Zahura Ahmed, Congress 2016 student blogger
How do we reconcile the fact that our economy is driven by fossil fuels while facing an urgent need to transition to a low-carbon energy system? This is a contentious issue that is on the minds of many political leaders around the world, and was addressed by one of Canada’s leading writers and speakers on sustainability, Chris Turner, at an event hosted by the Environmental Studies Association at Congress 2016.
Turner began with a blunt fact: leaders have recently been making grand promises about renewable technologies, when it is in fact impossible to fulfill such promises in their suggested timeframes due to the world’s reliance on fossil fuels. While reducing this reliance is the most urgent priority of our time, it will take decades to do so--this is a problem that is multi-generational. Turner believes that the scope of the problem and the duration of the response has been misrepresented, stating that the solution must be holistic and thorough, requiring us to rethink everything we do.
While not dissimilar to Naomi Klein’s argument for“changing everything”, Turner believes that Klein’s approach is too simplistic, and that we must begin our shift to renewable energy sources within our current political framework. He explains how other cities have made technological and green advancements within a capitalist and market-driven paradigm, which were not in and of themselves radical changes to political or social order. Turner stated that the only way to challenge existing fossil fuel technologies is to create green technologies that can impose direct competition.
He concluded by speaking about Canada’s oil-sands, stating what many environmentalists may not agree with: while the oil-sands have become the poster child of negative environmental impact, they are not the best area to begin the fight against climate change in Canada. Turner explained how the oil-sands have been embedded in Canadian enterprise for decades, and this is something not easily thrown away. Still, he urged for pragmatic and urgent action in regards to adopting renewable energy sources.