degraded ecosystems, and a missed opportunity to begin shifting towards renewable energy. To my step-dad Chris, the Energy East pipeline represents the opportunity to get people back to work, increase government revenues from oil royalties, and secure Canada's energy independence. Our views differ radically, which is a statement I can apply to almost anyone in my social life. But when you come from an oil-crazed town like Calgary, you end up getting questions thrown in your face that are far more derogatory than those by my step-dad.
So, how did a guy from the oil capital of Canada become part of the fight against fossil fuels? Well, it's simple really, I'm obviously smarter than everyone I know back home.
But really, the writing is clearly on-the-wall when it comes to fossil fuels in the 21st century: They are outdated and unnecessary sources of energy during a time where climate change is humanity's greatest collective challenge.
In a time of low oil prices, a newly signed climate treaty, and a freshly elected government, it is clear the time is now to begin divesting from oil and gas. With the market being ripe for Canada to shift away from the fossil fuels economy, it makes little sense to invest into a carbon spewing mega-project like the Energy East pipeline. As the authors Tim Jackson and Peter Victor so prudently put it in their Green Economy at Scale, “prosperity today means little if it undermines prosperity tomorrow.”
According to pipeline supporters like my step-dad, though, an approved Energy East pipeline will result in a stronger Canadian oil industry, increased tax revenue during development, construction, and operation, as well as greater energy independence for our country. But with the climate crisis growing annually around the world, does securing the oil industry for just a short while longer translate into safe and secure generations to come? Nearly any credible climate scientist would answer that increased fossil fuels production does not have a place in a sustainable world. Additionally, investment in green energy infrastructure would certainly work to gain Canada its energy independence, while subsequently generating tax revenue during development, construction, and operation. By no means is the Energy East pipeline the only energy project that can generate jobs, tax revenue, and energy security.
To invest in the Energy East pipeline is to weaken the financial, human, and environmental safety upon which our future generations are depending. Instead, we must begin investing in a sustainable green economy which pays dividends of healthy communities, economies, and environments, while living within the finite measures of our planet.
Everyone on the Tar Free 613 campaign is devoted to fighting climate change and making Ottawa a more renewable city. I'm excited to get started and really earn the disapproval of my step-dad.
If you'd like to join me for the ride, sign-up to volunteer with Ecology Ottawa. Even simpler, give us a follow on social media!