Real Choices

I’ve just learned that the final MetaWars book is off to the printer.  MetaWars 4.0: The Freedom Frontier is the best yet. I’m incredibly proud of it, and I think fans will freak out. It combines the action and adventure of the first books with a more mature outlook. Jonah and Sam are older, have grown together as friends and combatants, and face their most deadly test.

MetaWars 4

The book is set mostly in the real world, a departure for the MetaWars novels, and takes place entirely in Canada.  The geography of the novel reflects trips I’ve taken, exploring the arctic north and travelling via train through the majestic rocky mountains.

Via Rail trip I took as a boy.

Via Rail trip I took as a boy.

 

While there is amazing natural beauty in this part of Canada, there is also industrial-scale environmental destruction.

Alberta's oil sands contain the world's second largest known deposit of oil after Saudi Arabia.

Alberta’s oil sands contain the world’s second largest known deposit of oil after Saudi Arabia.

A large section of the book takes place around Fort McMurray, the epicentre and home base for the Alberta oil sands exploration and extraction.

Home base to the oil sands industry in Northern Alberta.

Home base to the oil sands industry in Northern Alberta.

The process of extracting oil for the tarry sands in Northern Alberta isn’t like drilling a well and waiting for oil to gush out; it’s much more energy intensive, first requiring the ground be dug up (underneath trees and tundra) and then heated to separate the oil from the Earth.  This process requires massive energy and water use, making the oil sands one of the least efficient methods of producing oil (which is why it’s only viable above a threshold level of price per barrel).  When I was a high school student, learning about Canadian geography, the oil sands were something far in the future and something to be proud of – finally Canada could become an oil producing/exporting powerhouse.

The overarching theme in MetaWars is choice; forcing us to face our own choices, especially with respect to “real” vs. “virtual.”  MetaWars highlights our collective “hiding” within technology, focusing on a virtual world (twitter, Facebook, Minecraft) instead of living for real in the real world – dealing with real world issues.

I believe the oil sands project is the ultimate test of our choices; do we choose to pursue destructive oil extraction techniques or do we face the real challenge of meeting the world’s energy needs in a more sustainable way?

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