On the same day the Trent School of the Environment received a transformational $1.4 million gift, Trent students, faculty, and the broader Peterborough community were challenged to be part of a global generational change. Chris Turner, award-winning author and sustainability strategist, urged an audience at Market Hall on October 3 to think about their role in the nation’s future.
Speaking as part of Trent’s David Sheperd Family Lecture Series, Mr. Turner spoke about the many, and far-reaching, impacts of Alberta’s oil sands, and what is next for the region and the country.
“We as Canadians are not just a resource economy, not just drawers of water or hewers of wood. We are also stewards. We are proudly at the forefront of environmental challenge,” Mr. Turner said. “In terms of the oil sands, it is a 24 hour a day, seven days a week massive global industry. We have this enormous responsibility with energy transition.”
Mr. Turner argued that the transition from an oil based economy, to one powered by green-tech, will be a gradual shift, as we improve technology and services that can meet or beat existing petroleum products. Not only that, we need individuals to help drive consumer demand for such products. Adding that there is more than just the climate impact to consider, but also “more than a century of public and private investment, and tens of thousands of jobs which have been a big part of Canada’s prosperity the last couple of decades. You can’t just turn a switch and everything is wind turbines and sunshine.”
Mr. Turner has been documenting energy transition for more than a decade, offering insights from his bestselling books on the clean-tech revolution, The Leap and The Geography of Hope, as well as an analysis of the transition’s impact on the conventional energy economy drawn from his most recent book, The Patch.
Canadians have already played a significant role in environmental change, he explained to audience members, pointing to David Suzuki’s work bringing attention to logging, Brian Mulroney getting George H.W. Bush to the negotiation table to begin rehabilitating of the Great Lakes, and the global ban on ozone depleting chemicals that was signed in Montreal.
“Tonight’s talk relates closely to what I’m studying. I’m really interested in some of the concepts he’s talking about,” said undergraduate Biology student Lee Scholl. “We need to find a middle ground on the oil sands – just shutting them down isn’t a viable solution, but through a mixed approach of innovation and education, we can chart a better way forward for the environment and our country.”
The David Sheperd Family Lecture Series introduces Trent students and faculty, and members of the Peterborough community to leading scholars and people engaged in policy and practical work in the field of environmental science. The goal of the series is to build on the University’s reputation of leadership in Environmental Science/Studies.