01 February 2011

The Tar Sands on Topical Tuesday

How can I write something topical when I don’t listen to the news? Really I don’t. I know my friends don’t believe me but it is true. It started a few years back – I think I was reading a book by some guru or another – yes, that one that Oprah loves – Talliard Nimbob? You know who I mean. Anyway he said I should take a media vacation. Or perhaps it was that doctor who I like – his name escapes me right now – yes, come to think of it – it was him. He said….er….I should take a media break.  Perhaps they both said it along with telling me that I should buy fresh flowers every day and clean fatty things out of my cupboards and buy local and walk and meditate and have a bitch and stitch group and get things off my chest and rinse my sinuses with salt water and dream big and god’s in the details and oh…but I digress. The thing that got to be a habit is NOT listening to the news, NOT reading newspapers much (Saturday Globe & Mail sneaks in), NOT watching David Suzuki’s The Science of Things on television because it makes my blood boil etc… Did you know that my Dad watches the House of Parliaments Question Period – live – every day that they sit? That isn’t good for you. Believe me.

So all this ignoring the news and getting audio books from the library so that my driving time is also a reading time instead of a raising my blood pressure time – has led me to not know much about current affairs. Shocking I know. I used to be a news junkie – now I’m like one of those people who give up drinking and start some other ‘healthy’ habit with the same boring fervour. Now I am obnoxious about not being in the know.

This last week though I was knitting and I was out of Christmas DVDs to watch so I watched David Suzuki. For those of you on the planet who don’t know who this is – you can Google him – he is an environmental scientist who has become the Deepak Chopra of raising the alarm. This week it was about the Alberta Tar Sands.
All Photos Credit: Garth Lenz

A documentary entitled The Tipping Point - Canada’s national disgrace – the reason we won the worst award you can win at the Copenhagen Environmental meeting in 2009. This from a reporter for Mongabay - Jeremy Hance mongabay.com December 21, 2009

Canada was the biggest obstructer at the Climate Change conference in Copenhagen, according to the Climate Action Network (CAN) an organization made-up of 450 NGOs. On Friday CAN awarded Canada the 'Colossal Fossil Award' for doing the most to obstruct an ambitious climate change agreement and for doing the least to mitigate climate change.

"Canada’s performance here in Copenhagen builds on two years of delay, obstruction and total inaction. This government thinks there’s a choice between environment and economy, and for them, tar sands beats climate every time. Canada’s emissions are headed nowhere but up," said Ben Wikler of Avaaz, announcing the tongue-in-cheek award for

In an energy-intensive process,
Canada's tar sands industry extracts oil from a mixture of sand, clay, water and bitumen (a heavy thick oil). Two tons of earth and three barrels of water are required to make a single barrel of oil. The process also requires two-to-three times as much energy as refining crude oil. The tar sands are said to be the single largest industrial source of greenhouse gas emissions in the world.

In addition according to
Wikler, Canada made no movement on providing financial aid for developing nations to move toward green technology and for vulnerable nations to mitigate the harm done by climate change byway of droughts, rising sea levels, desertification, extreme storms, and flooding.

The Tipping Point-discussed all of this and finally gave us the news (which probably everyone but me knew) that there had been an independent study proving the scientists, who had been summarily dismissed up until now, with being right and declaring this a major environmental disaster. Of course, it isn’t Canadians who are seeing all the benefit of us keeping our heads in the tar sands – no, the oil recovered at great cost to our land, to our aboriginal people, is flowing to the good old US of A. It’s the money that no one can resist. They just can’t and they won’t until it is gone gone gone.

It was a terrifying show – a special – on for two hours... You understand it was my knitting obsession which trumped my not watching news obsession  I am knitting my step-dot fingerless gloves. I’ll do anything to get love from her. Anything. But now I have to think about what a mess our dear old world is in.


CA Heaven said...

The oil company I’m working for is involved in Alberta tar sands, not the open-pit production, but heating the rock with steam to make the oil flow out. I’m not gonna argue for or against this, since my opinion will probably be biased … but it’s not my favorite type of oil production.

Cold As Heaven

Jan Morrison said...

Dear Mr. Heaven (do you mind if I call you that?) - I attach no blame to the oil companies - this is a human being generated problem - they wouldn't be mining it if we didn't all want to carry on our merry way - me included. I like to have a bath every night and have warm currents of water running through my cement (heavy oil use in cement) floors. I'm truly not mad - just sad and wish that we'd all wake up whether it is too late or not. Plus although I don't relate so much to it being an airforce brat and all - I was born in Alberta and it used to be a very beautiful part of the world...

Sue said...

We've just had some dreadful floods up north, and are in the midst of more floods down south. There's a massive tropical cyclone in the far north - climatologists are trying to make us listen - that this pattern of extremes is a taste of the future.

So what does the government do to raise money to rebuild? Take money FROM climate change projects, solar energy research etc, but still provide financial support to dreadfully polluting fossil fuel companies that already make mega $. AAARRRGGGHHHHHHHHHH

I fully understand you not keeping up with the news, steam comes out of my ears, and I know it's not good for my wellbeing. All I can do is rant occasionally in blogland, and hope to meet some like minded souls.

Hart Johnson said...

Jan- I had no idea about any of this, but I will tell you something from growing up in the west that wasn't SO FAR west as to hit population density... when you live someplace that all you see is space space space, it is very hard to imagine that the impact of people is getting to be too much for the earth. Alberta and Idaho share that, but I think most of Canada is probably susceptible to the delusion. I've never met an environmentalist from a place with 'plenty of environment'

I don't know what can be done, because it is the CONSUMERS that need to demand it not be done... the POPULACE that needs to demand government legislation... In the US though, there is resistance to government 'interfering in local business' but the fact of the matter is, the LOCALS will NEVER get it.

Cruella Collett said...

I remember this was in the news a lot here (well, no, I've moved, so not HERE, but THERE as in Norway) during the Toronto Olympics, since there were some demonstrations against Norwegian athletes due to the Norwegian oil company's involvement. Sadly, though, it got lost amidst other news, and now I haven't thought about this for months. Thank you for enlightening me, even though I do understand how you feel about deliberately staying away. (I don't think I could, actually, not just because I like it - which I do, even if the news sometimes make me cry - but because of my work. I'm sort of obliged to listen/read/watch news)

Anyway - what to do? The only solution must be to be more active in the development of environmentally friendly energy. Part of my job is to keep an eye on things done on climate change/environmental policies in Japan. It's pretty rad, actually, as Japan has the most optimistic view on this I've seen thus far. They even have a fairly specific, concrete approach, as the more than most countries the technology is already here, or in the process of being developed. I only hope that the optimism will be accompanied with actual political will to perform - otherwise nothing will happen. And, naturally, Japan cannot go alone...