This week on RUE we are featuring a two-part guest post by one of the contributors over at Vision of Earth, a group of recent graduates from the University of Regina who consider themselves to be life-long students. They focus on technical and/or controversial issues that demand patience and knowledge to understand. Their goal is to examine problems that society faces and write clearly on these topics so that they are understandable to the general public.
A few months ago Ben Harack and I started chatting about VOE’s work and I was really struck by their approach and their gusto to get stuff done. They look at present challenges and instead of simply complaining, they get to work to figure out how the challenges could be overcome.
I really wanted VOE to write a guest post about who they were and what they do. I think it is important for citizens to share projects and initiatives with each other in order to start building a network of shared liability for the future.
So, without further delay – take it away Ben!
Why Vision of Earth formed
I felt that a lack of knowledge underpins most of the difficulties that our society is currently struggling with. I believe that if we look closely enough, we can find good answers to the questions of how to organize our society and industry. Certainly there are differing opinions on many subjects, but I believe that if these opinions are informed by fact and if there is productive discourse with each other, we will arrive at good conclusions
In the developed world, corporations have more money to lobby the government than citizens do. Corporations are huge, centralized, and organized. They also hold the ‘job card’. By claiming that jobs will be lost, corporations can leverage what seems to be the most powerful lobbying mechanism in the developed world today. If you can convince someone that economic harm will come of a decision, it will generally not happen. Jobs have become a prime political commodity.
The only way people can effectively combat the dominance of corporations is through education and cooperative activism. An educated populace is harder to control and misinform. Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation that is spread and it can be difficult for many people to discern the difference. I believe that good, solid informational resources are crucial to the development of quality critical thinking in a populace.
I want the populace to be able to make decisions for themselves, based on what they want rather see than what serves corporations in the most effective manner.
How Vision of Earth formed
Over time I became more and more concerned for the direction my society seemed to be on. In 2006 I watched a TED talk by William McDonough. The ideas contained in this talk, and my subsequent thinking about them led to a radical transformation of my beliefs about society and the path we seem to be on. Later that year, when driving on the Louis Riel Trail near Craik, Saskatchewan, I came to a crystal clear realization that I needed to put some of these ideas on paper. What came out of this was my first draft of the paper that eventually became Conscientious Future.
My good friend Kyle Laskowski has always been one of the pillars of VOE. It was the two of us who learned from one of our professors that there was an inquiry into the feasibility of nuclear industry development in Saskatchewan.
We felt intensely that the UDP committee was not a body that we trusted to make a fair and objective assessment of the feasibility for nuclear energy in Saskatchewan. There were simply too many people and organizations on the panel who stood to profit if the Saskatchewan government took action to entice the nuclear industry to invest in our province.
In response, we decided to launch a parallel feasibility study, powered by students. We educated ourselves extensively about nuclear energy and large-scale power systems from the ground up. Our technical backgrounds came in very handy, but the project still required a lot of work to complete. During this time we attracted other volunteers to contribute to the project, and some of them continued to contribute to our critique of the UDP Report.
Following the publication of our UDP report, Kyle and I slowly laid down the foundation of our Vision of Earth electrical systems articles, with a particular focus on the renewable forms.
The Standing Committee on Crown and Central Agencies conducted a public inquiry into Saskatchewan’s Energy Future. Kyle and I, along with some of our other friends, attended many of the Regina based consultations in October. There was another set in January, in which we arranged to be one of the presenting groups. We pushed ourselves hard to develop ideas and slides to present to the committee that would be compatible with both major political views at the table.
Thanks to Ben for providing a little bit of background on Vision of Earth. Tomorrow we will get some insight from VOE about one of their initiatives – Publically Administered Green Energy Futures.