Ex-Oil and Gas Employee Receives Nomination for Alberta Order of Excellence for Artistic Accomplishments

Ex-Oil and Gas Employee Receives Nomination for Alberta Order of Excellence for Artistic Accomplishments

I am humbled and overwhelmed by the recent nomination for the Alberta Order of Excellence. It has been an extremely productive year since my solo show June 1, 2023. I am sharing this for all those who have had to start over, start again and pivot their career goals. It is important to know that if you are in this position, it is possible to recreate yourself when you focus on something you care deeply about.

 After 30 years in the energy industry, I left to be a full-time artist. I am exclusively focused on sharing Canada’s reclamation, land preservation, and conservation success stories. This is not something that happened overnight, however, it is something that has received incredible support from my peers, the industry and from reclamation and conservation groups. I am deeply grateful.

 The ART of Reclamation this year had a combined total of over 20,000 visitors (from exhibits at the Calgary Petroleum Club, the Global Energy Show, the World Petroleum Congress, 10Peaks Conference for students and educators, the Telus Spark Future in Trades and Technology conference, the CharBar pop-up Exhibition, the Calgary public library and Chinook Blast.

 I couldn’t help but notice four amazing findings from speaking with the public, energy professionals, students, and environmental advocates. I have, in error, made assumptions about what others might read, watch online, or see in a photo, and I am on a quest now to share my findings with others.

 The public art exhibitions this past year of painted reclaimed sites have confirmed for me, that the public, (regardless of their job function, age, education, or career) is unaware that:

  •  They have been bombarded with bad news stories, for a very long time now, of our energy sector. The good news stories on local news and papers are reserved for funny TikTok cat videos and posts that have gone viral due to an influencer. The energy companies, the news, and the professional associations are not successfully reaching the public with the good news stories of energy development here in Canada. If an organization is focused on the populous “cause of the day” and what colour ribbon you should be wearing to prove that you are not a bad person, you are missing your long-term ESG targets to share your success stories on Social, Governance and Environment, in public spaces.
  • Workers in personal protective equipment at reclamation sites are not being exposed to toxic and industrial activity. If a photo is taken of professionals in coveralls and hardhats in photos, the public does not think they are “safe” the public thinks the area is “hazardous”. The public will likely not be convinced that a reclaimed site has clean water and clean soil if the people in the photos are wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). The public is largely unaware that reclamation activities are happening and certainly are unaware when a site is complete. When reclamation is done well, it is invisible - as it blends in seamlessly with the natural environment.
  • We all have trust issues with Canadian Energy Companies. The companies are focused on ESG targets and reclamation certificates and forgetting that to earn good faith and elevate their trust with the public, you must engage with the public in a meaningful way. Guess what, the public doesn’t read your ESG report or the 100-page sustainability report. They are not aware of the good work you are doing to engage Indigenous elders, local greenhouses and the best scientists, botanists, and lab technicians to plan, cultivate grow and monitor your reclamation sites.  Energy companies need to carefully look at what their goal is. If it is to only check the regulatory boxes, they are succeeding. If they want to ensure energy security exists in Canada, they must pivot and change the way they communicate to the general public. Efforts must be made to reach those outside the professional groups associated with the O&G community.
  • We all drive past or hike in a reclaimed resource site every day. Yes, most reclaimed sites are in remote areas, however, the ones that are close to cities and towns in this country that we love, are sometimes only commemorated with a small plaque on a path. The plaque is easily lost in the noise of laugher and photo-ops when your family is enjoying Butchart Gardens in Victoria, Carburn Park in Calgary, swimming in Quarry Lake in Canmore or hitting that birdie shot on the 8th hole at Cabot links in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

As an artist, I am proud to paint these reclaimed sites and share the industry’s articles, videos and VR footage of the reclamation process to share these success stories.

Please contact me directly if you would like to reframe the conversation.

Reclaimed land is a gift that takes a very long time to deliver. Canadian industry is doing their best to learn from past mistakes and provide world class standards in reclamation.

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