Marriage on the rocks

Sociology’s counsel for our struggling energy–society relationships

Authored by: Debra J. Davidson

Routledge International Handbook of Social and Environmental Change

Print publication date:  October  2013
Online publication date:  October  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415782791
eBook ISBN: 9780203814550
Adobe ISBN: 9781136707995


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In January 2012, amid much fanfare, US President Barack Obama rejected an application to build a new pipeline, the Keystone XL, for transporting synthetic crude oil from Alberta, Canada to Nebraska. Just two months later, however, he granted approval to extend the existing Keystone Pipeline from Alberta all the way to Texas. In December 2012, meanwhile, China commenced transport of gas through the world’s longest natural gas pipeline, constructed at a cost US$22 billion and traversing 8,700 kilometres through Central Asia to the Yangtze River delta. Further North, Canada had its largest contingent of troops ever in the Arctic, where Norway moved its military command centre in 2010. Canada and Norway are just two of several countries that see the melting Arctic in terms of its resource exploitation possibilities. On the other side of the world, Nigeria exports some two million barrels a day of oil and experienced GDP growth in 2010 of 8.4 per cent, but nonetheless bore a poverty rate of 70 per cent, a life expectancy of 47.5 years and an infant mortality rate of 92 deaths per 1,000 live births (CIA 2012). Back in North America, over three million Mexicans confronted food insecurity in the face of one of the worst droughts in generations in 2012, a harbinger of events likely to increase in frequency and intensity due to our changing climate. Despite an extraordinary expenditure of political resources in the past two decades, global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2012 were the highest ever, at about 50 gigatonnes.

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