Open letter to Canadian Geographic criticizes oil bias

Screenshot from Canadian Geographic website

Dear Mr. Harris,

I was very interested to see the June, 2013 issue of Canadian Geographic (to which I have subscribed for years) centered on the theme of "Energy Matters". The subtitle, "13+ things you didn't know about energy in Canada" led me to believe initially that the article would be a broad look at all aspects of energy production and use in this country.

To my astonishment, I learned that the content of this article was strictly limited to enumerating the sites and magnitude of energy production in Canada. I was less astonished to see this narrow focus when I learned that the article had been partnered with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

But then, I learned that the Royal Canadian Geographical Society is being funded by the CAPP in its planned Energy IQ program to be distributed to children in schools throughout the country. In this program, an large amount of the phraseology is lifted straight from the public materials created by the fossil fuel industry.

On carefully reviewing the article on page 34 of the June issue of CG, the slant in favour of fossil fuel production was clear. For example, five out of seven illustrations, including the most dramatic and visually arresting initial one, are from the fossil fuel industry.

But it is what is left out that is most telling. There is no reference to government subsidies to the various energy industries, which in the case of the nuclear industry, for example are key to its survival. Most glaring of all, there is no reference to global warming, despite the fact that the climatological impacts of energy production are one of the key issues that is discussed in the public media these days. Whether intentionally or not, CG is being used as an extension of the public relations department of the CAPP.

To help me better understand how this could have come about, I would be grateful if you would let me know what financial arrangements have been established between the RCGS and the CAPP. In my profession, sponsored studies have been clearly shown to engender unmistakable bias.

Thank you very much for your attention to this matter.




Warren Bell M.D.

More in Opinion

A Greenpeace publicity stunt has affected an archeological site in Peru

By wrecking an iconic archeological site, Greenpeace ruined the UN climate convention for Peru

A tour guide once told me that walking in the Nazca desert in Peru is like walking on the moon’s surface. The dry, windless climate and the particularities of the land in the desert prevent...
The Lima Talks: The inside and the outside

Inside the Lima Climate Change Conference

As one climate justice activist from a low lying island state put it: “They are talking about adapting to a world that is 4 degrees Celsius warmer, but we don’t exist in that world.”
Photo by Luka Tomac.Latin Americans pay the price for corporate climate

Latin Americans pay the price for corporate climate destruction

Information contained in a new report  that details how multi-national corporations are destroying the environment and causing serious climate damage in Latin America brings attention to an...
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.

Framing the picture.

Framing, no matter how it is construed, is still a form of brain washing or indoctrination. It has been used on children extensively (religious schools et cetera) and it works. Shame on Canadian Geographic for promoting an oil industry mindset. Jeffrey Simpson, B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D.

I add my own degrees since it was the style set by the first contributor.

As British Petroleum said in its 2013 Energy Report - "If you combust all the goop in the tar sands, it will fry the planet."

Energy IQ - Example

So, here is an example of what CAPP and the Canadian Geographic are wanting our children to understand:

- Energy from electricity at 10 cents per kWh is equivalent to $360 per GJ;

- A GJ of energy from natural gas is $3.60.

- A GJ of energy from Alberta Oil is $12.

Do you now see why there is a need for better education on energy in this country when activists like the VO and others advocate that wind power is solution to our 'energy addiction.'



Dr. Warren Bell's letter to Canadian Geographic re oil bias

Many thanks for your timely letter in which you state:

"But then, I learned that the Royal Canadian Geographical Society is being funded by the CAPP in its planned Energy IQ program to be distributed to children in schools throughout the country.....Whether intentionally or not, CG is being used as an extension of the public relations department of the CAPP."

How could the blatant bias identified by Dr. Bell in the Energy IQ program be allowed to slip so silently into our school curriculums? This is an appalling occurrence.

Please--teachers and educational institutions--let us know! 

just when I was so impressed with Canadian Geographic

I agree with your statements regarding the funding by CAPP of the magazine.  I only hope that the teachers and administrators will not take up the education program being offered by the CanGeo and CAPP.  Unless, they are able to balance it with information that challenges the notions of our future being secure with the extraction industry.  It has so much money at its disposal that one would not be blamed for losing hope that the public will ever know the true risks to the earth.  That the oil and gas industry is going after the children reminds me of the federal policies that brought about the residential schools - don't worry about the unreachable adults, kill the Indian in the child.