Canadian Academics and the Money Pipeline
A few years back, at a meeting of the English department at a major Canadian university, the issue that excited the indignation of the department was the wide divergence between faculty salaries and the comparative pittance allotted to sessional instructors. My wife, a full professor and director of several committees over the years, proposed that tenured faculty might throw their support behind the part-time instructors, offering in the next round of collective bargaining to absorb a small pay cut in exchange for an increase in part-timer’s wages. After all, she reasoned, if departmental concern were to be more than mere virtue signaling or self-indulgent rhetoric, a modest fraction of bountiful faculty paycheques should not be too much to ask. Her suggestion was met with incredulous and patronizing laughter and was immediately dismissed.
This incident offers a window onto the mental landscape of many academics, especially in the humanities and social science programs—professors who are good with words but bad at moral principle, whose skill with language masks an inner spiritual vacuum and lack of compassion for those whom they pretend to champion.
But such academics, by and large, are not only lacquered hypocrites, they are both technological illiterates and economic simpletons. One of the latest issues now agitating the Canadian academic community—again, I speak primarily of the Humanities and Social Sciences departments, where practical ignorance is a bedrock feature—is the campaign against the country’s energy sector, chiefly in Alberta and Newfoundland.
Some 265 academics have signed an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau objecting to the bailout package the government is preparing for the oil and gas companies in financially-strapped Alberta. It seems obvious that the bailout is merely a sweetener toward the eventual extinction of the energy sector. The anti-oil profs would rather see the entire operation immediately scrapped. Instead, financial resources should be allocated to conservation, public transportation, fighting climate change “and other areas of mitigation and adaptation to global warming.” The fact that the most responsible science reveals that “global warming” is a handy myth fostered by those who would profit from Big Green is never considered.*
“Research shows,” our pedagogues inform us, “that investments in both social services and sustainable energy produce far more jobs than comparable investments in the capital-intensive oil and gas sector”—but such “research” remains conveniently unaddressed and thus impossible to analyze. Similarly, many of the claims made throughout the document are devoid of links or context. The signatories complain that the oil industry has received substantial government subsidies, but they do not mention that every country in the world supports its energy zone to maintain a level playing field, or that non-oil based companies, such as Canada’s aviation firm Bombardier, auto manufacturers like GM and Chrysler, scandal-plagued engineering giant SNC-Lavalin and others also benefit from significant government largesse.
As Tex Leugner, editor of the Action Alberta newsletter, indicates in a personal communication, mining (potash, diamond, uranium, etc.) and manufacturing are go unmentioned. “The implication of course is that only carbon based subsidies were included nationally.” In other words, why no focus on other extraction industries or the aforementioned subsidized companies with their “environmentally-unfriendly” cars, trucks, buses, airplanes, and heavy machinery tearing at Gaia’s bowels? The obsession with oil plainly trumps every other consideration in the effort to demolish the armature of daily existence. One takedown at a time.
Moreover, it would seem highly doubtful that green investments would come even close to matching the jobs supplied by the oil and gas industry or equalling the $359 billion flowing from energy industries to government from 2000 to 2018. Citing Statistics Canada, the Financial Post points out that the energy industry outstripped banking, real estate and construction in corporate taxes alone. Conversely, Big Green, with its fetish on “renewables,” its soaring costs, and Solyndra-like boondoggles, thrives on subsidies, not royalties.
Interestingly, the lead authors of the letter, Laurie Adkin and Debra Davidson, are professors from an institution intimately at risk, the University of Alberta. Neither of these self-proclaimed authorities has any expertise in the energy sector, recognition of job-creating spinoffs, nor any business experience worth mentioning—unless Political Science and Environmental Sociology constitute areas of pertinent credibility. They are joined among the signatories by psychologists, epidemiologists , social workers, media and cinema types, artists, curators, librarians and urban planners—many of whom know nothing about the vital economic issues at hand.
Newfoundland finds itself in the same unenviable situation as Alberta. Its offshore oil industry, as Rex Murphy reports in the National Post, is to be “deferred indefinitely,” in effect killing the “roughly $7 billion Bay du Nord project… the first ‘deep water’ oilfield” in the country. In a rare instance of administrative common sense, Newfoundland’s Memorial University president Vianne Timmons spoke out in favor of the energy project: “If it’s important to Newfoundland, it’s important to Memorial University.”
