Book cover for Chris Turner's 'The Patch'

The Patch: The People, Pipelines, and Politics of the Oil Sands won 2018’s National Business Book Award. (Courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada)

Features | Sustainability

Book excerpt: The Patch

A preview of The Patch: The People, Pipelines, and Politics of the Oil Sands by Chris Turner

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The conflict now underway in the Patch is not just of incongruous energy and climate policies but of competing world views. Alberta’s oil sands industry emerged out of the High Modern ideal of progress that defined the twentieth century, that trust in bigger machines and better technology to fuel the good life. The industry’s opposition is an extension of a new definition of progress, one native to the twenty-first century, born out of the emerging necessities of the Anthropocene epoch—that new chapter in geological time created by human hands in a time defined by climate change. The Anthropocene ideal aims for balance and sets as its highest priority the rapid reduction in greenhouse gas emissions created by burning fossil fuels.

The High Modern and Anthropocene world views have collided head-on in the oil sands. This book is a record of the collision and its aftermath, and a survey of that reconciliation project. It is also the story of how the pond came to be along the ducks’ ancient migratory flight path in the first place, and how one of the most colossally scaled engineering projects in human history sprung into being deep in the boreal forest of northern Alberta. And it is finally the story of how the industry that built the pond became the first major battleground in a global conflict over the future of energy in the Anthropocene epoch.

The twenty-first century will be defined by how civilization reconciles its powerful hunger for energy with the toll taken on the planet’s basic equilibrium. The trial run in that long contest—the first skirmish of proxies in that much larger war—is underway today in the Patch.

Excerpted from The Patch: The People, Pipelines, and Politics of the Oil Sands. Copyright© 2017 by Genevieve Graham. Reprinted with permission of Simon & Schuster Canada, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.