It’s perverse but true that Albertans who criticize the environmental disaster that Fort McMurray’s oilsands have become are often criticized as disloyal.
That said, just this week, an important environmental movement that just may force the petroleum industry and the government of Alberta to eventually clean up the mess in this province’s backyard appears to be gaining steam.
In case you haven’t paid any attention to the news in the last few days or so, the city of Bellingham, Wash. has resolved to avoid fuel from refineries connected to the “tar sands,” becoming the first city in North America to take action against so-called dirty oil.
Bellingham’s city council passed two resolutions with the aim of eliminating the use of petroleum from Alberta’s “tar sands.” In particular, the municipality is concerned about “permanent damage to Canada’s Boreal forest ecosystem and the Athabasca River ecosystem, destruction of scarce fresh water (and the) generation of toxic waste.”
It seems likely that other American municipalities will embrace the steps taken by Bellingham, and that this is just the start of a Domino Effect that will spell trouble for Alberta’s economy for years to come, but not the environment. Here in Canada, also this week, the Lush cosmetics/soap company launched a two-week campaign to raise awareness about the environmental impact of Canada’s “tar sands.”
“As a company, we really believe in protecting the environment, people and animals,” said Brandi Halls, Lush’s campaign organizer. “The tar sands are affecting all three of these and threaten their survival, and it’s happening in our own backyard.”
That’s fair enough, and if you care anything about this planet — it’s welcome news.
Little by little, local governments and corporations are becoming aware of the huge tailings ponds in Northern Alberta and Alberta Environment’s all-too-obvious willingness to turn a blind eye to pollution in the region.
No doubt, 30 years from now, Canadians will wonder what the hell the government of Alberta was thinking in allowing such a degradation of our environment. But, for the moment, many Albertans are content to allow the province’s natural areas to be poisoned so long as the province does not impose tax increases.
Many of us who live in Alberta recognize the province’s priorities are absolutely upside down.
We have both private and government public relations flacks telling lies about the devastation that is occurring in North Alberta. That leaves only the media and opposition political parties to tell the truth, and unfortunately many people in the media in Alberta are in bed with the oilpatch. So we, as Albertans and Canadians, must look to municipalities like Bellingham and companies like Lush to stand up for this planet.
There is a dark side to the oilsands and that is just now beginning to become apparent.
Many people are appalled by the recent environmental fiasco in the Gulf of Mexico. Someday, those same people will be disgusted with Alberta. Just wait!
Lee Giles is an Advocate editor.