Urban Energy Futures
Full-time, 10 credits (DIAL 390W, 391W)
Cheap, safe, reliable energy is essential to modern urban life. The first and second industrial revolutions were powered by new forms of energy. Modern cities could not have been built without ready access to assured supplies of energy from coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear fission and hydro power. Yet the place of energy in our economy has become one of the most contested issues in our politics - witness the divisive debates over new pipelines, LNG terminals, and the site C dam.
At a global scale, burning fossil fuels for energy is by far the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions which are in turn are driving changes in the Earth's climate with unpredictable effects on the lives of millions of people. Renewable energy offers a promising alternative to fossil fuels - but the transition away from the sources of energy that have driven economic growth for the past two centuries will be contested, disruptive and uneven.
Against this larger context, cities have become global laboratories for the transition to a clean energy economy. Many individuals and communities are taking their energy future into their own hands by installing their own roof-top solar panels or community owned windmills. Local governments have begun setting targets prescribing how and when energy use in their communities should shift in favour of renewables.
In the last two years, Vancouver has positioned itself at the fore-front of this emerging global movement by setting the goal of 100% renewable energy across all major sectors of urban energy use by 2050. Other communities in Metro Vancouver have embarked on their own low carbon energy transition plans.
Is the goal of 100% renewable energy achievable at a cost which consumers are willing to bear? How can a city persuade its citizens to make fundamental changes in the way they have always used energy? Is this the job of a city in the first place? And what should be the continuing role of fossil fuels in the urban economy of the future?
This course will tackle these hard questions about Canada's energy future and the role of energy in urban life in Canada within an innovative and intense experiential learning environment. We will take a fresh look at the city around us and learn more about how energy is being used in old and new ways. We will talk to thought leaders, visit energy producers and distributors and develop group projects that serve local communities. At that same time, we will introduce methods of deliberative dialogue and community engagement to learn new ways of talking and thinking with people about these divisive issues.
The goal will be to teach the skills required to build the understanding, empathy and broad-based agreement that will be necessary to move towards a clean energy future in Canadian cities. We welcome applications from students from all disciplines and hope to have as wide a range of them as possible represented in the cohort for this course.
The course will be led by two experienced practitioners of dialogue and public policy.
Shauna Sylvester is the Director of the SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue. She is a Professor of Professional Practice in FASS and has been an experienced facilitator, thought leader and social entrepreneur for over thirty years.
Shauna has founded four organizations Carbon Talks, Renewable Cities, Canada’s World and IMPACS – the Institute for Media, Policy and Civil Society, and she has led a number of university wide initiatives focused on city-building including two week-long Community Summits: Alone Together: Addressing Isolation in the Urban Environment and We The City. Shauna also facilitated the Mayor of Vancouver’s Task Force on Affordable Housing, served on the Greenest City Action Plan External Oversight Body and was the lead Convener of Moving in a Livable Region, the largest consortium of business, academic, labour and community organizations working on transportation funding in BC.
Shauna is also an active volunteer and has served as a board member of the Downtown Business Improvement Association, Mountain Equipment Cooperative, Vancity Credit Union, Vancity Capital, the Voluntary Sector Initiative, the BC Assessment Authority and numerous non-profit organizations.
Michael Small is a Climate Solutions Fellow of the Centre for Dialogue. From 2015 – 2018 he was the first Executive Director of the Centre's program called Renewable Cities, which supports cities in the transition towards 100% renewable energy. As Executive Director, he hosted Renewable Cities Global Learning Forum in May 2015 and again in May 2017.
Prior to joining SFU, Michael was a senior executive in the Canadian Foreign Service and a Canadian diplomat for thirty-four years. He served as Canada’s High Commissioner to Australia from 2010 – 2014. In Ottawa, from 2006 – 2010 he was Assistant Deputy Minister for Global Issues and then for Human Resources in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. He served as Canada’s Ambassador to Cuba from 2000 – 2003. Earlier in his career, he played a leading role in shaping Canada’s human security agenda for Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy and as the Co-ordinator for the Canadian delegation to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
Michael is the author of a case study of third party mediation in international conflict called “The Forgotten Peace: Niagara Falls, 1914” (University of Ottawa Press, 2009). He is a Fellow of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. He was also the curator of two travelling photographic exhibits, “Canada – Cuba: One Hundred Years in View” (2003) and “Pacific Currents” (1996).