That’s the question Sabrina Burns, a petroleum engineering student got from an Uber driver in 2018. She and some fellow students were headed to a petroleum industry banquet, and at the time it seemed a little silly. While many younger people questioned the wisdom of going into the oil industry, conventional wisdom held that the oil industry is a great career.
While students in other majors and other people she knew questioned the wisdom of being an oil major, her parents persuaded her to stick with the oil industry. Her father, who worked as a helicopter pilot, met a lot of successful women working as engineers on offshore oil rigs. On top of that, older generations probably have a harder time imagining a world in which the oil industry isn’t stable, lucrative, and essential to everyone’s lives.
2020 threw these older generations and any younger believers a curveball, though. “We got a slap in the face, an entirely unforeseen situation that rocked our entire mind-set,” said Ms. Burns when asked about her prospects by Clifford Krauss at The New York Times. “I have applied for every oil and gas position I’ve seen, like all my classmates, and nothing really has turned up. I’m discouraged.”
What was once seemingly invincible was now stumbling and couldn’t be counted on.
The biggest blow to graduating oil students was the sudden drop in oil demand due to the pandemic. Oil products like gasoline and jet fuel weren’t needed nearly as much because people worked from home, many businesses were closed, and travel was avoided. With all of this lost demand despite ample supplies, prices tanked.
With such low demand and low prices, the industry took a big hit. Over 100,000 people were laid off. Workers weren’t needed in the field to pump oil that wasn’t needed, and refineries were closed. Some oil companies even declared bankruptcy.
This stands in stark contrast to the better years, when these students started their college careers. The oil industry and the faculties of colleges felt they could promise great careers, with lots of job security and a good income. Under Donald Trump, shale drilling and “fracking” took off, and the United States became the world’s largest producer of oil. There had been booms and busts in the industry in the past, but those seemed to affect less educated field workers, and not people with engineering or geology degrees.
With these prospects gone, and future climate change issues seeming likely to hurt the industry even after the pandemic is over, oil students are looking at other options going forward. Sabrina Burns told The New York Times that she’s looking to intern in a related but different field, and that she may need to go back to school for a graduate degree in Environmental Science to have a better career. She is even considering moving in with family to make ends meet while recharting a new course for her career.
In the same article, Krauss goes on to interview a number of other students in the industry. Their stories are all pretty similar. Some expect the industry to bounce back, and are biding their time. Others are looking to take on a graduate degree while waiting, but are hedging their bets by majoring in something else for their master’s degrees.
One student actually landed a job, but the company is looking at diversifying to avoid future exposure to what could be a failing industry in future years. He is glad to have found a job, but worries that his education and skills he’s building won’t transfer well to other parts of the energy economy.
Some Things We Can Learn Here
Readers of CleanTechnica are probably having an “I told you so” moment reading this. People following the energy industry could see that renewables, battery storage, and other technologies aren’t competing with oil just yet, but have a much brighter future than oil, which isn’t growing. Oil is still big, though, and has a lot of inertia, so it’s not going away now or even in the next four years under Biden and then likely Harris.
What many (even among us) didn’t foresee was how oil’s newfound weakness would leave it more vulnerable to crises, like the one we currently face with COVID-19. Oil is weakening and growth has less potential than ever, but at the same time it wasn’t shrinking. A sudden jolt in demand for gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel hit them hard, though.
Few people fully avoided the impacts of the tsunami of COVID, but electricity is a lot more diversified. In my home, we use electricity for heating, cooling, and most of our driving. We use it for lighting, entertainment, cooking, and security. The cats and dog even have toys powered by electricity. When we turn on the tap, electric pumps somewhere else in town provide the pressure. LED street lamps light the street in front of our home.
Sure, I drive a lot less now not taking the kids to school, but our overall power bill didn’t take a huge drop.
On the other hand, our use of gasoline took a HUGE hit. In the last nine months, we’ve spent far less than $200 on the stuff. The occasional trip to the next town makes our Nissan LEAF struggle for range, and we’ve driven there on gasoline power only twice. The prior year, we probably did this dozens of times. Trips to see family, where we need to pile the whole family into the family SUV, are also a lot more rare. A tank of gas used to last one to two months in those vehicles, but now last three to four, if not more.
