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The Patch

The People, Pipelines, and Politics of the Oil Sands

About The Book

Winner of the National Business Book Award
Longlisted for the 2018 BC National Nonfiction Award

Bestselling author Chris Turner brings readers onto the streets of Fort McMurray, showing the myriad ways the oil sands impact our lives and demanding that we ask the question: To both fuel the world and to save it, what do we do about the Patch?

The Patch is the story of Fort McMurray and the oil sands in northern Alberta, the world’s second largest proven reserve of oil. But this is no conventional story about the oil business. Rather, it is a portrait of the lifecycle of the Patch, showing just how deeply it continues to impact the lives of everyone around the world.

In its heyday, the oil sands represented an industrial triumph and the culmination of a century of innovation, experiment, engineering, policy, and finance. Fort McMurray was a boomtown, the centre of a new gold rush, and the oilsands were reshaping the global energy, political, and financial landscapes. But in 2008, a new narrative emerged. As financial markets collapsed and the cold, hard, scientific reality of the Patch’s effect on the environment became clear, the region turned into a boogeyman and a lightning rod for the global movement combatting climate change. Suddenly, the streets of Fort McMurray were the front line of a high-stakes collision between two conflicting worldviews–one of industrial triumph and another of environmental stewardship–each backed by major players on the world stage.

The Patch is a narrative-driven account of this ongoing conflict. It follows a select group of key characters whose experiences in and with the oil sands overlap in concentric narrative arcs. Through this insightful combination of global perspective and on-the-ground action, The Patch will show how the reach of the oil sands extends to all of us. From Fort Mac to the Bakken shale country of North Dakota, from Houston to London, from Saudi Arabia to the shores of Brazil, the whole world is connected in this enterprise. And it demands that we ask the question: In order to both fuel the world and to save it, what do we do about the Patch?

About The Author

Photo by Ashley Bristowe

Chris Turner is an award-winning author and one of Canada’s leading voices on climate change solutions and the global energy transition. His bestsellers The Leap and The Geography of Hope were both National Business Book Award finalists. His feature writing has earned nine National Magazine Awards. He lives in Calgary with his wife, Ashley Bristowe, and their two children. Visit him at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (September 19, 2017)
  • Length: 368 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781501115097

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Raves and Reviews

“This book is a lucid and fair presentation of history, context and science surrounding the tar sands controversy, and, as such a valuable book to think with.”

– Vancouver Sun

“Chris Turner is a voice of sanity in an increasingly shrill and polarized world. He looks at matters critically, cleanly, and honestly, without ideological blinkers. Anyone who wants to understand the complex nature of the oil sands should start with this book.”

– Will Ferguson, bestselling author of The Shoe on the Roof

The Patch breaks from the scrum of industry boosters and celebrity-flashing environmentalists to provide an accessible, balanced perspective on what Turner describes as 'one of the most colossally scaled engineering projects in human history.'"

– Toronto Star

"Turner deftly weaves together the personal and the political, the local and the global. In the process, he gives readers a top-to-bottom, broadly contextual perspective on the past, present, and potential future of an important, if problematic, Canadian resource."

– Quill & Quire

"A personal touch and colourful anecdotes are the book’s core strengths...Turner has provided a holistic account of one of the largest industrial developments in human history."

– The Georgia Straight

"A lucid and fair presentation of history, context and science surrounding the tar sands controversy, and, as such a valuable book to think with...The future of humanity may well be determined by our decisions about fossil fuels, including our contentious tar sands, over the next few decades. We have to get this one right, and thoughtful books like The Patch may well help us do so. This is required reading for all engaged citizens."

– Vancouver Sun

Awards and Honors

  • British Columbia's National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction Longlist
  • Wilfrid Eggleston Award for Nonfiction Finalist
  • High Plains Book Award Medicine & Science Finalist
  • High Plains Book Award Nonfiction Finalist

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