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Mission Transition: Clean Energy and Beyond (Season 1 and 2)

By Sierra Club BC; Hosted by Susan Elrington and Caitlyn Vernon

November 4, 2021

Review By Nick Stanger

In 2018 and 2019, Sierra Club BC, through the leadership of Caitlyn Vernon and former CBC host and broadcaster, Susan Elrington, released an episodic educational podcast resource called Mission Transition: Clean Energy and Beyond.  This podcast not only provides insights and critical reflections into current environmental (and particularly sustainable energy-related) initiatives but does so in an accessible, easy-to-understand, and celebratory way.

It is the breadth of the program that I was so struck with when listening to both seasons.  In a world that has changed substantially due to a global pandemic since these originally were released, you might ask: how relevant are the episodes?  Other than an occasional reference to pre-pandemic housing prices, Provincial or Federal incentive programs, or lack of charging infrastructure for cars, they continue to maintain relevancy.  This podcast should be seen as an excellent introductory resource for educators, instructors, and homeowners interested in learning more about the complexity of energy production, use, and distribution in and around British Columbia.

Elrington and Vernon explore a myriad of topics in the transition to a new clean energy economy: jobs, technology, policies, energy production, land, and Indigenous sovereignty.  They artfully weave these topics together so that learning can take place over a longer multi-episodic arc, as well as through quick (each episode is approximately 22 mins) insights into one topic.  In addition, they have released full recordings of some of Elrington’s interviews as bonus episodes for listeners who want to take a deeper dive into the topics. Over the course of two seasons, the holistic analysis of energy use, distribution, access, and innovation within British Columbia not only explores what is happening in the province currently, but looks forward to the potential for a clean energy economy:

When we set out to do a series on the clean energy economy, we figured we would find a fair amount of resistance to the idea. From workers who worry about losing well-paying jobs, to small busines owners who worry about the cost of converting to clean energy.  But we were wrong. Everywhere we went we found people who were embracing clean energy and who were at least curious about how a new economy would work and what their place would be in it. (Teaser, 1:03)

Some of the highlight episodes from 2018 include: Building Smarter, which explores new technologies and building science related to reducing carbon and other impacts; Jobs in Clean Energy, which challenges assumptions about the process of transitioning to a clean energy economy; and First Nations Leading the Way, which highlights several First Nation community efforts and ingenuity in creating their own power.  The political examination in the episode entitled Who owns our power is an essential and culminating piece that unifies much of the first season.

 In the 2019 episodes, Sue and Caitlyn continue to focus on complexity, hope, and agency in transitioning to a cleaner energy economy, with episodes like What is Clean Energy, Taking Back Our Power, Rethinking Land, and Riding into the Future. Themes in these episodes deal with transportation systems, property ownership, rights and their intersections with Indigenous sovereignty movements, and the responsibility of government systems in adapting to the climate crisis.

Whether you live in a rural part of British Columbia, work for any level of government, own a business in an urban center, or identify as Indigenous, Mission Transition provides an excellent primer in the overlapping and interwoven topics relating to energy within the province.  The research and interviews are well balanced among resource industry, non-governmental, and governmental sources.  They are also spread geographically across the province, providing insights beyond those of the usual suspects within this field.  While listening to this series, the academic in me yearned for a season three that might tackle some of the theoretical innovations in energy studies such as energy justice, renewables forecasting, consumer responses, net energy, and lifecycle analysis.  But perhaps that is the point of the podcast, to make these seemingly complex thoughts more digestible and help everyone elevate their energy literacy.

The critical, yet not criticism-heavy, approach of Mission Transition leaves listeners with new information and, more importantly, ways in which to engage in supporting energy alternatives within British Columbia.  I highly recommend this resource.

Publication Information

Elrington, Susan and Caitlyn Vernon. Mission Transition: Clean Energy and Beyond. Sierra Club BC. podcast. https://sierraclub.bc.ca/podcast/