We don’t use gasoline for anything else, so oil companies are taking a much bigger hit than companies involved in electricity generation, whether they’re renewable or fossil fuel-powered. Even when fossil fuels are used to generate, very few power stations run on oil. Natural gas is far more common, and comes from a related but different industry than oil.
Another important lesson we can find here is that it’s wise to question the prevailing narrative. Yes, oil has been very strong in the past, but that doesn’t mean it will necessarily be strong in the future. No industry is a sure bet, but this was an area where generational bias caused parents to mislead their children into a bad career move.
This is no trivial thing. Most of the students will go on to find another career, and some will eventually succeed in oil as the pandemic ends. However, they’ll still have tens of thousands of dollars of debt that they wouldn’t have had, and a harder time servicing that debt than they would have had if their parents had been more forward looking.
Oil is Not Invincible
On the other hand, there’s a silver lining. Seeing oil stumble shows us that it’s not invincible. As Ivan Vanko in Iron Man 2 says, “If you could make God bleed, people would cease to believe in Him. There will be blood in the water, the sharks will come. All I have to do is sit back and watch as the world consumes you.”
If you don’t remember the film, Iron Man (a character partially modeled after Elon Musk) is at the top of the world and the top of his game, giving global leaders security with his unique Iron Man suit. He seemed invincible until someone with his father’s arc reactor technology attacks him, only narrowly losing the fight. Once he didn’t seem invincible, a variety of enemies emerged, including business competitors and government officials who wanted to take him down when he seemed weak.
A similar moment is happening with oil. It seemed like a god, but now it’s a god that failed. Its blood is in the water, and the sharks are definitely circling. It might sound too dramatic to use the imagery of sharks here, but imagine being a student $50,000 in debt with no job prospects. The fear is quite real for some.
Don’t assume that oil is some Goliath that can’t be beat. All it took was a rock in just the right place (COVID-19) to bring him down.
Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to explore the Southwest US with her partner, kids, and animals. Follow her on Twitter for her latest articles and other random things: https://twitter.com/JenniferSensiba
Do you think I’ve been helpful in your understanding of Tesla, clean energy, etc? Feel free to use my Tesla referral code to get yourself (and me) some small perks and discounts on their cars and solar products. https://www.tesla.com/referral/jennifer90562
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the university sector under greater scrutiny. In some cases, this has prompted new conversations about the purpose of higher education. These have included the extent to which universities are upholding their commitment to public service, and whether the current institutional adjustments in universities will change the way higher education is delivered.
But what do students themselves think about what university is for? In 2017-18, my colleagues and I asked 295 students across six European countries – Denmark, England, Germany, Ireland, Poland and Spain – about what they believed to be the purpose of university study. Their responses shed light on the possible future of higher education in Europe.
This research, which forms part of the Eurostudents project, investigates how undergraduate students understand the purpose of higher education. We found that for many students, it serves three particular functions: to gain decent employment, to achieve personal growth, and to contribute to improvement in society.
But there were interesting variations in students’ views, which often corresponded to how much they had to pay for their studies.
The career ladder
The most common purpose of higher education that students spoke about was to prepare themselves for the labour market. Some students stated that a degree was essential to avoid having to take up a low-skilled job. However, many students believed that an undergraduate degree was insufficient for highly skilled or professional employment.
Here, we see a shift from a conception of higher education as an investment to help move up a social class to viewing it as insurance against downward social mobility.
As a student in England said:
I don’t really think there’s much of an option. If you want to get a decent job these days, you’ve got to go to university because people won’t look at you if you haven’t been.
There were some differences across countries. Emphasis on the purpose of university education being preparation for the job market was strongest in the three countries in our sample where students had to make greater personal financial contributions: England, Ireland and Spain.
The students in our study also discussed ideas of personal growth and enrichment. This was the case in all six countries, including in England where the higher education sector is highly marketised. This means it is set up as a competitive market, where students pay tuition fees and are protected by consumer rights legislation, while metrics such as league tables encourage competition among institutions.
Some students emphasised how they were “growing” through the knowledge they were gaining. Others placed more emphasis on aspects of wider learning that they had experienced since embarking upon their degree. This included interacting with a more diverse group of people than they had previously, and having to be more independent.
