Pages tagged "oil sands"


Environmental Injustice in Alberta

Drummers.png

In late June, a team of RAN staff travelled to Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada to participate in the Tar Sands Healing Walk, which is organized and hosted by members of the local First Nations Communities. Walking amidst the tar sands destruction was a humbling and powerful experience.

This blog post is one of a series, sharing our impressions and reflections.

Todd's previous post was "Industry's Dreams, Indigenous Nightmares: A Visit to the Alberta Tar Sands"

We left the tar sands boomtown of Fort McMurray via Highway 63, a notoriously dangerous road we were warned was trafficked by huge trucks hauling mining machinery and by oil workers cutting loose on their time off. Fortunately, we traveled the short distance to the Tar Sands Healing Walk camp without incident. We joined the healing walk encampment, a collection of tents and teepees along the beautiful Gregoire Lake, and were hosted by Keepers of the Athabasca, a network of Indigenous First Nations groups.

The natural beauty of Alberta is striking, and deceptive. At first glance, the land looks unspoiled, with thick stands of white-barked birch, a big sky, and the placid waters of Gregoire Lake. Tragically, the idyllic façade belies profound contamination: the air, waters, animals, and people of Alberta are poisoned. This reality was quickly hammered home in the Tars Sands Healing Walk camp. Drinking water for the gathering of several hundred had been pumped from a residence at nearby Fort Chipewyan, and the water reeked of methane gas. Apparently, some of the well-intentioned visitors in attendance helpfully pointed this out to the community hosts, prompting a sobering announcement from the stage: "People are complaining about the water smelling of methane. This is what people drink here. There is no other water." Later the same day, Annette Campre from Fort McKay First Nation told the crowd that she has been using bottled water to bathe her children for years. The Athabasca River flows north through the tar sands mines, carrying contaminants away from major population centers and toward Fort Chipewyan, a community of Chipewyan, Cree, and Metis First Nations people. One suspects that the intense water contamination visited on Fort Chipewyan would not be permitted if the river of pollutants flowed south from the tar sands into the Canadian cities of Edmonton and Calgary.

The consequences of tar sands mining contaminants are disproportionately borne by First Nations communities, like Fort Chipewyan, a tiny town with a hugely anomalous incidence of rare and aggressive cancers, like bile-duct cancer. At the Tar Sands Healing Walk encampment, we heard from Dr. John O’Connor, the fly-in doctor for Fort Chipewyan and early whistleblower on the abnormally high incidence of cancers in the region. Dr. O’Connor recounted efforts by industry and government to discredit his first-hand observances, which have been borne out in a recent study that found that 21.3% of surveyed First Nations persons displayed evidence of cancer. The study also reported "that cancer occurrence is significantly and positively associated with participant employment in the Oil Sands as well as the consumption of traditional foods and locally caught fish."

The cancer epidemic faced by First Nations communities in the Alberta Tar Sands region are appalling, but the damage inflicted by tar sands mining on Canada's original people goes deeper. The same recent study documented "elevated levels of the environmental contaminants arsenic, cadmium, mercury and selenium, as well as PAHs (some carcinogenic) in the foods traditionally harvested by the First Nations in the region." Translation: the game that Indigenous people rely on in Alberta is ridden with toxins. For First Nations people, this has much deeper implications than the simple right to uncontaminated food stocks. As I learned at the Tar Sands Healing Walk, many of the important ceremonial and spiritual practices of Alberta's First Nations rely on traditional relationships with game, including hunting and the consumption of this meat. Tar sands developments threaten local species like the caribou with extinction, and are poisoning fish and game stocks. For First Nations communities, the contamination and degradation of the land is an existential threat; if First Nations people are unable to pass on traditional knowledge and practice, their culture and spiritual practice is destroyed. As we learned at the Tars Sands Healing Walk, the continued development of the Albertan tar sands is a perpetuation of cultural genocide by settler culture.

So what is to be done about this? Tune in next week for a final post—“Resistance: what do we do about the tar sands?”

Image: Chipewyan drummers lead the Tar Sands Healing walk. The Chipewyan culture is directly threatened by tar sands mining.


BREAKING - activists drop 70' banner off of NIAGARA FALLS to tell Canadian PM: NO TAR SANDS oil!

