I have always been enthralled by the world around me. From a young age my parents encouraged me to be outside, to explore and to develop a close kinship with the environment. I appreciated the delicacy of nature, the intricacies of the science. I would spend hours in my backyard garden with my Dad taking care of plants and climbing trees. When I think of my childhood I always come to realize how much of it was spent outdoors.
It wasn’t until high school that I realized the environment that I had come love so much was in grave danger. I distinctly remember being in my ninth grade science class watching An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary made to inform the general public of the imminent dangers of global warming. This documentary was definitely wake up call. At the time, I didn’t even know what climate change was; it was the first time I had heard the term and I learned that what I had valued so much could be gone if the world’s consumption of non-renewable energy went on at the same rate.
I had to do something about it. In the documentary, Al Gore talks a lot about the development of green technology and about limiting our reliance on fossil fuels. Green technology would be a term that encompasses renewable energy resources like: wind, solar and bio-fuels, just to name a few big ones. So I decided to learn more about the development of green technology.
I entered into Mechanical Engineering at the University of Ottawa to pursue my goal of developing green technology. However, soon I found that engineering is really challenging and not for me. I began to look at other programs at the university that involved the environment. That is when I came across Environmental Economics and Public Policy, a new program that gives an in-depth look at how the environment and economics correlate to each other. Through this program, I began to see how intrinsically the two subjects are tied together and how they rely on each other. Through this, I developed an understanding that we cannot talk about one without talking about the other.
It is common knowledge to most Canadians that a large part of our nation’s economy relies on the energy production sector, in particular, fossil fuels. But as the people of this country, we have to really question this economic reliance. I am going to take a different approach to this than most people would, by looking at the point of gaining wealth as a whole. The point to acquiring wealth and an economic product is to not only to help people, but to improve their lives and sense of well-being. It is impossible to do this while being directly invested in the oil industry. The ecological damage and the health risks associated with the oil industry run counter to our interests as the people living in Canada and, for that matter, the well-being of future generations.
Now let’s narrow the scope of the national oil industry to right here in Ottawa. The Energy East Pipeline is planned to transport tar-sands bitumen from Hardisty, Alberta across our region in order to get it to the east coast. The premise around this plan is that it would be to expand the tar sands transportation capacity in order to increase the production and sale of oil. However, it does not take into account the near countless tonnes of carbon emissions that would be released in the processing of the bitumen; nor does it address the dangers of having such a pipeline pass through populated areas.
The pipeline is not as safe as many people believe it to be, there could be major implications on the local environment. One of the implications is the direct effect it could have on Ottawa’s drinking water if a spill were to happen. Tens of thousands of people in our city alone would be affected and millions more on a national scale. Spills are not that uncommon, either: more than a thousand incidences occurred between 2000 to 2012 across the country. It is not worth it.
In opposition to the Energy East Pipeline and to make an active difference in the matter I decided to join Ecology Ottawa as an intern, on its mission to stop this pipeline. I am part of their Renewable City campaign. With them, I am helping encourage the investment in renewable resources and divestment from fossil fuels. If you are also against the Energy East pipeline or are for a better, greener Ottawa, I encourage you to get involved: volunteer, donate, sign our petition, and come to Ecology Ottawa events.