Today I wanted to write about some very cool architects I’m getting to know, but the most recent news from the Alberta tar sands is just too outrageous to skip over. [How this is relevant to this blog: Plains Justice has been supporting landowners’ and local residents’ efforts to get a straight story about the potential impacts of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, a 36-inch diameter, high pressure pipe from Alberta to the Texas gulf coast, carrying bitumen diluted with a witch’s brew of chemicals, heated to 140 degrees, and buried 4 feet deep.] While down here we debate pipeline safety, eminent domain and what it’s worth to protect the Ogallala Aquifer, a controversy has been raging in Canada (National Geographic had a good tar sands piece recently) over the impact of tar sands extraction on boreal forests, rivers and wildlife. Here’s the latest update.
Just a week after paying a CAN$3 million fine for the deaths of 1600 ducks that landed on its tailing ponds in 2008, Canada tar sands extractor Syncrude had to euthanize 230 ducks that landed on its tar sands tailing ponds this week (there was good coverage of the story out of Calgary). To look at their website, you’d think Syncrude was an environmental organization, but they’ve been unable to resolve the lethal combination of highly toxic tailings ponds and a huge migratory waterfowl corridor. In spite of reassurances from industry and the Canadian government that the 2008 event was a mistake that would never happen again, here we are.
The photos of tar sands extraction are eerily similar to photos of the Powder River Basin strip mines. This is what it comes to – the heroin addict’s needle between the toes when all the other veins are shot.
What I see when I look at news like this isn’t the sins of some faceless corporation, but a mirror. The corporation is us. It reflects our demands and our lifestyles, until we force it to reflect something different by shifting our investments and changing our own behavior. I don’t like what I see in the mirror of the tar sands. A culture of responsibility starts at home. My bike is parked outside my office. The car is in the garage, where it belongs, while we all walk or ride bikes or buses to work and school. There are a million people to blame, but the only one I can change is at this keyboard.
More soon about how rural America can build the clean transport infrastructure we need.