Are you like me – you thought about joining the Climate Strike today, but you live in Alberta and are worried your neighbour might call the “anti-oil snitch line”?

We are having a bit of fun in this province joking about our potentially “Un-Albertan” conduct – you know, like over-zealous recycling or driving a hybrid.

Why? Because last week the Alberta government, in keeping its election promise, launched a website to support the investigation into “foreign-funded anti-energy campaigns”. While the crux of the investigation will be conducted using forensic accounting, there is a provision for anyone to email the committee if they have something to report.

The anger in Alberta underpinning these moves has been palpable for a while now. Although I don’t share it personally, it is rather understandable. Certain shame-and-blame activist tactics have left Albertans feeling bruised and picked on.

As the issue of how to address climate change revs up, many of us feel like we are driven to choose from only two camps: “pro-oil” or “anti-oil”.

Yet, for so many of us, this is a complex issue. Many of us have come to the province to enjoy good jobs, in a (once) respected industry, and have stayed to enjoy Alberta’s advantages. But we still recognize the need for global decarbonization, the need for humans to change our pattern of energy use, and the need to invent a new future in which we tread lighter on the planet that sustains us.

Trying to fit into one of two camps is simply not possible for many of us. What if we replace those “ors” with “ands“? If we begin our conversations this way, can we move closer to the truth? Closer to practical and effective solutions?

For instance,

What if we make a decent living to support our families from oil and gas and still want to see bold action on climate change?

What if we believe Alberta oil and gas to be a quality energy product to meet existing demand levels and still question whether we should expand any further?

What if we applaud those oil and gas companies who have operated respectably towards their employees and their communities and yet still wonder if we ought to advise our children to seek their future in another direction?

What if we are irritated by the smug, patronizing tone of some environmentalists and yet still feel they have an important role to play in holding our leaders to account?

What if we believe that fossil fuels have truly been a gift to humankind and yet believe that maybe we have simply used too much of a good thing?

If we dare to hold two conflicting ideas about climate change and fossil fuels are we “Un-Albertan”?

If you do join the Climate Strike today, whether you carry a placard or not, consider engaging in deep and difficult conversations with your neighbours, co-workers, friends, and family. Keep talking – until we understand each other – until we have solutions.

Do you also carry conflicting questions with you around fossil fuels and climate change? What are they? How do you cope?

Alisa Caswell has a degree in chemical engineering. She spent twenty years working in the oil and gas industry, including roles in operations and energy conservation. She previously held the position of Chair – Oil Sands, Canadian Industry Program for Energy Conservation (CIPEC). She lives in Fort McMurray, Alberta. You can follow her on Facebook or check out her profile on LinkedIn.


[1] photo by author
[2] https://www.alberta.ca/public-inquiry-into-anti-alberta-energy-campaigns.aspx
[3] https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/amnesty-international-alberta-jason-kenney_ca_5d78020ee4b0432f8173ba68
[4] https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/read-the-full-text-jason-kenney-responds-to-amnesty-internationals-criticism-of-his-fight-back-strategy