The State of Extraction: Corporate Imperatives, Public Knowledge, and Global Struggles

March 27-29 2015 Simon Fraser University, Vancouver Coast Salish Territories

Canada is home to three quarters of the world’s mining companies, and the country also boasts the world’s single largest mining project: the Alberta tar sands. Concerns about whether or not Canada is becoming a petro state fold into the reality that it is already the quintessential extractive state. Canadian based companies are perpetually embroiled in disputes, often with indigenous populations, related to the social and environmental impacts of their activities in Canada, Latin America, Asia and Africa; meanwhile, concerns over anthropogenic climate change have centered in recent years around the tar sands, various proposed pipelines, LNG fracking, renewed and expanding coal projects, and the current Government’s determination to fully develop and exploit its fossil fuel resources (rather than devote public resources to a meaningful consideration of sustainable alternatives). However, the social, economic, and ecological impacts of this situation have received inadequate public attention and critical debate—despite the warning of the global scientific community and the attempts by indigenous communities to assert their rights and protect their traditional territories.

The goal of The State of Extraction is to bring together indigenous leadership, academics, artists and public intellectuals from a variety of disciplines, activists engaged in various struggles related to resource extraction (including oil, gas, coal and rare earth metals), representatives of affected communities from the global north and south, and the general public to examine the new face of resource capitalism in Canada and its influence on the world; the (lack of) public debate about such issues and the role of resource capitalism in structuring (and frustrating) such debate; as well as models of alternative economic and social development. The intention is thus to move through the full range of issues: from the economics and politics of extraction, through its varied social and ecological impacts, across the terrain of social struggle and public debate, to the various alternatives to fossil fuels and current mining practices. All these many strands will be brought together through a series of presentations and roundtable discussions with leading thinkers, activists, community leaders and public intellectuals, open public debate, and participatory workshops.

Working from the pre-conference “primer,” we hope to use the conference as an opportunity to strategize around building an inclusive climate and mining justice movement, building more effective solidarity across and between struggling communities, and planning for the road ahead. Ideally, this will result in a collective statement of purpose from conference participants.