Students in Denmark, Germany and Poland talked about this kind of growth – which happened outside formal classes – more frequently than students in the other three nations. Notably, in these countries, students make less of a personal financial contribution to the cost of their university study. When this purpose was mentioned by English students, it was associated particularly with learning how to live independently.
Students in all six countries talked about how higher education could improve society. This was brought up most frequently in Denmark, Germany and Poland – where students receive greater support from the government and make less of a personal financial investment to their university education than in the other countries in our sample.
Students tended to talk about their contribution to society by attending university in one of three ways: by contributing to a more enlightened society, by creating a more critical and reflective society, and by helping their country to be viewed more competitively worldwide.
A Polish student said:
[University education is critical to] shaping a responsible and wise society … one which is not blind, which will do as it is told.
Meanwhile, a Danish student commented:
We’re such a small country, we have to do well … we have to do better because there are so many people around the world … we have to work even harder to compete with them.
Only Danish and Irish students spoke about national competitiveness in this way. This is likely to be linked to specific geo-political and economic factors, particularly the relatively small size of both nations when compared to some of their European neighbours and the structure of their labour markets.
It is unsurprising to find that many students across Europe believe that a key purpose of university study is to equip them for the job market, as this is often the common message given by governments.
Nevertheless, as shown here, many students have broader views. They see the value of higher education in promoting democratic and critical engagement, while also furthering collective, rather than solely individual, ends.
The national variation we found also suggests that the enduring differences in funding across the continent may affect on how higher education is understood by students.
Ellie Bothwell on how Turkish refugee academics ‘facing rights violations abroad’ in the Times Higher Education reports that a Study finds dismissed supporters of Academics for Peace struggling to gain residence permits, find work and travel. Here is the story of
Turkish refugee academics ‘facing rights violations abroad’
5 January 2021
Turkish scholars who have had to leave the country are still subject to significant human rights violations from both the regime of their home nation and their new environment, according to a report.
The study from the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) is based on interviews with nine Turkish academics who are now living in Germany and France after signing a 2016 Academics for Peace petition that criticised military action in Kurdish regions of the country. They subsequently lost their jobs and were banned from working in the public sector in Turkey.
The research, Violations of Rights Experienced by Dismissed Academics Living Abroad, finds that these scholars are still suffering almost five years later and that the human rights violations they had suffered in Turkey have “acquired a cross-border dimension”.
In some cases, consulates refused to issue academics with new passports because of their dismissal, and they were then unable to apply for a residence permit and became undocumented, affecting their ability to find accommodation and work. Some academics have not been able to travel outside their city of residence for more than four years because of the differing practices regarding residence permits in their new countries or states.
Scholars also spoke about how their treatment had affected their academic work and said that they were particularly afraid of being targeted in classes with large numbers of students from Turkey. Some academics said they had had to stop lecturing because students had complained to consulates that their course content or discussions in lectures amounted to “terrorist propaganda”.
The interviewees highlighted how the stigmatisation of civil servants dismissed in the wake of the 2016 coup attempt was widespread not only in Turkey but also among people from Turkey living abroad. Some scholars said that they were forced to make an effort to conceal their dismissal and had been subjected to threats by neighbours and shopkeepers.
The report adds that the “impact of multiple crises and violations has become far more distressing with the disrupting repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic”.
“Academics are caught in a cycle of uncertainty due to the difficulty of obtaining residence permits based on employment in their country of residence. The precariousness and deprivation, which is experienced by dismissed academics and their relatives living in Turkey, has also severely affected those living abroad,” it says.
Lülüfer Körükmez, a researcher at the HRFT and co-author of the report, said that the experiences of dismissed Turkish academics living abroad was “a very under-researched, under-observed and under-reported area”.
“People think that when you leave the country then you are OK. But it is not OK because they still have cultural and political connections with the country and they face violations of rights,” she said.
Mehmet Ugur, professor of economics and institutions at the University of Greenwich and a member of Academics for Peace, said that the HRFT report “should put to shame European governments and international organisations for failing to challenge the Turkish government’s authoritarian and warmongering drive that is still costing lives not only in Turkey but also in the region”.
British Museum celebrates over a decade of collecting Contemporary Art of the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) with new exhibition as per BWW News Desk. But why a decade of collecting contemporary art of the MENA? Let us find out.
