The papers gathered in Found in Alberta: Environmental Themes for the Anthropocene were originally delivered as part of the inaugural Under Western Skies Conference at Mount Royal University in 2010. Since 2010, that initial conference has morphed into an important biennial conference series of the same name. As such, the essays from the original conference, published in 2014, are now seven years old. Given that even with digital technologies it nevertheless still seems to take four or five years from completion of an article to publication in an academic book, I was interested to see how well the essays had weathered the intervening years. What happens to an anthology of critical essays as it matures, particularly one that includes papers that address current issues?
Some of the papers – including Maude Barlow's Foreword – refer to the policies or practices of the Alberta Government. During a run of forty-four years of a single political party – the Progressive Conservatives – holding power, if ever a single referent might have been considered a stable one, that would have been it. However, as one reads those words in 2016, one must consciously insert "Progressive Conservative" between "Alberta's" and "Government," a useful exercise for simultaneously assessing to what extent the New Democratic Party has been able in a short time to make concrete changes. Given the fact that the PCs were in power for over two generations and the effects linger at the legislative, policy, institutional, and individual level, the issues dealt with in those articles certainly have not dated: Albertans younger than forty-four as of 2015 had only ever lived under a single provincial party and ideology. [End Page 150]
The anthology consists of seventeen essays grouped under five headings: "Found in Alberta," "Bituminous Sands," "Policy and Legal Perspectives," "Wilderness," and "Shared Horizons." Contributors include professors of English, geography, law, philosophy, history, social work, communications, fine arts, political science, and environmental studies. Although the collection is multidisciplinary, thanks to the lingua franca of theory, none of the essays seem abstruse or overly discipline-specific. Essays under each heading also speak to others across their categories. Duane Bratt's essay on the nuclear energy debate in Alberta and Saskatchewan complements those gathered under "Bituminous Sands" just as Kover's on Burtynsky's photographs pairs well with Sean Atkins' on religious, nationalist, and poetic representations of the Great Divide, and Benedict Fullalove's on "Place, Desire, and Maps: Representing Wilderness at the Columbia Icefield." Indeed, since in his essay "From Railway to Pipeline: The Great Divide as Landscape and Rhetoric," Atkins only mentions pipelines in his first and last paragraphs, it could have been placed in the "Wilderness" section.
Of the nineteen contributors (one essay has three authors) three are women, and none to my knowledge are Indigenous, though one essay compares representations of Indigeneity by an Inuvialuit writer with those of three right-wing settlers: Sam McKegney's article is a resounding deconstruction of the ethnocentric, racist ideology behind the representations of Indigenous people by Tom Flanagan, Frances Widdowson, and Albert Howard. Along with McKegney's article, Rob Boschman's incisive and affecting narrative scholarship essay "Bum Steer: E. coli and the Nature-Culture Dichotomy" and T.R. Kover's essay "Are the Oil Sands Sublime? Edward Burtynsky and the Vicissitudes of the Sublime" deserve special mention.
One of the aspects of the afterlife of these 2010 conference papers seven years onward is that the anthology has evolved into an ideal textbook for fourth-year undergraduate or graduate courses on Canada in the Anthropocene. One could easily organize a course adhering to the five different sections of the book or produce one's own alternate groupings such as those above. Geo Takach's essay on bituminous documentaries provides a useful overview for a filmic course component that could be framed by Conny Davidsen's overview of "Critical Literacy and Discursive Governance Control(s) in Canada's Oil/Tar Sands" and Lysack et al. on "Fostering Environmental Citizenship." Despite the presence of the word "Alberta" in the...