Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tar Sands by Andrew Nikiforuk

Tar Sands by Andrew Nikiforuk

Subtitled ‘Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent’, this book is a must read for every Canadian. Tar Sands is packed with information about what is happening in Alberta, much of which was news to me. It’s extremely comprehensive and filled with facts, but they are clearly sorted chapter by chapter. How bitumen turns into oil, the terrible toll on the people working and living around the oil sands, the impact of the refining process on the environment including a chapter dealing specifically with water, it’s all here. At just under 200 pages in paperback, it’s affordable, portable and readable. However, the volume of information and Nikiforuk’s impassioned writing style made it easier for me to take in a chapter at a time. Nota bene - some reviewers and other entities have taken issue with some of Nikiforuk's research, and he has responded.
One of the interesting points Nikiforuk makes is that there is almost no coverage of the tar sands by the mainstream press. Likening what is happening in Alberta to a national event on the scale of the building of the railway, he finds it unbelievable that there is so little reporting of what is going on. With the election of Obama, the issue takes on a new urgency as it is central to the agenda when Obama meets Harper in Ottawa on February 19th. A recent article in Macleans says “On Monday, Canada's ambassador to the United States, Michael Wilson, suggested the perception of Canada as a purveyor of dirty oil is one of the biggest challenges the government faces with Obama's administration. Prime Minister Stephen Harper also admitted during an interview last week ‘To be frank, on the oil sands, we've got to do a better job environmentally. We hear a lot of pressure on that’.”

It’s up to us to keep up that pressure. Educating yourself by reading this book is a good first step. When I finished it I felt ‘we have to do something’ Hopefully, it will elicit that same reaction from you. More on what’s being done in another post.

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