MRU students come to a rational middle
A fourth year class project is encouraging conversation about energy solutions from both sides
Some of Mount Royal University’s marketing students have been gathering people from either sides of the energy debate to talk about our future, and they’re doing it through a board game.
A group of 30 students from the MKTG 4850 class – taught by Patti Derbyshire – was hired by The Rational Middle Energy Series, an organization that creates awareness surrounding energy consumption.
The board game demonstrates how much energy different everyday appliances use. Players have to guess using the card in their hands that contain different quantities of BTU (British Thermal Units).
Although the organization is funded by Shell, the oil and gas company doesn’t interfere with the Rational Middle organization, who promote a message that supports neither side of the debate but encourages both positions to come to a rational middle.
Timothy Cheng and Alice Korbel are two students who are involved in the project. They are two members of the media relations team, and they told The Reflector about their progress from humble beginnings to final product.
The Reflector: Can you guys give me an overview of your project?
Cheng: Our client is the Rational Middle and they have a [series] directed by Gregory Kallenberg, and the whole thing is sponsored by Shell, but they keep an arm’s distance away from the whole project just to let them have free range, transparency and all that sort of stuff. The first season is centered around the U.S., because he is from the U.S., and the second season is more centered around Canada. So the goal of the whole thing is just to increase awareness about the world’s energy consumption, the world’s energy future, coming together in the rational middle to create a better energy future for the entire world.
Korbel: [It’s about] conserving energy while also using energy efficient appliances. Just using all the information that you can and learning as much as you can about energy and consumption to basically have a cleaner future.
TR: You’ve presented this project at Telus Spark Science Centre. Can you tell me more about that?
C: All the adult nights at the Telus Spark have a theme. It was Carl Sagan night who is a scientist known for his philosophies about science. One of his major philosophies was to look at problem from all perspectives before you make a decision and that is what the Rational Middle is all about: making the two polar opposites come together in the middle to discuss and to create ideas together. Actually, the director of the series came to visit us at the Telus Sparks that night. He flew in all the way from Texas because he just thought it was amazing.
TR: What are your goals for this project?
C: We had about four main goals when we were doing this project. But the major one was definitely to get the word out there, increase awareness about the Rational Middle, and increase discussion and awareness about everyday general energy needs and industry energy needs. Canada is such a resource rich country and especially in terms of energy and the U.S. as well because they own the world pretty much.
K: I would say that the main goal would be exactly what the name of the series is called: rational middle. We want to create a platform and increase dialogue coming into a rational middle about energy consumption. Usually you only hear polar opposites. You either hear just the environmentalists, with renewable energy like hydro and wind power, or you hear from oil and gas. Most people aren’t going to stop using their cellphones, laptops and all these things that make our lives easier so at the end of the day if we want to continue using what we like using then we really have to create dialogue about how we’re going to make it efficient and how to bring the energy consumption down. We have to be realistic when we think about how we are going to do this. People are not going to stop using their cellphones or driving their cars so let’s just figure this out.
C: The primary goals were, like we said, to increase awareness. But we also wanted to encourage people to join the conversation thorough online and offline events, we wanted to share facts through local engagement, build a target audience. We also had measures of success, so for example three media hits like the Herald and City TV and The Reflector. In terms of education, our goal was 100 people but we hit way over. Telus Spark was already around 600 or 800 plus. Then there’s increasing conversation and so we were tracking all the online hits like the Facebook and Twitter feeds and all the Rational Middle stuff like their hits on the website and stuff like that.
TR: Why do you guys think that this is so important to talk about – you’ve mentioned creating awareness – but what is the importance of it?
K: Because of certain environmental things that are going on, I think that this is essential. It’s not even about ‘should we or shouldn’t we’. It’s that we have to sit down and talk about it and the quicker we do that the quicker we can do something to save our planet.
C: Not trying to sound like a tree-hugger or anything, but there’s only one Earth and we have to use it wisely. And also, one thing that I really like about how the whole company approached us instead of going down to Shell and the other big oil companies and talking to them and saying ‘we should figure out an energy future together’.
TR: What did you guys learn through this process?
K: I think that I have grown as a student like more in this class than in any other class I can honestly say. Even though sometimes I am waking up kicking and screaming saying ‘no, I don’t wanna do it’, it really taught me more about myself than in any other class in terms of time management, when it comes to organization, being a leader. We’ve really even become really close friends because of it because we had to lean on each other in order to be successful.
C: You know when you read a job description and it says things like ‘time management, good organizer,’ those things aren’t just ‘blah blahs’ anymore; I know what that is now. I can write that on my resumé now because I know how to time manage. Our resumé is more concrete now, that’s what I would say from this class. But in terms of energy, I was a chemistry student for two years and I thought I was pretty energy literate but I had only scratched the surface. I think we now have a way better understanding of energy like how much we consume, what our energy future will look like – hopefully.