Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Tar Babies

It was bad enough reading about 500 migrating waterfowl drowning in a pond of oily toxic sludge in the oil tar mining sites in northern Alberta last week, but I began my morning today reading a Mother Jones feature story about the effects the conversion of tar sands into gasoline is having on the health of the humans living in the area.

In the story, Scenes From The Tar Wars,Josh Harkinson recounts his single-engine Cessna trip across nothern Alberta with John O'Connor, an Irish "bush doctor" who has tended to some of Canada's most remote communities for more than a decade. The humans in question are mainly First Nations peoples, Mikisew, Cree, Athabasca, Chipewyan, and the descendants of French trappers. This is a story to break your heart, and one which makes me abandon any hope that the human race will survive its oil addiction. Tar sands are the resource that a commenter to one of my previous posts offered as the way to extend the oil age for several more generations. I was unconvinced by his comments of the sanity of mining oil from tar sands; I remain far less convinced after reading this piece.

Dr.O'Connor raised serious questions about the environmental risks of the oil operations, and what the pollutants in the Athabasca river were doing not only to the deformed fish caught there but to the people living in the nearby communities, communities where the doctor saw a rising tide of cancers and other serious ailments, including five cases of a rare form of bile-duct cancer. The story of what happens to someone who blows the whistle as Dr. O'Connor did, on companies like ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, running these operations so that North America can continue to rely on petroleum for the foreseeable future, is entirely predictable. So what, so bloody what, if the result of mining the tar sands is, as a Fort Chipewyan inhabitant quoted in the article says, that "We are going to destroy everything, we as human beings." Our greed is going to kill us. And in the end, with all the money we are going to have, and nothing to eat, no water to drink, no air to breathe—what is the good of it? It's just a lousy piece of paper."

I find this Mother Jones piece to be the Must Read of the day. Scenes From The Tar Wars.
More information on strip mining for oil in this pdf from National Resources Defense Council.
And yet more in this two-parter from The Oil Drum: Tar Sands, The Oil Junkie's Last Fix, Part 1 and Part 2.

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posted at 1:54:00 PM by marigolds2

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