Under Western Skies (Friday and Wrap-up)

Friday was the last day of the conference!

UWS logo

My favorite session/talk today was called “Oil Culture” and consisted of panelists going over the advertisement implications and communications angle behind the oil exploration in Canada.

Nancy Holmes of UBC Okanagan showed that advertisements around the Northern Gateway Pipeline and Enbridge Pipeline are focused on the environment and economy with pristine imagery and talk of good paychecks.

Jon Gordon of University of Alberta also talked about advertisements dealing with te oil industry, but also reminded us that the environmental damage is being done by people who live in Fort McMurray and other oil fields. These workers must work hard days for weeks.

Lastly, Patricia Autette-Longo of Concordia University also talked about pipeline politics in terms of literature and language. She traced the Berger Inquiry (see day 1) and how that is interpreted now with the new Northern Gateway/Enbridge pipeline. Some think Berger’s ideas of preservation still resonate today, but others, including media columnists, think that the Inquiry was “studied to death” and that a lot of money, too much, was used in this inquiry.

All in all, Autette-Longo stressed that the media is there to provide services of information, education and sensitized toward community issues in the oil fields.

Now for the wrap-up.

This conference was eye-opening for me, especially coming from at American perspective. Everyone thinks differently in Canada about environmental and oil issues. In the US, I get the gist that we are more belligerent and likely to protest something and perhaps make it violent. In Canada, they are more focused on action and asking people what they are going to do about it.

I also found it helpful to learn way more about the oil and oil sands industry in Canada, especially about the Berger Inquiry and current status of the oil sands in Fort McMurray.

Lastly, I really loved the intersection of technology/media and the environment. Many of the session presenters explained environmental and Indigenous issues in the context of advertisements, new media and social revolutions. Idle No More is using hashtags and social media as a peaceful protest mechanism. Many presenters talked about the imagery, language and context about the oil fields through the internet.

All in all, I’m glad I made the trip up here! Stay tuned for posts about my outdoor adventures, of course!

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