Amelia M. Kiddle, ed. Energy in the Americas: Critical Reflections on Energy and History. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2021.
As world leaders met in Glasgow at the COP26 Climate Summit to negotiate emissions reductions as part of their efforts to address the climate crisis, their climate plans and the role of energy production and consumption in their countries’ emissions targets were the subject of great media scrutiny.
A familiar refrain emerged: whereas Canada’s commitments and targets, as disappointingly low as they are, seek to balance the transition from fossil fuels with regional economic imperatives, the concerns of workers in energy industries, and the environmental imperatives of climate change, plans from countries south of the Rio Grande were motivated by “energy nationalism,” a seemingly irrational attachment to fossil fuels. Mexico’s president Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s statements are dismissed as “bizarre” and “archaic,” while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s commitments are merely “vague.” In truth, both governments and societies have a long way to go.
This coverage—and much of the scholarship, as this new edited volume on the history of energy in the Americas argues—ignores the commonalities of energy histories in North and South America.
“By de-pathologizing and instead historicizing energy nationalism, the authors show that national policies and energy industries have evolved in response to changing technologies, changing ideas regarding the role of the state in society, and a sadly common disregard for the voices of Indigenous peoples.”
By employing a hemispheric perspective, the volume’s contributions demonstrate that the histories of energy production and consumption throughout the Americas have more in common than meets the eye, in narratives that naturalize market-based approaches to energy production. By de-pathologizing and instead historicizing energy nationalism, the authors show that national policies and energy industries have evolved in response to changing technologies, changing ideas regarding the role of the state in society, and a sadly common disregard for the voices of Indigenous peoples, whose traditional territories are so often the focus of the extractivist ethos that gives rise to mega projects from northern Canada to southern Chile.
We hope that this open access volume will contribute to emerging conversations on comparative and comprehensive histories of energy in society in the hemisphere. The urgency of the present crisis demands that we analyse the historical construction of ideas about the role of energy in modern societies, in order that we might meet the challenges of the present with a better understanding of the past.
Join the editor, Dr. Amelia Kiddle, as well as the contributors, and Dr. Petra Dolata, the editor of the University of Calgary Press’s Energy Histories, Cultures, and Politics series for the launch of this timely volume on Wednesday, December 8, 2021 (1:00pm Eastern).
Feature Image: “Oil well pump jacks” by Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.
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