Working for the oil industry made me an environmentalist. You might find this surprising from someone at the David Suzuki Foundation. But it's not so unusual.
I met fantastic people and friends in the oil and gas business and my experience taught me that these workers believe cleaner forms of energy should be a priority and more efficient use of natural resources should be a reality.
But it may seem surprising because the media often portray climate change and energy decisions as highly charged, polarized political battles. And there is a lot of political manoeuvring. Take the recent efforts by the federal government to fuel this fire by referring to environmental groups, B.C. First Nations and the more than 4,000 British Columbians who signed up to a public review process over their concerns about the Enbridge oil sands pipeline proposal as “radicals”. For a democratic government to resort to name-calling instead of gathering the views of citizens to make an informed decision is sad and unfortunate. But that's our reality.
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As Clean Energy Canada recently pointed out in a policy paper, this polarization of energy and climate issues has left Canada grappling with an energy identity crisis. Just look at the labels for the oil sands, claimed by some to be “ethical oil” and others “dirty oil”.
Regardless of your view, it's clear this struggle to define Canada's identity and energy vision is hindering our ability to handle risks and opportunities for Canada in addressing climate change.
Perhaps the most crucial finding from the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows that our future will not be determined by chance. It will be determined by choice: Either we ignore the science or we make changes to reduce carbon emissions.
That's why I wrote this article
in the Vancouver Sun about my personal journey from the oil and gas sector to clean energy research, and what I learned along the way.
Another reason I wrote this column was to redefine the label “environmentalist” by making the point that many Canadians, whether or not they work in the resource sector (as I did), have environmental values and want a healthier environment for their families.
We may not hear those stories much today. But those are the experiences we should be sharing with our friends, families and fellow Canadians. Collaboration, diverse voices and unique partnerships are keys to overcoming political polarization on climate change so we can build a better future for everyone.