The conversation surrounding the opposition of oil sands and the fight for eco-justice has been too buzz-worthy to ignore. But it should come as no surprise that our environmental agenda still needs reworking. Though it won’t come overnight, Canada is engaging in a shift in attitude that reaffirms our eco-consciousness. One of the new campaigns leading the push to go green are—surprisingly enough—oil sands workers.
The non-profit initiative Iron & Earth, created last June, seeks to diversify Canada’s energy grid by retraining trades workers and introducing renewables into this job force. Currently, the campaign has a team of 15 volunteers and part-time staff and 335 workers members—some with full-time jobs, some still without.
Electrician and volunteer east coast director of Iron & Earth, Adam Cormier, says proposing a green initiative became a necessity for these workers for number of reasons.
“Iron & Earth began as a conversation around the lunch table in the oil sands about a year ago,” he says. “We were watching oil prices plummet and our jobs disappear and all at the same time we’re seeing this huge growth in renewables around the world. There’s billions invested and thousands of jobs being created.”
For Cormier, the initiative behind Iron & Earth is two-fold—creating long-term stable employment with the added benefit of our environment’s health.
“It’s a simple win-win because we can diversify job opportunities for all Canadian workers with a policy that supports renewables.”
Cormier says while the initiative is adamant on pursuing renewables, Iron & Earth is in fact not against the oil and gas sector, but rather only the minimization of it.
“We started as oil sands workers and some of us still are, so we’re not going to call for the shutdown of the industry,” he says. “But we can see the world is moving away from fossil fuels and into renewables and we want to make sure we have the skills and knowledge to build the infrastructure of tomorrow.”
A huge part of Iron & Earth’s future is to expand all across Canada says Cormier. They’re looking to develop specific campaigns for each region that reflects their own unique global energy resources and the maritimes has a massive advantage in renewables.
Catherine Abreu, energy coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre, says Iron & Earth’s initiative is the direction Canada needs to be headed in, especially for the Maritimes.
“We’ve been watching young people move out of the Maritimes to find work elsewhere for decades,” says Abreu. “That works against the economic stability of our province and also a negative impact on our communities.”
Iron & Earth is looking for more members from the Maritimes to get on board—both trained workers and partners, so oil sands workers can secure their jobs and remain within their community.
“There’s no deception or trickery here, “ says Cormier. “We are what we say, and our mission is to catalyze our energy sector in Canada both for our own job security and for the benefit of our planet.”