As Canadians we are often too polite tostate the uncomfortable, yet obvious, truth if it would make peopleuncomfortable. But when the people who would be uncomfortable are ourselves,and the silence threatens our economic and environmental future, there reallyis no excuse.
Eric Reguly, columnist with the Globe &Mail, scolded Canadian politicians, businesses, media and environmental groupsfor the failure to respond to the growing climate crisis, particularly the impactsof Alberta’s tar sands.
Mr. Reguly points out the tar sands are an”environmental disaster in the making” that has been met primarily with silenceand complacency in Canada. All that most Canadians know about the tar sands is the enormousamounts of money being made.
Feware aware of the billions of dollars in taxpayers’ money being used tosubsidize the operations of oil and gas corporations that are reporting recordprofits.
Almost no one is aware that the tar sandsare turning our fragile boreal landscape into a moonscape. The tar sands’thirst for water is threatening to drain the Athabasca River as thepace of project development accelerates.
The tar sands are the chief obstacle toCanada meeting its Kyoto carbon emission reduction goals largely because convertingthe dirty tar filled sand into oil requires almost as much energy as isproduced in oil. And the tar sands are the primary driver of efforts to exploitthe Mackenzie Valley with pipelines and gas.
Ironically, the enormous environmentalimpacts of the tar sands have received far more attention in the U.S.media than in Canada. The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, CNN, 60 Minutes haveall featured stories highlighting these impacts – sometimes multiple stories.
Our blindness regarding the tar sands isnot unusual. Canadians often ignore environmental threats until outsidersexpress outrage. Remember, governments did little to respond to public concernsabout logging until international contempt reigned down – think Clayoquot Soundand the Great Bear Rainforest.
Now the pink elephant of the devastatingimpacts of the tar sands remains out of sight and mind on this side of theborder.
Environmental groups are singled out by Mr.Reguly for being ineffective in response to the tar sands and the climatecrisis. This criticism is deserved.
To date, environmental groups have notresponded effectively to the growing impacts and influence of the Canadianfossil fuel industry or the lack of any national plan to move towards renewableenergy.
But that is changing. Dogwood Initiative,along with a number of other provincial and national groups, is developing abroad inclusive strategy to take on the tar sands and force Canadian governmentsto move towards clean alternatives (not just play lip service).
And Enbridge’s proposed pipeline to Kitimatwill be the first project to get the combined attention of this new alliance.Enbridge’s twin Gateway pipelines would transport up to one million barrels oftar sands crude from Alberta to Kitimat where it would be loaded into tankersfor transport to California, China and Asia.
Moving ahead with the project would requirelifting (or creating a loophole in) a moratorium on tankers in BC’s insidepassage that has been in place since 1977.
In addition to environment groups, BC FirstNations are targeting Enbridge’s proposal. While the riots Mr. Reguly suggestsare unlikely, Enbridge’s proposal will face formidable challenges. And thiswill inevitably lead to a larger discussion about the tar sands, and the needfor a Canadian Energy policy.
Mr. Reguly is justified in issuing his wakeup call. Canadians sometimes need to be jolted out of our complacency.
It shouldn’t have taken this long to gettogether and respond, but large forces are building. The carte blanch approvalof the tar sands and Canadian fossil fuel promoters have had to date will soonbe a thing of the past. You can count on it.
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