This article explains the reasoning behind the federal-Alberta review panel decision and explores the political implications of that decision.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Environmental studies, world issues, economics, politics

Key Questions to Explore:

  • What are the environmental issues associated with this project?
  • What was the basis for this decision?
  • Who sat on the panel?
  • What are the political implications of this decision?

New Terminology:

Frontier oil sands mine

Materials Needed:

Copies of the article for the groups

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

The debate over economy vs environment continues to rage. But does it have to be so? The reality of climate change and the need to address this problem must surely change our thinking and our actions if we are to avoid the disasters which lie ahead if we do not. Instead of viewing these competing interests in an adversarial context we should be seeking ways in which they complement each other. This would obviously require a dramatic change in our thinking and also in the ways in which we live our lives and earn our living. Our future prosperity, if we are to have any future at all, rests in renewable energy, environmentally-friendly living practices and creative solutions to the challenges of climate change. This lesson will have the students engage in a creative thinking exercise which will require them to imagine a world in which the environment is paramount and actively supported by an economy which has adjusted to renewable energy and focused on minimizing waste and pollution. This imagined new world would also involve changes in personal behaviour and the ways in which we go about our daily business.

Action (lesson plan and task):

  • Begin the lesson by asking the students if they can recall any examples of the conflict between the environment and the economy.
  • Once they have identified some, indicate to them that there has been a recommendation that an oil sands project go ahead despite the environmental impact.
  • Provide the students with a copy of the article and allow them time to read it.
  • Once they have done so, hold a brief plenary session to get their reactions to what they have just read.
  • Ask them if they believe that it always has to be a battle between these two viewpoints or whether there could be a different reality.
  • With this as background, indicate to them that the focus of the lesson is going to be a creative exercise involving a rethinking of our future.
  • Divide the class in groups of five or six and assign the following task:

Imagine that you live in a society in which, although the environment and its protection are the primary focus, the economy and business are thriving and the citizens are dedicated to behaviour which reinforce and support this focus.

Describe what you believe would be the new reality in each of the following areas:

    1. What new businesses would exist and what old businesses would have disappeared?
    2. How would the way we live our lives be different in areas such as: purchasing practices; how we travel; food consumption; housing etc.
    3. What would we expect from our leaders – locally, nationally and internationally?
    4. Any other noteworthy adjustments that you can imagine.
  • Allow the groups time to discuss the task and prepare their response.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Have each group present their responses and respond to any questions or comments that may arise as a result of their presentation.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

The students will:

  1. indicate an understanding of the need for individuals to take responsibility for changes in their behaviour;
  2. demonstrate how businesses and industries will have to change their focus and behaviour;
  3. outline how adjustments will have to be made to the ways in which we live our daily lives.

Confirming Activity:

  • Have the students examine the suggestions from the groups and discuss which they believe could be short-term adjustments and which they see as longer term but necessary changes if we are seriously to address the challenges presented by climate change.