A landscape created by a love of oil
Tar sands: tearing the flesh from the Earth
18th August, 2009
As the price of oil increases again, Canada's tar sands once more look like a giant cash cow to the industry. Now, the only thing standing between the 400 ton bulldozers and rampant environmental destruction may be a small group of First Nations people...
'Albertans call that the smell of money!' says the helicopter pilot as we fly over Alberta’s tar sands. Even 2,000 feet above open-cast mines, man-made lakes of mining waste and refineries belching fumes and flames, there is the acrid stench of burning oil. It stinks.
Until the 1960s, this Canadian landscape was unspoiled boreal forest, home to moose and caribou and the Clearwater people who hunted them. Today, this First Nations’ people go shopping for processed food in an industrial wasteland. Flocks of migratory birds die as they land on toxic lakes, that cover over 50 square kilometres. Downriver, further north, in the remote First Nations’ settlement of Fort Chipewyan, on the shore of Lake Athabasca, the incidence of bile duct cancer is significantly higher than expected.
The Alberta government rebuffs such claims of environmental and medical impacts.
'We do not proceed with development at the expense of the environment,' says the website of Alberta Environment.
The government prefers to highlight that the Athabasca tar sands is the second largest known deposit of oil in the world, after the Middle East, and, geopolitically, represents a secure source of oil for...
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