Calgary’s Andrew Nikiforuk humbled by $20,000 Writer’s Trust award by Eric Volmers, November 20, 2013, Calgary Herald
Calgary writer Andrew Nikiforuk received the prestigious $20,000 Matt Cohen Award on Wednesday evening in Toronto from the Writer’s Trust of Canada, recognizing the journalist’s 20 years of environmental writing. Nikiforuk, who has written books such as the Governor General Award-winning Saboteurs: Wiebo Ludwig’s War against Big Oil and Empire of the Beetle: How Human Folly and a Tiny Bug Are Killing North America’s Great Forests, said he was “totally surprised and totally humbled” by the prize, which is “in celebration of a writing life.” He received the award in a ceremony in Toronto’s Glenn Gould Studio. “It makes me worry about my longevity,” joked Nikiforuk earlier this week. “Am I going to be hit by a car next week? You’re always dubious about this kind of award in the sense that it’s, ‘Oh my God, do I have no time left?’”
While Nikiforuk is certainly not the first non-fiction writer to receive the honour, the award has often gone to poets and novelists in its 13-year existence. Past winners include David Adams Richards, Jean Little and Paul Quarrington. The prize was established by a group of anonymous donors in 1999 to honour Cohen, a prolific Canadian writer who died at the age of 56 that year. Nikiforuk’s last book was The Energy of Slaves: Oil and the New Servitude, which was based on the provocative premise that compared North American energy users to slave owners. His 2010 book Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent made the argument that Canada has become a rogue “petro state” under Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“There’s an Israeli journalist by the name of Amira Hass and when she was asked a number of years ago what the job of a writer or journalist was, she said, ‘It was to monitor the centres of power,’” Nikiforuk says. “It’s my hope that my best work has done that. Whether I was looking at the educational establishment today or looking at the energy status quo in the country.” After the publication of The Energy of Slaves, Nikiforuk worked a retail job in Bridgeland, saying he needed “a break from the turbulent world of publishing.” The good news is that Nikiforuk is back in that world, although at this time is not giving many details about what he is working on. “I can’t say at the moment, but I have a number of projects on the go,” he said.