February 16, 2009

Eco-Terrorism: The Trials & Tribulations of Environmentalists' Fight Against Resource Exploitation

(Ch. 4)

A guy named Andrew Nikiforuk is trying to take your money. He released a book last year called "Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and The Future of a Continent" for approx. $20. Ambitious to write a whole book? Yes, but HELL! There's just soo much damn' money flowing out there around environmental ideas and criticisms that why the hell wouldn't a guy try & redirect some of that cash flow in his direction?!?!

I wrote about this guy before. Before any of this tar sands mumbo jumbo came to the forefront of local headlines. You see, I came across another one of his books at the EPL entitled "Saboteur's: Wiebo Ludwig's War Against Big Oil".

From the start, I dove into this book with an open mind, realizing that Albertan Pride had already prejudiced most people against Wiebo Ludwig. He was, after all, involved with the slaying of a 16 year old girl, and noone likes to hear about murders - especially when it involves children.

Nikiforuk wrote from a fairly objective & open perspective that tried encompassing the many curious events surrounding Trickle Creek in and around Peace River, Alberta through the early-mid 90s. He got the story from detectives in the RCMP, ERCB (then EUB), neighbors, family members, oil field workers, and the bigshot gas company CEOs based in Calgary. In the end, he really conveyed the idea (to me, anyways) that injustices to the Ludwig family had been done, and that a man truly can only be pushed so far in a corrupt system that only cares about one thing.

Oil wells were bombed, oil field equipment vandalized, signs destroyed, serious threats, and less intimidating and menacing speeches and declarations made. A lot of sneaky work and timely investment & research had been done in order to get the things accomplished that were indeed accomplished.
So eco-terrorism is the word that is thrown around to describe these extreme things that an environmental group or person might do in order to make a substantial point about something that needs to be addressed, or is repeatedly and intentionally over-looked, for the sake of the health of people or the environment. ON THE OTHER HAND, a viewpoint expressed in the book is that eco-terrorism is actually the act of having sour gas flares poison the community and the livestock on which that community depends.

But I digress. I have been 20 years in Alberta and know that the only way that we can remain as a happy happy happy rich rich rich province is if we continue to cut into the earth.

We have nothing else!

Actually, that's a bunch of shit. Alberta truly has some of the most beautiful and diverse environments that I have ever seen, although I am a tad biased. It's just that Albertans have a different set of values, that rises from the days of hard labour of working the earth through the 20s and 30s as farmers. In 1947, Leduc #1 opened up a whole new realm of opportunity for people to get rich in the oil business rather than the typical wheat, flax, & canola harvesting. And even before that, people were attempting to remove the sand from the oil a few clicks north. Sixty years later, this business is bigger than ever.

Recently, Greenpeace Alberta has gained some momentum. It's current leader Mike Hudema (BLaw, BA Teaching (majoring in Drama, go figure)) seems to have some sort of idea of what he'd like to see happen with the current state of the oil business, as unfathomable as his ideas might be as far as economic growth is concerned. But despite any extreme viewpoints or tactics he might be using, at least issues about environmental degradation are getting talked about. In Saboteurs, however, it becomes extremely evident that fighting government supported oil industry is a losing fight; despite repeated outcries of opposition to any additional drilling. So much so, that a person will eventually lose enough sanity to take the government's law into his own hands. And it's happening again. In Dawson Creek (on the Alberta-B.C. border) there was a late-night explosion at a natural gas wellhead last October. But no alleged suspects (if they have any) are being released to the public.
So health issues.
People are resilient. They don't need a lot to survive. They can do alright with minimal food, water, sanitation services, clothing, money... The difference being that those of us that, for example, can afford to benefit from a Privatized Healthcare System, will thrive with the best treatments and opportunities for ideal health. And the rest of us? We be f$#@ed. That is the prominent thing that should be getting our government's attention. The Fort Chipewyan residents have found to have disproportionately high rates of immune system diseases and cancer by prominent regional doctor, Dr. O'Connor. The thing is that Ft. Chip is just downstream Lake Athabasca, which happens to be the majority of the source water for the oilsands operations in the area. There is a lot of headaches and disagreements about the environmental impact from the mining operations and the health effects on the locals. Then again, when tailings ponds can kill ~500 ducks, it's hard to believe that 100% mitigation can be taken to guarantee that people aren't being poisoned the same way, however so resilient they may be.

Bambi in the Bucket of a Bobcat

Besides the health side of things, we are watching the environment of our beautiful province turning more & more into the Land of Mordor. Building and Burning. Continual expansion: industrial sprawl, paving into the country & driving the wildlife away. There's bear killing going on, since the bears are getting in the way of industrial progress and sprawling urban development. And we are idly watching the replacement of habitat with paved roads, clouded skies, dried and filled wetlands. Caribou populations dwindling. This is happening everywhere: hectare by hectare.
The land footprint according to March 2009 National Geographic of all oilsands development in Alberta is 150 square miles. This equates to .01% of the total area of the Canadian boreal forest.
Small, yet devastating.
When Edmonton tears up its northeast soil belt for the sake of building 6 oil refineries in what is destined to become "Upgrader Alley", more farming habitat: lost forever.
And when the building of a new sour gas well (the sweet gas is gone) is approved for just beyond Calgary's city limits (or is it that Calgary's urban sprawl is reaching the foothills where the wells just happen to be being built now?): more emissions.

There is oil under lakes, like Maria Lake, that is constantly being surveyed & studied by geotech's who really wanna get under that lake & say that people & habitat won't be affected. Public pressure has saved our lakes so far, but as resources get depleted and prices go up, potentially devastating that lake will become a more & more viable option to many.

The bottom line of all of this is that we need new enforceable governmental legislation that caters to the interests of the people rather than companies. The existing system ensures that the few involved in industry will continue to get rich and increase the economic disparity amongst the classes, including even the middle-class having a harder time of breaking even. With this new enforceable governmental legislation, we will also have "to invent the corrective feedbacks that are needed to keep custodians (=politicians) honest" (Hardin, 1968). Only then will we be living in a province that we will not feel morally detached from, as we continue to destroy the land, air, and waters all around us.
Marx. The people's revolution. It may still happen. A person really can be pushed so far. Increasing numbers of anarchists and revolutionaries resisting this conservative occupation will get noisier and noisier. We all know that there is a dire need for emission reduction and environmental protection, and only with time will we start seeing these people rising from the ashes and fighting the system back with a vengeance. Unless we get four hundred dollar rebate cheques.
I bought Nikiforuk's Oilsands book before Halloween and haven't read it yet. Maybe I will go do that now.


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