Yesterday, four people, including myself, climbed the oil derrick that launched Western Canada's oil boom over 60 years ago. We did it to send a very simple message: it's time that we transitioned away from dirty energy sources and to the awe inspiring power of the sun, the wind, and other renewables.
We scaled the Leduc derrick at Edmonton's Gateway Park and hung a large banner that read: "Solar: 100% climate safe." For four hours we also created our own solar powered radio station playing sun-themed songs directly from the derrick.
While the action was a bit tongue-in-cheek the issue most definitely is not. Alberta is the most climate-polluting province in Canada, emitting more greenhouse gases than any other province in the country. Alberta is also home to the Canada's fastest growing source of climate pollution the tar sands.
Just two days ago the UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest climate report. The report outlined the mounting human, environmental and economic risks of failing to act on the growing crisis as well as painting a clear pathway away from climatic collapse. The pathway entails keeping the vast majority of remaining fossil fuel reserves in the ground (at least 75 per cent) and an urgent shift to renewables and conservation efforts.
To put it simply we can't keep digging, we can't keep burning, and we need to transition and quick.
As oil prices continue to plummet tar sands projects are being shelved and the vulnerability of a fossil fuel based economy is starkly clear. The province needs to diversify and I'm sure most Albertans would like to see energy profits remain in the province rather than flowing down a pipeline out of it. With renewables not only to they create more jobs per dollar than fossil fuels do but the profits don't go to large multinational oil companies but remain with homeowners, farmers, ranchers and First Nation communities.
Luckily Alberta has the natural capital to make the transition. Alberta has the best solar and wind potential in all of Canada more than enough to power the entire province yet utilizes less than 1per cent of it.
Alberta also has a highly skilled, trained workforce. Alberta has the welders, it has the electricians, it has the engineers, the machinists, it has all the people power it needs to make the solar powered leap.
Finally, Alberta has more than enough reasons to do it. Beyond the economic benefits that a move to renewables would bring and the climate crisis demands such a move would solve many other problems as well. Health practitioners have warned us for years about the damaging effects fossil fuel development has on our communities. From asthma to cancer, a continued reliance on fossil fuels only means our communities are sicker. In addition to the reduced pollution, solar and wind are 100% spill free. They don't have the damaging effects pipelines and extractive industries do.
It's for all these reasons that we climbed the derrick and hung the banner. We risked arrest and our own personal freedoms because we can't afford to wait - science and our planet are telling us that. We need to act, we need to move, and it's time to reap the tremendous benefits that come with that transition.
Getting there is doable but it's not going to be easy. Powerful oil and coal interests stand in our way and won't go down without a fight.
That's why we're asking you to join us, to add your voice to the growing calls to Alberta's Premier.
Together we can make a difference, together we can transition again, and together we can rescue the planet from the brink.
So help us take another step on that journey our planet simply can't wait.
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