Andrew Nikiforuk shares a lot of words in written form in The Tyee. But hearing him speak his brilliant mind in person is a rare event. You’ll have that opportunity on Wednesday, Nov. 17, when Nikiforuk gives the prestigious Harvey S. Southam lecture by invitation of the department of writing at the University of Victoria. If you can’t be in the room, the address will be livestreamed.
The title of his talk is “Energy Dead-Ends: Green Lies, Climate Change and Chaotic Transitions.” If you’ve been reading Nikiforuk over the years, you may recognize some of those themes. This presentation, he said in a phone conversation, will not only knit together research and forecasts in new ways, but explore fresh territory.
“I’ll be driving towards six general thoughts for young people, including withdrawing from the technosphere, defending the natural world and building refuges,” he said.
As the UVic website for the event notes: “Nikiforuk’s work, which has appeared in the nation’s leading publications, has earned numerous awards, including a Governor General’s Award for Non-Fiction, the Rachel Carson Environment Book Award and seven National Magazine Awards.
“His books on climate change (Empire of the Beetle) and energy (Tar Sands, The Energy of Slaves and Slick Water) have encouraged public reflection and debate. Whether speaking or writing about disappearing wildlife, peak oil, pandemics or the destruction of the boreal forest, Nikiforuk has earned a reputation as an honest and provocative voice in Canadian journalism.”
As the same website notes, one of Nikiforuk’s favourite quotes is this by G.K. Chesterton: “I believe in getting into hot water: it keeps you clean.”
Last week, he immersed Tyee readers in a pair of scalding pieces that might prove a preview of his talk on Wednesday.
In the first one, he upbraids political and corporate leaders who try and convince us that endlessly growing consumption can continue because green technologies will allow us to maintain the same lifestyles while cutting greenhouse emissions. Nikiforuk dismantles the cases for some of the most hotly promoted green tech fixes.
Then, in the second piece, he proffers the only real defense, he says, against climate change and the unravelling of the planet’s many intertwined ecosystems: collectively consume less.
To be specific, return our economy to 1970s levels in terms of energy and other resources extracted from the planet.
In his talk Wednesday, Nikiforuk says, he will not only argue for transforming the economy to a smaller one we can live with.
“We are really facing two questions,” he says. “Can we manage an energy descent, or can we prepare to experience a chaotic collapse?
“We might not be able to stop what’s coming and if not, can we prepare our communities and families for the great unravelling?
“I’m neither a pessimist nor an optimist, but a realist. We must face our crisis of civilization the same bold way that James Baldwin addressed the issue of race in the 1960s.
“'People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction,’ Baldwin wrote, 'and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.’”
How to sign up to watch
Andrew Nikiforuk’s free public lecture, “Energy Dead-Ends: Green Lies, Climate Change and Chaotic Transitions,” runs 2 to 3:15 p.m. PST on Wednesday, Nov. 17, in room 124 of UVic’s engineering and computer science building, and via webinar.
Register here for the webinar.
About the Southam Lecture
In giving the Southam Lecture this year at UVic, Nikiforuk joins a succession of previous journalists of national renown invited to share their knowledge with the university and local community as a visiting lecturer and/or a journalist-in-residence, thanks to the Harvey Stevenson Southam Lecture Fund in Journalism and Non-Fiction.
Well over a dozen lecturers have delivered a diverse range of courses to UVic students and talks to the general public, including the likes of photojournalist Farah Nosh, bestselling author Brian Payton, CBC broadcaster Jo-Ann Roberts and Ojibway journalist and author Richard Wagamese.
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