by Debra J. Davidson and Mike Gismondi
Two intersecting moments of the Twenty-first Century define our politics, economies, and future prospects for civilization: the mounting evidence for global climate change, now unequivocally attributed to socio-economic activities, and its de-stabilizing effects on our biosphere, combined with the end of easy oil and the easy wealth it generates. On the energy question, non-conventional fossil fuels have been promoted by political elites as the next most attractive development option. The development of nonconventional fuels, however, does nothing to alleviate either climate change or the falling rate of energy supply, and generates multiple social and environmental consequences. The largest endeavour marking this historic nexus—indeed the largest industrial project in history, is the extraction and processing of the Athabasca tar sands in Alberta, Canada. The social, environmental, and most importantly political outcomes of this grand experiment will reverberate throughout the global polity, and either encourage or caution against increasing our dependence on such non-conventional fuels and assuming the multiple costs such dependence will entail. Planning for reflexive societal change requires that we first ask how such giga-projects are legitimated, and who is challenging this legitimacy? In this book we trace how language and visual representations are used to reinforce or challenge the legitimacy of development of the Athabasca tar sands, and draw on our insights to contemplate likely energy and climate futures.