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Alberta’s Oil Sands - Part 2: James Cameron’s Real Life Avatar

James Cameron met with indigenous leader Francois Paulette about the effect of the tar sands on the people of Fort Chipewyan James Cameron met with indigenous leader Francois Paulette about the effect of the tar sands on the people of Fort Chipewyan

Last week RosebudMag.com published Part 1 of our look at Alberta’s Oil Sands (sometimes called Tar Sands), and the recent confirmation that the project is having a devastating effect on the surrounding area, as well as, the environment in general. We also highlighted the impact on the indigenous population of Fort Chipewyan who are afflicted with several times the normal rate of cancer, including rare strains of the disease. Hollywood super director James Cameron, the man behind Avatar and Titanic among others, recently paid a visit to the Oil Sands and spoke about his experience.

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{reg}“The people in Fort Chipewyan are afraid to drink their own water. They’re afraid to eat the fish. They’re afraid to let their kids swim in the river,” said Cameron. “The idea of that is appalling to me, and for a community to live in fear like that, we need to look into this. [We need to] do the science and make sure that the science is transparent, open to the public - that it’s not funded by industry, but independent because we’re only at the beginning of it. Only two or three percent of the tar sands deposits are currently being mined. You guys are going to be at the center of a spotlight here that’s going to be a world spotlight.”

Cameron made reference to the need for “transparent” science because, for years, the oil industry monitored itself and continually reported, inaccurately, that their Oil Sands project was doing minimal polluting and environmental damage. And, not coincidentally, they kept the details of their scientific findings from the public, reporting only in broad terms that things were okay.

Cameron also notes that Canada will be in the world spotlight. Well, that’s already true. The global community generally looks on the Oil Sands with great disdain. One of the UK’s foremost publications, The Guardian, wrote recently that “the money to be made from Canada's tar sands has blinded its government to the risks to water, climate and the biosphere.” And that’s just one of the many European voices speaking out against the project in Fort McMurray, Alberta.

The reasons the tar sands are so problematic are myriad. Water depletion is of grave concern, as is the social injustice of poisoning the native populations who have inhabited the area for millennia. It really is just like James Cameron’s Avatar, where one race extracts resources from another’s land heedless of the indigenous race’s basic rights.

Of course, another big problem with the Oil Sands is the impact on global warming. According to tarsandswatch.org, “Greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands production are three times those of conventional oil and gas production… Additionally, tar sands production is expected to multiply as much as four to five times by the year 2015 to meet growing demands in the U.S.”

James Cameron met with the media about his visit to Alberta's Oil Sands


There’s a salient point there about America’s role in the fiasco in northern Alberta. Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature, puts it this way: “America is equally complicit…the junkie buying the drugs Canada is peddling.”

And there’s no sign of relief. Every year, oil demand grows by 2% while global oil reserves shrink by 7%.

Canada’s CBC television station recently produced an excellent documentary called Tipping Point about Alberta’s Oil Sands, James Cameron, the illness in Fort Chipewyan, global concern, and many elements of the whole story. Interested viewers should pull up a chair and check it out at this address: www.cbc.ca/documentaries


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Last modified on Monday, 24 September 2012 19:07

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