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Exploring Oil in Canada through Geographical Concepts

The Politics Surrounding Oil in Canada

Given the importance of oil to our world today it is an object that is worthy of our consideration. In this class, by drawing upon key writers in geography and other cognate disciplines we have critically examined oil from multiple perspectives. We have learned that the politics surrounding oil is often violent and uneven. Furthermore, as humans extract oil the consequences of this extraction have been devastating for the environment.

Once extracted, oil is transformed to produce gas for automobiles, into fertilizers for lawns and myriad other things. But oil has also transformed humans. Simply put, oil is central to our world today and geography as a discipline has sought to untangle oil’s multiple connections.

Key concepts from the discipline of geography such as scale, maps, place (including “sense of place” and “global sense of place”), landscape, nature/society and hazards/disaster are useful to understand oil’s production, transformation and contestations. These concepts are also useful to understand the unfolding of processes such as globalization, capitalism and human/environment interactions (and oil is globalized, capitalized and has influentially shaped human/ environment interactions). For your final essay write a critical essay (9 to 10 pages) on a case study of oil in Canada and show how two concepts (from the following list of six:

(1) scale;

(2) maps;

(3) landscape;

(4) place;

(5) nature/society;

(6) hazards/disaster)

Is helpful to make sense of the case study that you choose to write about. Here I am simply asking that you consider how core geographical concepts that you studied in class are helpful in making sense of a case study of oil in Canada as the goal of this assignment is to give you an opportunity to engage with and build a solid foundation in concepts that are central to geography and use them to analyze the world.

Canada has, as one industry group puts it, the third largest oil reserves in the world.

In order to find a case study of oil in Canada you should begin by reading broadly about oil production, extraction, distribution and contestations in Canada. Some questions that are helpful as you embark on identifying a case study are: Where are the oil deposits in Canada?

How is oil transported in Canada?

What are the hazards of oil production and transportation in Canada?

How are places, landscapes being transformed in Canada as oil is extracted, processed and transported?

What are the contestations around oil in Canada?

If you begin by reading broadly about oil in Canada, then you will have learned about Canada’s oil sands, offshore drilling, pipelines, indigenous contestations of oil, federal vs provincial oil priorities, oil politics at US/Canada border, environmental justice campaigns on oil, etc.

Conducting this preliminary research will put you in a good position from which to pick a case study that is of particular interest to you so that you can research and learn more about it by making it the focus of your essay.

Once you have picked your case study, then decide which two concepts will be most helpful to make sense of the case study. After you have picked the concepts make sure that in your essay you demonstrate an understanding of the concepts.

In order to demonstrate that you understand your chosen two concepts you must use readings on the concept that have been assigned in the syllabus plus an additional reading highlighted in red on this announcement (you can download these).

You may wish to draw upon additional academic articles and books to flesh out concepts, but these should supplement rather than replace the readings on the syllabus and readings in red.

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