Book Review: After the Sands

By Karri Munn-Venn

From the Catalyst, Summer 2017

After the Sands: Energy and Ecological Security for Canadians
By Gordon Laxer
Douglas & McIntyre, 2015

Reviewed by Karri Munn-Venn

After the Sands is a fascinating, if dense, history of Canadian energy policy, offered by prominent Alberta political economist, Gordon Laxer.

At its core, After the Sands is a call for a fundamental reorientation of government approaches to energy policy and societal understanding of the urgency of the climate crisis.

Laxer makes the case that in order to ensure the long-term energy security of all Canadians, the federal government must reorganize Canadian energy policy. This means nationalizing the oil and gas sector and reorienting transportation infrastructure so that Canadian energy needs are prioritized over exports.

By way of his comprehensive, and tremendously helpful, overview of North American pipeline history, he then links the issue of energy security with the question of ecological security.

As he approaches his conclusion, Laxer identifies the globalized economy, with its emphasis on endless growth, as the primary challenge to climate stability. He advocates for conservation, driven by a spirit of “enoughness,” as central to a liveable future. In brief, he says, we must “curb greenhouse gas emissions, conserve remaining natural gas and conventional oil supplies, and leave Sands oil in the soil.”

After the Sands is thorough, well-researched, and thought-provoking. Published just prior to Canada’s change in government in 2015, it provides a good reminder of how things have changed over the last two years. While the context has shifted, Laxer’s recommendations for bold and innovative action remain worthy of consideration.

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