Alberta Oil Sands

I am feeling down today. Last night I watched the documentary “Tipping Point” by David Suzuki on the oil sands mega project in Alberta, and the impact it is having on downstream aboriginal communities (watch it here). It confirmed my worst fears. The oil sands are polluting the waters, creating high rates of rare cancer among the aboriginal people, contaminating the animals, and now deformed fish swim in the river. On top of all that, the oil sands emissions are equal to that of Switzerland. How is that even possible? Massive amounts of water are used; huge lakes of toxic waste are created. The video footage of the area was devastating. It is a complete dead zone. Forests are peeled back, the earth mined for oil sand, and nothing lives except for the human workers that operate the cranes and trucks. You can see the extent of the devastation from space:

I am so sad. This is my home. Canada is such a beautiful country, with vast areas of wild forests. Yet hidden up north, this exists. It exists in my own backyard, only 450 kilometers (280 miles) from where I live. My city directly benefits from the economic spinoffs of this mega project. But it feels so wrong. Every fiber of my being tells me that this is wrong.

Canada doesn’t want to commit to reducing emissions because of the oil sands. It is the economic heart of Alberta, the country even. Cut emissions, and you may have to shut the oil sands down. So we stall, we coast. We receive some international pressure, win the fossil of the year award, but do nothing.

It makes me so sad and mad and fearful at the same time. Why are we doing this? I know the world needs oil, but at what cost? Why are we the dealer peddling this drug? Why can’t we be peddling something better, something beautiful, something green? Why can’t we be promoting the best of ourselves, the best we can offer, of innovation and perseverance and hard work? Why does it have to be dirty oil?

There are rumours of a provincial election these days, rumours of a leadership race. What scares me is the thought of getting a new government even more bent on promoting the oil sands, even more gung-ho to get all that oil out of the ground, to sell it to the highest bidder, to burn it all up and put it into the sky…

Is there any hope? What can I do to stop it? What can I do to help those people dying of cancer? How can we get off oil?

I don’t have the answers. I don’t know what to do. I feel restless, anxious, on the verge of tears. I love my country, my province. But I feel like they are letting us down.

“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”
                                                                                     – ancient Aboriginal proverb

Let’s not let our children down.


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5 thoughts on “Alberta Oil Sands

  1. Thoughtful commentary on a difficult issue, Sherry. The documentary was SO well done, and presented the toxic impact that this issue is having on the First Nations living downstream as well as its enormous carbon pollution, that it may be the start of a huge wake up call for Canadians. I imagine there are a lot of other Canadians walking around today after watching the show this week feeling exactly the same way as you. You are already making a difference with your choices, and your blog. Change will come about by reaching out to others who realize that this is not acceptable for Alberta, or Canada, and joining together/raising our voices/teaching others. Maybe the tar sands have reached the tipping point, and this is the beginning of their decline!

    • That is exactly how change will come. It is such a sensitive issue here though, since so many are economically dependent on the energy industry. Most people don’t talk about it, for fear of offending others. However, I do believe that the winds of change are coming!

  2. It’s difficult when such things fuel economies and people livelyhoods.
    It’s a shame those people involved cant be re-trained to work on a renewable energy project but i fear until businesses change nothing can be done.
    I really like the quote you used on the bottom.
    It’s a very sobering message

    • The businesses will only change if pressured to do so by the people, or forced to do so by the government. I mean, there has to be cleaner ways to go about this stuff! For example, the tailings pond technology (letting toxic liquid waste dry up over decades) is 30 years old. There has no innovation because there was no environmental requirement to do things better. But there has to be a better way, a cleaner way. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Pingback: Bus Ride | One Earth to Live

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