Dr. Fiona MacPhail introduced us to the Corporate Mapping Project (CMP) this past Friday. This project is a partnership between multiple Canadian universities and institutions to investigate the corporate world of the fossil fuel industry in Western Canada. Ultimately, they want to make their findings available to the public for people to make informed decisions and to drive the transition to more sustainable fuels. They plan to do that by investigating four main themes. First, they want to investigate the social network that controls the fossil fuel industry and how corporations are related to each other and to financial institutions. Secondly, they want to concentrate on the funding provided by fossil fuel corporations to political parties and how it influences society. The third theme was the one that intrigued me the most. The CMP plans on investigating the influence of the fossil fuel industry at the local level. I was not aware that these companies finance many schools in rural areas. This makes the transition to sustainable fuels tricky as many small communities depend on this funding and do not have any other alternative to help them. Finally, the CMP also plans on investigating ways to achieve the transition to sustainable fuels.
While I did learn a lot from the presentation (I did not know that this kind of project/initiative existed), I did struggle with some aspects of it. First, she mentioned a lot of statistics and numbers and I thought some of her arguments and explanations got lost because of that. I also was not familiar with the concept and goals of typologies and I would have liked her to go more into details about that and what it brought to the project.
In terms of methods, there is not much overlap with my personal research. However, this project highlights the advantages and the power of transdisciplinary work. The fossil fuel industry affects the economy, politics, the environment and trying to understand their network requires a good understanding of the social aspect of corporations. You could not fully map the corporate networks and their influences without considering all of these aspects simultaneously and how they relate to one another. Using a transdisciplinary approach here allows us to tackle a problem affecting multiple aspects of society.
For the question period, I thought Dr. MacPhail did a good job of answering questions and if she did not know the answers, she would direct the audience to another member of the CMP. If I could ask a question, I would ask if there are any other similar initiatives taking place around the world.