Does National Unity Have to be a Casualty of Canada’s Energy Debate?

Does National Unity Have to be a Casualty of Canada’s Energy Debate?

Workers are laying down their tools across the Canadian oilpatch as the price slump draws on. Alberta had a net loss of nearly 20,000 jobs in 2015, with skilled workers being laid off and little hope in sight. The reaction, then, to talks of climate action has been often hostile, with people fearing more economic damage from carbon pricing or other new environmental regulation.

Climate change action is not something that can be done gingerly, with the cooperation of emissions-intensive industries, while doing little to disrupt the status quo. Environmental psychologist Renee Lertzman says this kind of wishful thinking is not a helpful way to approach a complex issue.

“It sounds to me like it’s a mode of leadership that’s not really applying…emotional intelligence,” says Lertzman. “As humans we have tremendous capacity and capability to deal with this. When we communicate in ways where we’re trying to be cautious we can unintentionally send a message that’s deeply disempowering. What’s most needed, in fact, is leadership that’s deeply empowering, that’s above-board, that’s compassionate but grounded and strong.”

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