The citizens of Trinidad and Tobago are complicit in the immoral activity of oil and gas production. That is the view of Professor David Hughes in his new book Energy Without Conscience: Oil, Climate Change and Complicity.
In this lively and provocative work, Hughes asks us to consider why the world is slow in seeing climate change as a moral issue and what it is about the use of fossil fuels that avoids widespread ethical scrutiny? The author focuses on Trinidad and Tobago, the world’s oldest petro state, with the first continuously oil-producing well dating back to 1866.
Through interviews with petroleum scientists, policy makers, technicians and managers, mixed with historical research, the author draws parallels between 18th-19th Century slave-labour-energy econony and contemporary oil production in T&T. Slavery relied, he reasons, as does the exploitation of fossil fuels on silence and collusion to absolve the producer and consumer from acknowledging the immoral nature of their dependency.
For him, energy systems, including slavery, are embedded in moral economies and can therefore be reconfigured, if we had the political will to do so. It requires us to reject arguments that oil is economically, politically and technologically necessary. Only then can we begin the task of stemming the enormous damage we are doing to the planet.
In launching the book at the NGC Bocas Lit Fest in its Big Idea slot, Prof. David Hughes will be joined in a panel discussion with Mr. Eden Shand, a former deputy Minister of the Environment who opposed the paving of the Savannah, Dr. Thackwray “Dax” Driver, CEO of the Energy Chamber, and UWI lecturer Dr. Gabrielle Hosein. The discussion will be chaired by senior journalist Sunity Maharaj and includes a Q&A session.
This, the first of the 2017 Bocas debates, will set the mood for a the festival that is not short on ideas worthy of our focus. Human rights, the contentious issue that tops the international agenda, is at the heart of Bocas’ both serious and entertaining 2017 programming that includes an ole mas’ competiton on that theme and a Open Mic competition Stand up for Your Rights, judged by the Hon. Chief Justice, Ivor Archie.
Energy Without Conscience will be launched in the AV Room, lower ground floor of the National Library at 4.30pm on Monday 24 April. It is free and open to the public. Click for more event details.