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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Photo NASA Earth Observatory ~ Athabasca (Alberta) Oil Sands growth 1984 to 2011

The Beaver Lake Cree, a small, impoverished band of 900 people in eastern Alberta, are suing the Canadian federal and Alberta provincial governments to protect the land. They claim that Alberta's tar sands developments are obliterating their traditional hunting and fishing lands in Alberta. The animals, fish, plants and medicine that sustain the Beaver Lake Cree are being destroyed. In Canada, the rights of Indigenous people are constitutionally protected. The Beaver Lake Cree’s Statement of Claim cites more than 17,000 infringements on their treaty rights and in the course of doing so names every major oil company in the world.
Investment in the bituminous sands in northern Alberta – the world’s last great oil field – totals approximately $200 billion. No assessment of the cumulative environmental or cultural damage has been done. It has been argued that this project – unhindered – will destroy a large part of the great boreal forest of North America, will escalate global warming, and will destroy an indigenous way of life. The Alberta government continues to approve projects, such that production of dirty oil will increase from the current 1.3 million barrels per day to 3 million barrels per day.

Already vast expanses of the boreal forest have been cut down – causing significant damage to the environment and to the earth’s well-being. The forest is home to a long list of animals, from black bears, caribou, marten, moose. As the forest is eroded to make way for open mines and in-situ mines, the ‘great lung’ of North America with its rich carbon-storing peat and soil, is disappearing. In its place, rapid growth of carbon emissions threatens to increase the earth’s temperature. Meanwhile, oil sands extraction pollutes the earth with its tailings ponds, pollutes the air with its emissions, and pollutes the water using two to four barrels of water to produce just one barrel of bitumen and creating vast lakes of chemicals that leach into local watersheds.