The exhibition will debut in February 2021.
In February 2021, the British Museum will celebrate over a decade of collecting contemporary art of the Middle East and North Africa. Featuring over 100 works on paper from the collection, Reflections: contemporary art of the Middle East and North Africa weaves together a rich tapestry of artistic expression from artists born in or connected to countries from Iran to Morocco. These artists reflect on their own societies, all of which have experienced extraordinary changes in living memory. From drawings by artists trained in Paris, Rome, Beirut or Jerusalem (1) to works associated with the Syrian uprisings (2), the exhibition challenges perceptions of the contemporary art of the region, with a range of works of great complexity and beauty.
The works in this exhibition reflect the British Museum’s position as a museum of human history, past, present and future. The CaMMEA (Contemporary and Modern Middle Eastern Art) acquisition group has been central to the speed at which this collection has come together in recent years and its remarkable breadth. This collection of works on paper includes drawings, screenprints, photography and artist’s books. While works by artists of this region have been collected by the British Museum since the 1980s, CaMMEA was formed in 2009 with the guiding principle of enabling future generations to see what was being produced during a particular time as well as to record significant moments in the history of the MENA region.
Reflections highlights issues of gender, identity, faith, politics and memory. Also communicated within the exhibition are ideas about poetry, music and war. The artists whether living in the countries of their birth or in diaspora, belong within the globalised world of art, and many allude to the artistic or literary heritage with which they are associated.
At the outset of the exhibition, Nicky Nodjoumi’s The Accident (2013) (3) challenges preconceptions about Middle Eastern art and highlights the complexities of being an artist in diaspora. From there, the first room focuses on the uses of figuration and abstraction with important works including Marwan’s Gesichtslandschaft (4) (Face Landscape, 1973) in which he transforms his own likeness into a landscape reminiscent of the land of Syria, or Yehuda Bacon who evokes the memory of family members who perished in the Holocaust (5). Huda Lutfi’s Al-Sitt and her Sunglasses (2008) (6) and Hayv Kahraman’s Honor Killing (2006) (7) bring their own perspectives to the female gaze. Monir’s captivating mirror drawing is informed both by the architectural heritage of Iran, and by philosophies of minimalism and abstraction (8). For Burhan Doğançay, inspiration for his abstract paintings is found in the urban walls of New York (9).
The second room is entitled Tangled Histories and shows political struggle, revolution and war across the region through the eyes of artists. While there are works relating to a specific event, such as the burning of the National Library of Baghdad in 2003,(10) or the demonstration by women against the enforced wearing of the hijab in 1979, (11) others emerge from and address longer-running struggles, and focus on the complexities of the Israel/Palestine conflict, the Lebanese Civil War or the ongoing war in Syria. Further works highlight one of the defining issues of our time, that of exile and migration through the photographs of the late Leila Alaoui. (12)
Visitors will be encouraged to explore further by visiting the British Museum’s Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic world (Rooms 42-43) where additional works from this collection will be displayed including Taysir Batniji’s painting (13) exploring the notion of being between worlds, Khalil Joreije and Joana Hadjithomas’ photography and drawing series Faces (2009) (14), and a collection of artist books.
Venetia Porter, Curator, Islamic and contemporary Middle Eastern art, British Museum said: ‘The acquisition of many of the works in this exhibition is thanks to the tireless work of the members of the CaMMEA group. We are so grateful to them for working with the museum to acquire such interesting and important works for the collection. Through the prism of personal experience, the artists in this exhibition present us with a refracted image of a region: there is no one narrative here, but a multiplicity of stories.’
Drafted by representatives of diverse legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration sets out universal values and a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. It establishes the equal dignity and worth of every person. Thanks to the Declaration, and States’ commitments to its principles, the dignity of millions has been uplifted and the foundation for a more just world has been laid. While its promise is yet to be fully realized, the very fact that it has stood the test of time is testament to the enduring universality of its perennial values of equality, justice and human dignity.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights empowers us all. The principles enshrined in the Declaration are as relevant today as they were in 1948. We need to stand up for our own rights and those of others. We can take action in our own daily lives, to uphold the rights that protect us all and thereby promote the kinship of all human beings.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.