Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day 2009

Well here I am...several hours into Blog Action Day and just getting to my post. This morning was not the easiest as Ky was in quite a mood. So despite a to-do list the length of my arm and the breakfast dishes (now joined by lunch) still on the kitchen table we headed out the door for a walk. My intention was to ground both my little earth sign and myself and write some notes while he played at the park. As we walked, Climate Change this year's topic, swirled through my head and was reflected in many different things. My son's delight as he saw transit trains and buses bringing people from place to place. A homeless woman's smile at Ky in his pumpkin hat while she ate cold food out of a tin can. She had spent the night on a slab of concrete beneath the bicycle bridge leading to the park. The Styrofoam container floating in the creek we crossed over which is a salmon habitat. The beauty of fallen leaves, a warm overcast day, and the sound of birds in the trees. And now I sit here to write about something that I am ashamed to say I barely knew about a few months ago. Something that is a Canadian issue with climate, oil and how we interact with the natural world.

Several months ago I listened to Sierra Club Radio's podcast from 2008 about the Alberta Oil Sands. They were trying to lobby Hilary Clinton to prevent a pipeline being built to pump the oil from Alberta into the United States. I had heard of this before but I did not know the extent of the actions that our provincial neighbours were taking to extract this oil. In their March 2009 issue National Geographic published an objective and well written article on the oil sands entitled: The Canadian Oil Boom: Scraping Bottom. This article presents facts that are important for all Canadians and Americans to know about this oil. Here is a sampling:

-"The U.S. imports more oil from Canada than from any other nation, about 19 percent of its total foreign supply and around half of that now comes from the oil sands."

-"Oil sands production uses enough natural gas daily to heat more than 3 million homes."

-"The oil sands are still a tiny part of the world's carbon problem-they account for less than a tenth of one percent of global CO2 emissions..."

Despite the obvious reasons that I would object to this method of extraction which can be explained more in the above link to the National Geographic article, I feel the underlying issue for me is the effect of this type of oil refining on the earth. On the Government of Alberta's website they say regarding the oil sands:

"Through ongoing research and technology work continues to find new and improved ways of recovering this significant resource and reducing the environmental footprint."

My question is how is that possible? The environmental footprint from this practice is HUGE. The means is not justified by the end. In the long term the area where this extraction is taking place is being destroyed. Again quoting Robert Kunzig from The Canadian Oil Boom:

"No where on Earth is more earth being moved these days than in the Athabasca Valley [Alberta, Canada]. To extract each barrel of oil from a surface mine, the industry must first cut down the forest, then remove an average of two tons of peat and dirt that lie above the oil sands layer, then two tons of the sand itself."

This oil is the result of the Athabasca River eroding away billions of cubic yards of sediment that once covered the bitumen which is eventually made into oil. This process took millions of years. How long will it take for this part of the Earth to regenerate from this horrible process? The key to this issue is to stop extracting "dirty oil" and work towards alternative fuel methods. The oil sands employee thousands of people many of whom have traveled from other provinces in search of work. I feel for these people and yet I believe that the oil sands must stop. Our climate, our Earth, our health and the health of wildlife in Alberta is at stake here. Sustainability is what we must work towards and this method takes too many resources and creates too much damage to ever be worth the oil to me.
If you live in the United States I encourage you to contact your local officials and let them know that you do not wish to buy oil from the Alberta Oil Sands. Here in Canada I hope you will all voice your displeasure with their existence as well. Here are some more links with relevant information.

Greenpeace Stop the Tar Sands

Sierra Club BC Minister: Climate Plans in Peril

Find your Member of Parliament to send an Email


susan said...

Great blog! I wanted to let you know about something that is taking place to stop the expansion of the tar sands. The Beaver Lake Cree Nation has launched legal action based on their constitutionally guaranteed treaty rights - with the idea that this is the way to stand directly in the path of the destruction. There is more information at or on the Beaver Lake Cree site. We are currently fundraising to help BLCN with this massive undertaking, so if you can help to get the word out, that would be appreciated.
Best, Susan

Bridgett said...

Oh, that's just awful. I had no idea! I didn't even realize we imported oil from Canada. I suppose I should have, but I just didn't. :(

Thank you for this enlightening post.


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Connie Mitan said...

We've certainly reached a point where we expend more energy than we actually create by extracting more oil... I had no idea about oil sands in Canada - thanks for sharing.