It’s difficult these days to have a conversation about energy without also talking about the economy and the environment. That’s why the Canada Science and Technology Museum launched Let’s Talk Energy, an initiative that brings together a national network of partners and advisors to inform and engage Canadians on energy topics to support them in making informed choices.
Canadian Innovation News spoke with Jason Armstrong, who manages Let’s Talk Energy, about how the approach to energy and innovation will change when the Canada Science and Technology Museum reopens in November.
CIN: Is growing public concern over climate change having an influence on how the museum approaches the issue of energy?
Armstrong: We have been talking about climate change since 2011, but starting around 2015 we saw a much bigger appetite for this type of information. People were asking more questions. They were more curious about the connections between how we produce and use energy and the climate.
CIN: What new exhibits can we expect to see?
Armstrong: While construction was still going on we launched a climate change exhibition called Climate Change is Here. The outdoor travelling exhibit highlights Canadian research in the field of climate change and technologies developed to help mitigate it. After spending the summer in Ottawa, it arrived in Mexico last October and will be back in Canada soon.
Here at the museum, the first thing visitors will see is something on our building’s front lawn that looks like a giant donut. It’s a tidal turbine from Clean Current that was used in the Bay of Fundy (Nova Scotia) and on the west coast to research how to harness energy from the ocean. Full-sized ones are now operating in the Bay of Fundy.
CIN: How else will the museum be sharing Canada’s rich energy history?
Armstrong: Energy is the lifeblood of modern society and Canada is rich in energy resources. We have significant oil, gas, uranium, wind and hydroelectricity resources, and have done amazing research in these areas. One of our new exhibits will feature the tokamak reactor, the experimental fusion reactor that was operated by Hydro Quebec. We also have a wind energy collection from the National Research Council that shows Canada’s early leadership in wind energy research starting in the 1970s and 80s.
CIN: One of the goals of Let’s Talk Energy is to improve energy literacy. I assume then there is a strong focus on knowledge translation?
Armstrong: As a museum, we take complex topics like energy and climate change and look at the latest research, innovations and policies to help the general public understand what it all means. For example, we look at how you go about developing these resources. The decisions we make as a society have long-term economic, social and environmental consequences. A hydroelectric dam could last 100 years, oil pipelines 50 and a refurbished nuclear power plant 30 years, so the choices we make to our energy system really matter.
There’s a lot of complexity in these issues and also a lot of rhetoric, so as a national museum that is looking at the science behind this, we provide factual information that helps people make informed decisions.