Her statement did not sit well with faculty, who viewed it as “very disappointing to see (a) kind of open-ended support” for the oil industry. Professor and faculty association executive Josh Lepawsky was predictably offended. “There’s a risk that this kind of open-ended support for the oil and gas industry voiced by the president may reduce or chill those who are critical of it, and that’s an imposition on academic freedom.” Anything the faculty does not like, apparently, is a threat against academic freedom. The complete non sequitur of his formulation was obviously lost on him, especially given how often university faculties voice anti-oil sentiments without risking academic freedom. (Timmons herself later softened her uncharacteristic prudence. "But we do have a climate crisis,” she conceded, “and we must also work on research, teaching and service in that area to try and improve our processes around energy.")
That advancements in industry standards have rendered extraction and delivery safer than ever, that hundreds of thousands of jobs and working families depend on the survival of the energy sector, and that nothing less than national solvency is at stake escapes the coddled academic mindset. After all, academics can afford to pontificate. They are tenured or tenure-track; they are for the most part ignorant of the empirical world, having rarely worked with their hands, engaged in productive labor or experienced the risks attendant on business ventures or entrepreneurship; they enjoy hefty guaranteed salaries, annual raises and cushy pensions for long service. They need not fear layoffs or bankruptcies, and are by profession enamored of theory but alien to heuristic practice. To quote Nassim Nicholas Taleb from Skin in the Game, “If you give advice, you need to be exposed to losses from it.”
I reiterate that I am speaking chiefly of academics who teach in the Humanities and the Social Sciences, professors who are sublimely oblivious of the fact that their salaries, benefits and facilities derive in large measure from the very quarter they will do everything in their power to shut down. The pipelines they would dismantle are the very pipelines that feed their incomes and pensions—which, as noted above, they will not share with their less fortunate colleagues—and that provide the buildings, offices, classrooms, appliances, heating, air conditioning, furniture, amenities, supplies and equipment without which they would find themselves out in the cold. As Neven Sesardić argues in When Reason Goes on Holiday, philosophers in particular and academics in general have a rather shaky connection to the exigencies of everyday life and should be more circumspect and humble when pronouncing on real-world matters. They should struggle “to break the grip of groupthink.” No matter. The workplace is the wokeplace.
We need also consider that these faculties have deteriorated from the classical model of rigorous and impartial education, having become propaganda outlets and disinformation centers serving the political left, useless, irrelevant or harmful with regard to the public good. Taxpayer funding is grossly wasted subsidizing departments that have bought into political correctness, cultural Marxism, radical environmentalism, global warming and the “social justice” epidemic at the expense of real learning and scholarly discipline, not to mention the resource industries on which the future of the country rests.
To put it bluntly, most contemporary academics, with the differential exception of those in business (maybe), medicine and STEM, are parasites living off the sweat of other people’s labor. Their departments should be ruthlessly downsized and the money pipeline made to flow the other way, toward the sectors that actually contribute to the nation’s prosperity and well-being. Or, like my wife, once they grow aware of how far academia has fallen from intellectual rectitude and disinterested instruction, they should take early retirement and preserve their self-respect.
* In a previous article for The Pipeline, I referred readers to such reputable studies as Elaine Dewar’s Cloak of Green, John Casey’s Dark Winter, Norman Rogers’ Dumb Energy and Bruce Bunker’s The Mythology of Global Warming: Climate Change Fiction vs. Scientific Facts, works whose findings would appear to be definitive. The real “climate deniers”—i.e., those who believe in Anthropogenic Global Warming and divestment from essential industries—might also consult Robert Zubrin’s magisterial Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism, Donna Laframboise’s acetylene exposé of the IPCC at the United Nations The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World's Top Climate Expert, and Alan Carlin’s politically and scientifically informative Environmentalism Gone Mad. There are many other excellent studies and monographs on the subject, too numerous to mention here. I suspect that none of these books will find a home on any academic syllabus.