Changed, yes, by raw reality – so here’s some raw footage of Alberta’s exceedingly raw oil reality

Posted September 26th, 2013 in Blog, Featured Comments Off on Changed, yes, by raw reality – so here’s some raw footage of Alberta’s exceedingly raw oil reality

Fostering Ecological Hope
Reflections on Culture and Meaning

by Margaret Swedish

Many of you have seen the aerial views of Alberta’s oil tar sands extraction sites, the seemingly endless expanse of toxic wasteland, the stripping away of forest and muskeg, the scale of the surface mining to extract the sands, the fouling of air and water as the bitumen is processed to separate it from the sands and diluted enough to be sent flowing through vast pipeline networks, the enormous tailing ponds that can by viewed from space (Really, they have to come up with a better word for them. ‘Pond’ just sounds way too sweet).

But even all that hardly prepares one for what it is like to drive into and through these sites.

Now, the highway here is dangerous, and they are not too pleased about anyone stopping to take pictures or to film along the roadside. So I did the best I could, got my camcorder rolling as we drove in between the two Canadian giants – Suncor on one side, Syncrude on the other.

I have never used a camcorder before, and I haven’t a clue yet how to edit these brief video clips. But when I viewed them again just now, I decided they may be most powerful in their raw unedited versions, because you see it as we did.

Morder, indeed. Dante’s Inferno. No words seem adequate…

Keep in mind that the wasteland continues far beyond the horizons. Keep in mind that in this part of Alberta 140,000 sq. miles is slated for oil sands extraction. Other sites in the Peace River area to the west, and the Cold Lake region to the south and across the border with Saskatchewan are also slated for oil extraction.

And in case you think this far away, remember the pipelines – not just Keystone XL, but the ones crossing Wisconsin and the Great Lakes states, the ones running  down our western states, the super-tanker ships that will transport crude down our coasts and riverways, the freight trains already carrying the stuff through our rural communities and our cities. Not for us, mind you: almost all of this will be shipped off to Asia to fuel China’s and India’s industrialization.

And then, for my part of the world, all those gigantic Caterpillar machines, which is why many business people and politicians ’round these parts will tell you this is all about jobs.

Our connections run deep. We are all a part of this. Therefore, we are all part of changing this – if we have the will to make the changes to our lives and our economies necessary to stop this destruction.

Last thought: as you view these brief video clips, keep in mind that you are looking at the old hunting grounds for the Cree community of Ft. McKay.

Our first drive to the oil tar sands from Ft. McMurray to Ft. McKay. The annoying background noise is the sound of the wind in the camera mic. Sorry ’bout that.

On the highway returning to Ft. McMurray from Ft. McKay, driving passed the Syncrude site. Note the rows and rows of barracks-like housing where workers live on site, right in the midst of Mordor. Figure it can’t be too good for them, despite the hefty wages.

“Pond” hardly says what these are, vast holding sites for toxic water, the contaminated brew after treated water is used to separate the bitumen from the sands. Through the day and night, you hear the sound of cannons meant to scare the birds away. Flocks have been known to land on the ponds and to die on contact.

On the other side of the highway from Syncrude is the Suncor site. These are the two Canadian giants operating in the oil sands region. There are many other companies in play, including Exxon, Shell/Chevron/Marathon, Petrochina, Cenovus, CNRL, BP, Total, Imperial, etc.


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