The Alberta Oil Sands – From National Pride to International Pariah

In the neighbourhood of McMurray there are several tar-wells, so called, and there, if a hole is scraped in the bank, it slowly fills in with tar mingled with sand. This is separated by boiling, and is used, in its native state, for gumming canoes and boats. Farther up are immense towering banks, the tar oozing at every pore, and underlaid by great overlapping dykes of disintegrated limestone, alternating with lofty clay exposures, crowned with poplar, spruce and pine. On the 15th we were still following the right bank, and, anon, past giant clay escarpments along it, everywhere streaked with oozing tar, and smelling like an old ship.

Athabasca River – the oil sands run through it, naturally

The tar, whatever it may be otherwise, is a fuel, and burned in our camp-fires like coal. That this region is stored with a substance of great economic value is beyond all doubt, and, when the hour of development comes, it will, I believe, prove to be one of the wonders of Northern Canada. We were all deeply impressed by this scene of Nature’s chemistry, and realized what a vast storehouse of not only hidden but exposed resources we possess in this enormous country. What is unseen can only be conjectured; but what is seen would make any region famous.

Through the Mackenzie Basin
A Narrative of the Athabasca and Peace River Treaty
Expedition of 1899
By Charles Mair

As documented by William Stainsbury and author Elaine Dewar, from the early 1990s, a powerful ‘green’ movement developed in Canada that, on the surface appeared to be driven by public desire to see an improvement in forestry and other corporate environmental practises.

The “War in the Woods” of the 1990’s, staged in British Columbia, changed Canada forever. Where once we had been a nation of loggers, miners, oil drillers and oil sands developers that went about the business of resource development, suddenly Canada was thrust onto the world stage in an ugly light as activists battled forestry companies through confrontational civil disobedience, sometimes
violence, and engaged in activities like the illegal spiking of trees (driving nails into trees in the hope that a forestry worker’s saw would hit the nail and hurt the worker) in order to stop logging of old forests (in that case). Ultimately these activists moved into stopping development or use of other natural resources like coal, oil, and oil sands.

Both Stainsbury and Dewar observed the curious association of some major corporations to these ‘grassroots green groups’ and how, in some cases, certain governmental officials appeared to encourage (or refrain from limiting) these activities which ultimately put many people out of work and drove off investors.

Where once the definition of a charity in Canada relied upon service and net benefit to the local community, primarily operated by volunteers engaged in tangible, practical tasks such as “…the Halifax food bank, providing X number of food hampers to X numbers of Haligonians per year”, Canada’s ENGO ‘charitable’ sector now engage in court-battles to block pipelines, the denigration of
political figures, joint efforts by 30-50 ENGO organizations to push through ‘green’ budget demands through coordinated efforts and vigorous point-and-click email campaigns, and the denigration and blocking of Albertan and Canadian resource and infrastructure development, in particular, the Tar Sands Campaign.

Let us explore the impacts.

https://friendsofscience.org/assets/documents/Fear&Loathing.pdf