Fuel and faith: A spiritual geography of fossil fuels in Western Canada

Author: 
Date created: 
2021-04-16
Identifier: 
etd21337
Keywords: 
Petroculture
Christianity
Environmental communication
Fossil fuels
Abstract: 

With the acceleration of climate change, Canada's commitment to action on carbon emissions faces several vital contradictions. These tensions have economic, social, and communicative dimensions. This research seeks to investigate some of these manifestations by looking at how energy is understood and articulated through the lens of faith. Unique to the Canadian cultural/petrol landscape is that the physical geography of extraction and transport often overlaps with the cultural and spiritual geographies of protestant Christian faith. To date, few scholars have tackled this subject through this specific lens. While some scholars and Christian leaders have begun to address the overlapping relations of climate change, fossil fuels, and belief (Marshall, 2020; Dochuk, 2019; Jenkins, Berry, & Kreider, 2018; Hayhoe, 2018; Ghosh, 2017; Taylor, Van Wieren, & Zaleha, 2016; Franics, 2015; McDuff, 2012; Wilkinson, 2012; Peterson, 2010; Yergin, 2008), this has yet to be explored significantly within Canadian communications and energy scholarship. With the third largest proven oil reserves in the world, much of it located and transported through Western Canada’s Christian and Evangelical heartlands, (rural Alberta and the BC Fraser Valley and Okanagan), this research has much to add to a growing conversation around fossil fuels. In particular, it offers novel perspectives on the varied negotiations of labour, care, and identity that surround energy production, consumption, and transition. To do this, the thesis conducts a review of Canadian English language mainstream legacy media coverage of faith-based fossil fuel news stories, from 2016-2018, a period of significant public and discursive contestation over pipelines in Canada. This analysis is then paired with a series of one-on-one interviews and focus group conversations with faith leaders and believers in communities primarily along the Trans Mountain Pipeline route. These conversations explore how lived experiences of faith are constituted by, and also challenge, dominant narratives in Canada’s legacy media. Of particular focus is the way in which high carbon living is reflected in national news discourses of economy, wellbeing, and nation. Importantly, this is not intended to be a work of theology, but rather an examination of the way that particular religious identities and subjectivities mediate understandings of climate change and fossil fuels.

Document type: 
Thesis
Rights: 
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes. Copyright remains with the author.
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Shane Gunster
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Statistics: