Human life is impossible without energy. It can indeed be understood as a process of energy exchange between human beings and their environment. Oil today is the single most important energy resource for the lives and the way of life of Canadians. .
However, oil is a finite resource, and there is an ongoing debate surrounding what has been termed “peak oil” . Current discussions are not so much focused on whether peak oil will happen, but rather, on when it will happen, and what will be the scope and range of its effects.
Some U.S. researchers have begun to examine how this phenomenon affects health outcomes and to consider possible responses by the public health sector. Many of these researchers attended a conference entitled “Peak Oil and Health” organized by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in March, 2009. Canadian public health circles have thus far been less engaged with these issues. To begin to clarify what is at stake specifically for Canadian public health with regards to peak oil, François Gagnon from the National Collaborating Centre for Healthy Public Policy (NCCHPP) interviewed Dr. Donald W. Spady, a paediatrician/epidemiologist in the Departments of Pediatrics and Public Health Sciences of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, who is keenly interested in this issue and has been following these debates and engaging in conferences and webinars about them for the past few years.
The Centre would like to thank Dr. Jay Wortman, Senior Medical Advisor, Health Canada's First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, and Dr. Normand Mousseau, a Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Montréal, for their generous contributions during the preparation of this document.