Video – Tar Sands Bring Misery to Alberta Residents

Felice Stadler filed this dispatch while on a tour of tar sands producing Alberta, Canada. National Wildlife Federation is working to slow production of tar sands fuels in Alberta. Tar sands are one of the dirtiest fuels in the world and wreak havoc on people and the environment.

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On the plane to Fort McMurray, Alberta, where we’re gathering a delegation of eight staff, board members, and invited guests for a 3-day tour of tar sands mining operations, I read a short piece in the Washington Post titled: “How the Future will Judge Us.” The opinion piece asks which actions do we engage in today that descendants will judge us by, actions that will seem appalling tomorrow?

George Poitras addresses NWF officials in Alberta on the dangers of tar sands to his community
This theme permeated the remarks we heard this evening by George Poitras (pictured), a member of the Mikisew Cree First Nation who has taken on the struggle of the Fort Chipewyan Nation that lies on the front lines of tar sands mining.

Despite being surrounded by water, his community has no water to drink due to massive heavy metal and toxic chemical pollution.

Despite being proudly isolated (a fly-in community), his town of 1,200 has 30% elevated cancer levels, cancers that are deemed “rare and aggressive.”

Despite having incredible access to subsistence food sources, his community of hunters, trappers, and fishermen worry about what they’re feeding their families because of the widespread contamination of the land and rivers.

His region of the country is home to the largest industrial project in the world, and therefore the most environmentally destructive. It is a region where every major oil company worldwide has made investments in mining and refining tar sands for the next 50 years. It is a region that UNEP has identified as being one of earth’s very few environmental hotspots.

George’s closing message to our group was, our people are forward thinking. We are always thinking seven generations ahead. And we ask ourselves, what is the legacy that our children will inherit?

Unlike the Post piece, the actions being pursued up here in the boreal forest of northern Canada will not seem appalling tomorrow. They are so, today.