Tar Sands Exposed Tour Shows Human, Environmental Cost of Dirty Fuel

The contrast of images is stark, startling.  Scenes of majestic beauty untouched by the hands of people and scraped earth scraped made toxic and lifeless.  Images of the earth’s bounty; images of greed.

Such are the images and stories of an eye-opening tour sweeping through the Northeast that opened Friday night in Burlington, Vermont entitled “Tar Sands Exposed.”  The tour features the acclaimed photographer Garth Lenz as well as eloquent representatives of the First Nations’ Peoples facing the direct devastation of tar sands, Crystal Lameman of the Beaver Lake Cree and Eriel Deranger of the Athabasca Chipewyan.  The tour is being organized by 350.org state groups in the region along with help from organizations like Sierra Club and National Wildlife Federation.  It continues through New England and Quebec until February 1.

Garth Lenz presents in Burlington, Vermont.
Garth Lenz presents in Burlington, Vermont.

Images of Beauty and Destruction

Garth Lenz’s stunning photographs highlight the tour.  He begins with images of the wild beauty of Canada’s boreal forest, known as the lungs of the Earth for its massive oxygen production.  It is one of the most productive wildlife habitats in the world and is known as North America’s bird nursery.

Then he shows what tar sands development—the massive strip mining and water intensive drilling—is doing to the boreal forest, turning it into a toxic moonscape littered with poisonous waste ponds visible from space.  Tar sands—a peanut butter like substance from which extremely carbon polluting gasoline is derived—development threatens to destroy an area of the size Florida.

Tales of a Land Ruined

Crystal Lameman followed with a deeply moving account of how her people’s traditional land –land that has sustained them for millennium – is being poisoned.  She told accounts of green deer meat, sickened moose, water that burns the skin, fish riddled with tumors, summer nights bereft of singing frogs, and the cancers and illnesses of her people who must live off a land being ruined.  She told of treaties to protect the land and her people and how the oil companies and the Canadian Government were trampling on those treaties.

I have been working on tar sands for several years now.  I have read the statistics, studied the documents, written on the impacts.  But seeing the images and hearing the stories Garth and Crystal put forth brought home a simple point: the tar sands region is a crime scene.  It is a temple of greed, sacrificing our children’s future.

The Northeast Can Lead the Way to a Better Future

tar sands alberta

The Northeast has a tremendous opportunity to stand up to this outrage.  A likely proposal to bring tar sands through Northern New England can be stopped, and the region is mobilizing to block any such effort.  We must be steadfast.  The region can also say no to tar sands derived gasoline, and stop this dirty fuel from entering our market if we act now.

The oil industry is telling us that tar sands extraction is inevitable, that it can’t be stopped, that we should do their bidding and approve massive boondoggle pipelines like the Keystone XL because they’ll develop this nasty product one way or another.

They’re wrong.

We can stand up for wildlife and for our children’s future and choose a wiser path.  If we want to pass along a sustainable world to our children we can be proud of, the Tar Sands Exposed tour makes clear that is the only real choice we have.
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