Rainforest Action Network drops Seventy-Foot Banner Over Niagara Falls to Welcome Prime Minister Harper to the U.S. Banner: "Canadian Tar Sands Oil Undermines North America’s Clean Energy Future" See more photos here. Before dawn this morning, a small team of climate activists rappelled from the US observation deck at Niagara Falls. Dangling hundreds of feet above the ground, they sent a special welcome message to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper ahead of his first official visit to the White House to push dirty Tar Sands oil. Not that he's feeling so welcome anyway. Obama limited the meeting to just one hour. While some have called it a slap in the face, Aides say Harper will turn the other cheek. "The economy, and the clean-energy dialogue," one aide told the Globe and Mail, "will dominate the discussions." Obama needed to dodge controversy over oil imports from Canada's tar sands in the midst of the Climate Legislation debate. Harper needed a story to go with his photo-op. During Harper's first official trip to meet Obama in the U.S., the two leaders are expected to discuss climate change and energy policy ahead of the upcoming G20 Summit. Canada supplies 19% of U.S. oil imports, more than half of which now comes from the tar sands, making the region the largest single source of U.S. oil imports. The expansion of the tar sands will strip mine an area the size of Florida. Complete with skyrocketing rates of cancer (by 400%!) for First Nations communities living downstream, broken treaties, toxic belching lakes so large you can see them from outer space, churning up ancient boreal forest, destroyed air and water quality, the tar sands have been called the most destructive project on Earth. Tomorrow’s visit to the U.S. by Prime Minister Harper is the latest attempt by Canadian Federal and Provincial officials to lock in subsidies for 22 new and expanded refinery projects and oil pipelines crisscrossing 28 states, which would transport and process the dirty tar sands oil. Many are concerned that Prime Minister Harper wants to protect the tar sands oil industry from climate regulation, even though it is one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. “Climate change, one of the biggest security threats of our time, is something Canada and the United States face together. Extracting tar sands oil, which sends three times more climate-changing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than conventional oil, puts us all at risk,” said Eriel Deranger a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and Rainforest Action Network’s Tar Sands Campaigner in Alberta. As this oil spills into the U.S., communities living near oil refineries face increased air and water pollution, which contains 11 times more sulfur and nickel and five times more lead than conventional oil. Opposition to tar sands oil has been rising on both sides of the border. Just last month, four Native American and environmental groups sued Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Deputy Secretary James Steinberg and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over Enbridge Energy’s Alberta Clipper pipeline. If built, the 1,375 mile pipeline would pump 800,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day from Northern Alberta to Midwestern refineries. On the Canadian, Native activists escalated pressure on the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) for their funding of the tar sands a few weeks ago. Canada has no regulations to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, and the federal government’s climate change plan would allow total pollution from the tar sands to increase almost 70 percent by 2020. Tar sands oil production is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada and was recently cited as one of the most important reasons Canada will miss its Kyoto targets by over 30%. Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) used to be the centerpiece of Harper's pitch. Global warming pollution from coal and tar sands "can be solved by technology," declared Obama. Not to be outdone, Harper's office announced that "A strengthened U.S.-Canada partnership on carbon sequestration will help accelerate private sector investment in commercial scale, near-zero-carbon coal facilities to promote climate and energy security." Screen shot 2009-09-15 at 5.30.07 AM Half a year and billions of wasted tax dollars later, though, CCS is still a pipe dream. FutureGen, North America's supposed proving ground for the unproven technology, can't keep private investors to save it's life. Two of its biggest private backers, Southern Co. and AEP, jumped ship last June. Around the same time, sponsors lowered the goal-post on the project to just 60% less carbon. So much for near-zero-carbon facility. Projects promised in the tar sands are fairing even worse. No matter. Harper is back, hat in hand, looking for legislative handouts to an industry destined to ruin the climate. So here's our welcome to you, Prime Minister Harper. Now, please, go home. And take your dirty tar sands with you.

Freedom From Oil Tour Diary #10 - THE END!

[youtube 52d6_ib97Gs] Check out the final glorious episode of the 10 day adventure of RAN and Substance educating and mobilizing people to stop the Tar Sands, with rock bands Propagandhi and Strike Anywhere In this one we talk to bands, Chrissy Swain from Grassy Narrows, RAN activists, and talk about how YOU can get involved with the campaign

Freedom From Oil Tour Diary #9 - Clayton Thomas Muller tells us what's up with the Tar Sands

[youtube IxL5EYwBWAg] Check out episode 9 of the 10 day adventure of RAN and Substance educating and mobilizing people to stop the Tar Sands, with rock bands Propagandhi and Strike Anywhere

Freedom From Oil Tour Diary # 7 - Interview with Ben Powless from Indigenous Environmental Network

[youtube RefVb-gv_nI] Check out episode 7 of the 10 day adventure of RAN and Substance educating and mobilizing people to stop the Tar Sands, with rock bands Propagandhi and Strike Anywhere

Freedom From Oil Tour Diary episode #6 - interview with propagandhi about the tar sands

[youtube -Mkk6gKZVYU] Check out episode 6 of the 10 day adventure of RAN and Substance educating and mobilizing people to stop the Tar Sands, with rock bands Propagandhi and Strike Anywhere

Freedom From Oil tour diary #5

[youtube woLW5xCLUA4] Check out episode 5 of the 10 day adventure of RAN and Substance educating and mobilizing people to stop the Tar Sands, with rock bands Propagandhi and Strike Anywhere

Freedom From Oil Tour - Episode 4

[youtube -g_abGG6skQ] Check out episode 4 of the 10 day adventure of RAN and Substance educating and mobilizing people to stop the Tar Sands, with rock bands Propagandhi and Strike Anywhere

Freedom From Oil Tour diary #3

Check out the third edition of the web diaries from the Freedom From Oil Tour. RAN and Substance have teamed up with rock bands Propagandhi and Strike Anywhere to mobilize people against Tar Sands mining. [youtube PtwS8-vZU68]

Freedom From Oil Tour diary # 2

The second edition in the 10 day adventure of educating and mobilizing people to stop the Tar Sands, with rock bands Propagandhi and Strike Anywhere [youtube fUbe3jztWEI]

1  2  Next →