February 22, 2011

Three Ways to Save Great Bear, Fight to Stop Tar Sands.

For Nature? Against Overseas Oil Interests and the Most Destructive Project on Earth? Sharing this great article by Emily is a start. ~ ed.

Last summer, the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP) descended on a remote part of British Columbia’s north coast called the Great Bear Rainforest to take part in a RAVE (Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition). Think SWAT team of the most bad-ass conservation photographers in the world. Home to white spirit bears, ancient forests, and stunning marine biodiversity, the Great Bear Rainforest is one of the planet’s most wild and pristine places, but overseas oil interests wanting access to western Canada’s Athabasca tar sands, the second largest known oil reserves in the world, have put the region in threat. A threat that prompted the iLCP to act.

If you haven’t heard of the tar sands, or if you don’t automatically cringe in disgust when you hear “tar sands”, then please pay attention to the next couple of paragraphs…

© Garth Lenz, iLCP

The Alberta tar sands is arguably the most destructive project on earth.

It’s nasty. So nasty that more than 90% of the water that is used the tar sands ends up in tailings lakes so toxic that propane cannons and floating scarecrows are used to keep ducks from landing in them. In 2003, when a confused flock of ducks landed in the tar sands lake, they all died. Seriously. And the toxic tailing ponds are considered one of the largest human-made structures in the world. They can be seen from space. No wonder those poor ducks were confused…

© Garth Lenz, iLCP

Producing a barrel of oil from the oil sands produces three times more greenhouse gas emissions than a barrel of conventional oil. By 2015, oil sands production is expected to more than double to about 2.2 million barrels per day. Also by then, the Alberta Oil Sands are expected to emit more greenhouse gases than the nation of Denmark (pop. 5.4 million). If you want to keep learning nasty facts about the tar sands, check out the DeSmog Blog

In the US, we’ve already got tar sands pipelines snaking through the heartland. Remember, the pipeline in Michigan that spilled millions of gallons of dirty in to the Kalamazoo River? Tar sands. And now there are plans to expand the tar sand operations to increase exports of oil not only to the United States, but overseas to Asia. This would more than double the size of the tar sands. Try to wrap you mind around the size of those toxic tailings ponds and how much greenhouse gas we’d be pumping into the atmosphere.

But, the tar sands cannot expand without building a 2,000-mile pipeline across British Columbia through Great Bear and introduce enormous super oil tankers to the region’s pristine waters. Enbridge Inc., the world’s largest pipeline construction company is pushing to keep this project moving forward, but they’ve got their work cut out for them.

© Pat Freeny, iLCP

BC First Nations communities, coastal fishing communities, BC’s municipalities and thousands of conservationists stand united against this tar sands threat.

“We have drawn a line in the sand. There will be no Enbridge Pipeline and there will be no crude oil tankers in our waters. This is not a battle we intend to lose”

Gerald Amos from Kitamaat Village said at a protest last year.

© Cristina Mittermeier, iLCP

After spending weeks with the Gitga’at First Nations in the heart of Great Bear, iLCP’s founder and president Christina Mittermeier said:

Oil has a long history of not producing wealth or prosperity, exactly the opposite. What oil brings is poverty, social disease and environmental degradation. This is something that this coastline does not need. This is an environmental threat facing British Columbia and the coast… This is an environmental threat that would be facing planet Earth. This would have global impact… when you think about the Alberta tar sands, it will be doubling its potential output if this pipeline goes through. It’s not just the impact it will have on the coastline. It’s the impact it will have in Athabasca.

This is one of the most toxic projects on the planet and I think as a civilized society, we need to ask ourselves: ‘Do we need this oil?’ And maybe the answer is ‘no, not anymore.’

Over the weekend, the film SPOIL: The Fight To Save The Great Bear by EP Films won the Best Environmental Film Award at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival. This film and the images capture the true essence of Great Bear — what there is to save and the sheer will to fight. It is beautiful and inspiring, but most importantly it motivates people to act; reminding them that sitting on the sidelines isn’t an option.

Tar sands are dirty and destructive, and as iLCP photographer Garth Lenz said, this film is a call to action for all of us become “anti tar sands warriors.”

“This is an opportunity, what road are we on and where do we want to be going? … do we want to be so ashamed of our country’s environmental actions that we rip the Canadian flags off our backpacks?”

If we allow Enbridge’s pipeline to expand the Athabasca tar sands through Great Bear and if we allow oil super tankers to ply those pristine waters, disaster is inevitable. And not just for the people and wildlife who thrive in Great Bear, but for humanity as a whole. Because as we’re standing at the edge of a cliff that will define our future, instead of turning around and taking one step forward to save ourselves, we stepped forward off that cliff toward a future of ravaged ecosystems, mass extinctions and oil dependence.

So, what will you choose to do?

If you choose to join me and fight, here are three things we can all do to save Great Bear and stop the tar sands expansion:

  1. Watch SPOIL. Knowledge is power.
  2. Show your friends! Share the film and the story on Facebook and Twitter. Organize a screening!
  3. Sign this petition. And keep fighting!
  4. Bonus: Click “F” or “t” below and post this article and cause to your Wall or tweet this to your followers.
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