The 2011 July/Aug issue was my first exposure to Alberta Views ever. I picked it up to do a little research and prepare for the possibility of interning with the magazine that Fall. I had never heard of it but was eager to learn. It seems only fitting that the issue I choose from 2011 is the one that brought me here.
On the cover is k. d. lang, hand on head, elbow shielding her eyes from the prairie sun. It is one of the few covers with a celebrity on the front.
The piece that caught my attention was “Paradigm Shift” by Chris Turner. It struck me as bold—an open letter to the future Premier of Alberta. I had never read anything like that before. In a province like Alberta, where the same party has been in power for 40 years, I rarely hear open criticism about it. So I read the article once, twice, then a third time for good measure. What kept pulling me back was the humour and lightness given to such a serious topic.
Turner writes about renewable energy in a way that makes it seem like a no-brainer. “Energy is your government’s biggest power source, its job creation engine and revenue pump, its claim to fame and its biggest headache. Alberta will define itself on the world map of the 21st century by how it handles its energy situation. The tarsands, in particular.”
And yet, it is still blatantly obvious that any progress towards what Turner suggests would be a miracle. Even with the persuasive arguments that he makes, it seems unlikely the current Conservative government will act on his suggestions.
Our current government is minimally interventionist. Some people would argue that this is a good thing because it allows people to fend for themselves, it’s survival of the fittest. But what if the weaker “person” in this case is the environment? The environment cannot scream and protest the way people can when defending themselves. It remains silent and suffers quietly.
One key distinction that Turner makes is that the oil sands don’t have to be evil. If used correctly they can be a source of energy and wealth without eradicating everything in its path. It can be a source of stability as opposed to a cherry on top. At the moment, Alberta is riding a wave of prosperity. Eventually that wave will crest and reach shore. We have a brief moment to act before the wave breaks and leaves us with nothing. Turner says we must act quickly and find ways to make the wave sustainable.
Alberta has been a place where people can be footloose and fancy-free. That won’t always be the case. The time for readjusting our expectations should be when we have the ability to be mobile and adaptive—not when we’re left with no other option. Turner is saying that time is now. We have an opportunity with new leadership. Alberta needs a visionary who isn’t just concerned with the present. With the potential of a province like Alberta, we need a leader who can make tough choices—without taking more resources away from programs and services that need it.
Nicole (The Intern)
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Click here to read “Paradigm Shift” by Chris Turner.