In Support of Andrew Nikiforuk: The Tar Sands and the Need for Effective Change

In Support of Andrew Nikiforuk: The Tar Sands and the Need for Effective Change

By Anthony Pintabona

Throughout the history of Canada, there has been no greater misuse of resources than the expansion of the tar sands. As the nation cultivates its land for the purpose of financial gain, Andrew Nikiforuk, in his book entitled Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent, stands as a lone voice in the battle against corporate evil in favour of environmental righteousness and humane action. Warning against the reckless expansion of the tar sands--without a concrete plan as to what the future may hold--Nikiforuk appears to be more considerate of the Canadian landscape's well being than the Government of Canada itself, an eerie reminder of the misplaced trust we place upon authority figures to "do the right thing". Nikiforuk makes it clear that finance has once again taken precedence over morals.

As Albertan bitumen production marches on, it is apparent that Andrew Nikiforuk, Albertan national and author, has a deep-rooted connection to the issue unfolding "in his backyard". Having won numerous awards in his past, Nikiforuk exercises his eloquent writing style towards remedying the current state of political in-action in regards to the tar sands issue. It is clear, after reading Nikiforuk's book, that the tar sands--a project so massive and destructive in its force and effect--is met without a long-term plan from the government of Canada. The attitude at hand is one of carelessness and greed, and is met with the committed destruction of Alberta as "a quick way of getting rich", met with no consideration for the land or its people: A land and a people that are not only dear to resident Nikiforuk, but the foundation of Canadian value and experience as much so as any other province.

If Alberta is to be a sacrificial lamb to economic growth, what's stopping those in power from moving onto another province after Alberta's oil has run dry, and repeating the process? This is the question posed by Nikiforuk's work, one that may well need to be answered by the whole of Canada at some point. Toxic smog, as well as other hazardous health conditions, accompany the destruction of the land in Alberta, so this is indeed a much more severe topic than mere environmentalism--this is the debate of moral goodness and humanity. Will we let our neighbors die at the hands of corrupt officials and mass consumption? Would Montréalers, Vancouverites or Torontonians approve of taxing their respective provinces for the cause? These questions seem to have all but logical answers, and Nikiforuk doesn't hesitate to point out the glaring contradictions and logical fallacies that seek to harm Alberta's well being. According to Nikiforuk, " if the destruction continues, Alberta could very well become Canada's own "Saudi-Arabia", a land not only completely barren and pillaged of resources, but one wholly dependent on its fossil fuel production for mere sustenance: "A third world province" in Canada.

Nikiforuk characterizes the tar sands' threat to Canada once again, this time in outlining the dependence on foreign countries to purchase oil from Alberta. The province is one of the leading places which supply oil to the United States, thus, the idea of destroying Canada to benefit other countries arises, and it is one that comes off as totally absurd to any patriotic Canadian. If Canada is so concerned with economic growth and receiving money from wherever it can with its exports, then it has lost the idea of a nation of brotherhood within itself: It has begun to sell out its own peoples' well-being in the name of development, resulting in poorer conditions of life. This is counter-developmental, and creates animosity in the heart of its citizens. The same can be witnessed in filmmaker Josh Fox's movie Gasland, which sees American residents driven from their land as a result of fossil fuel cultivation. With the association of negativity that surrounds oil drilling, it seems all but apparent that in almost every instance, there has been more harm done than good as a result. It is for this reason that there cannot be concrete support for Alberta's tar sands, and it is time to find a new way to power our society--one that doesn't destroy it in the process.

Throughout his book, Nikiforuk aims to offer a critical social critique of the society surrounds him as an Albertan. While the nature of Western society stresses constant development, there needs to be a more efficient way of meeting said goal, and If we do not map out the future of the tar sands on an intelligent, moderate use basis, we pose the risk of altering our country's environment beyond repair. The tar sands have already caused irreversible damage, let there not be any more needless destruction of Canadian soil.

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