First, an animated video detailing the process and scope of what is called the largest industrial project in history, the Alberta Oil Sands. When you’re done informing yourself, lighten up with Jon Stewart’s Daily Show take on Canada and the Tar Sands.
Dozens of people have been arrested today at a sit-in staged in front of the White House to protest the proposed 1,700-mile-long Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to Texas, which President Obama is scheduled to mull over in the coming weeks.
About 70 people stood outside the north entrance of the building on Saturday August 20 with signs urging Obama to nix the plan by denying Calgary-based TransCanada a permit, according to media reports. Among the chanting protesters arrested were Gus Speth, who chaired the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality during Jimmy Carter’s presidency, The Wall Street Journal reported. He also co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“If we hook up the Alberta tar sands to America’s insatiable lust of gasoline, I worry that you can just kiss the planet good-bye,” he told The Wall Street Journal.
The arrests come on the heels of the National Congress of American Indians’ (NCAI) August 18 condemnation of the pipeline. Protesters are mobilizing through the second half of August to bring attention to the damaging effects of the existing installations, which many experts say are among the planet’s worst carbon offenders.
In this video, Hollywood actor Mark Ruffalo lends his support to the protesters.
“Up north where the tar sands are located, native people’s homelands have already been wrecked,” he says, directing those against the pipeline to Tar Sands Action’s website. “All that new oil will worsen global warming. It’s time for us to get off fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are over.”
Born in Fort McMurray, Alberta, aboriginal actress Tantoo Cardinal had a front-row seat to the oil sands growing up. Now living in British Columbia, Cardinal (Métis, Cree) traveled to Washington with her friend and fellow actress Margot Kidder to join hundreds at a sit-in aimed at getting President Barack Obama to turn down the proposed 1,700-mile pipeline that would carry crude from the oil-laden fields in northern Alberta all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.
Both she and Kidder, a Canadian, were arrested, along with about 60 others, for violating a protest permit by sitting on Pennsylvania Avenue, on the in front of the White House and staying put when police told them to leave, Postmedia News reported.
Cardinal came, she said in this videotaped statement, because of the “absolute refusal and blindness” out there regarding sustainable energy.
“If there was any amount of energy, and time, and money, and education spent to wind energy, solar energy, and the natural ways of living a good life, then that would be some source of satisfaction,” she said in this video. “But the greed has not left. This that is going on right now is no different than all that has happened in the history of my people. This blind greed and meanness is what has annihilated so many nations of my people in genocide.”
Cardinal, who appeared in Dances with Wolves, Legends of the Fall and Smoke Signals, among other movies, also had a message for Obama:
“This will affect your children before your grandchildren,” the 61-year-old actress said. “And the power is with the people. You nourish people’s spirit, nourish their life, and that brings us together.”
There is wisdom in aligning with the forces of nature, she said. “It’s protection for our children and grandchildren.”
The Yinka Dene Alliance, which leads the First Nations charge against Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to the British Columbia coast, is scoffing at the corporation’s claims that it has signed up takers.
“Enbridge’s pipeline isn’t happening, period. It doesn’t matter who they get a deal with,” said Chief Larry Nooski of Nadleh Whut’en First Nation, a member of the alliance, in a statement. “They plan to come through our territories and we’ve already said no, and we’ll use every legal means we have to stop them. Their proposed pipeline is against our laws because we refuse to put our communities at the risk of oil spills.”
Calgary-based Enbridge said on August 25 that it had signed several in the industry up for contracts to buy oil from the pipeline, which would cut across British Columbia, skirting the rainforest and the habitat of the spirit bear, to the Pacific coast. This would open the market for bituminous oil to Asia.
On August 24 Enbridge announced that it had filed documentation with Canada’s National Energy Board for long-term service agreements for both the crude oil export pipeline and the condensate import pipeline and that the parties—which Enbridge said were confidential—had agreed on commercial terms.
“Commercial support for the project from both Canadian oil producers and Asian markets reinforces the international importance of the project to Canada—facilitating access to world markets and international pricing for Canada’s most valuable non-renewable resource,” said Enbridge Executive Vice President of Western Access Janet Holder. “This support demonstrates the need for Northern Gateway and is a major step forward for the project.”
The Yinka Dene Alliance, which has opposed the plan from day 1, begged to differ.
“Getting industry to support their plan is not going to help them. These lands belong to First Nations and they will never get our permission because our lands and rivers are not for sale,” Nooski’s statement said.
Meanwhile protests continued in front of the White House in Washington, D.C., to protest another oil sands pipeline, this one the 1,700-mile-long Keystone proposed from Alberta down through the U.S. to the Gulf of Mexico. Hundreds of protesters have been arrested for disobeying a police order to disband, including aboriginal actress Tantoo Cardinal and Canadian actress Margot Kidder.
Both the Northern Gateway and the Keystone would cross indigenous lands and, aboriginals say, harm the environment. The Dene Nation, whose territory stretches from northern Alberta through the Northwest Territories, has also voted to oppose the Northern Gateway.
“There are now more than 100 First Nations in western Canada who’ve said no to their pipeline and tankers,” Nooski said. “From the Rockies to the Pacific, every mile of their pipeline and tanker route goes through a First Nation that has banned their project. This pipeline is dead in the water.”
Upwards of 166 people, including indigenous leaders from territories in the United States and Canada, were arrested on Friday September 2 for protesting in front of the White House.
Resistance is growing against the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would cut a 1,700-mile swath from the U.S. Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico carrying dirty crude from the Alberta oil sands in Canada.
“What did you say?” says one protester after the cop states his warning. Then as he walks away, the protesters hoot and cheer.
View the video by ICTMN Washington D.C. Bureau Chief Rob Capriccioso below, then read his coverage of the protest.
WASHINGTON—It was an emotional scene at the White House Friday as dozens of tribal citizens traded their precious freedom in exchange for the hope of protecting Mother Earth—not to mention their own cultures, health, and livelihoods.
In all, 166 people were arrested for committing acts of civil disobedience at the White House gates facing Lafayette Park. Their crime was carrying signs too close to the gates—signs printed with the words “Obama Honor the Treaties” and “Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline”—as they verbally implored President Barack Obama not to sign off on the creation of a vast cross-border pipeline project that could prove environmentally and culturally dangerous. The president was scheduled to be in residence at the time the arrests began, and he planned to travel to Camp David later in the day.
The Obama administration, led by Hillary Clinton’s State Department, is considering its position on the matter as top Canadian officials and energy magnates have already come out in support of the pipeline’s expansion through the U.S. If approved, the development would stretch from the northern reaches of Canada through the Great Plains and down south to Texas and the Gulf of Mexico. Protesters cite environmental destruction, health and cultural impacts, and a lack of consultation with Indigenous Peoples who are already feeling the impact of the development as reasons for their concern.
“We have to stand up for Mother Earth. We have to stand up for our sacred water—for our children, our grandchildren, for the coming generations,” said Lakota activist Debra White Plume at a rally prior to her arrest. She said that the aftereffects of oil sands drilling that would come along with the expansion of the pipeline would likely desecrate the freshwater Ogallala Aquifer near her homelands in Pine Ridge, S.D.
“It is with great honor that I come here today to ask President Obama to stand with us for Mother Earth against Father Greed,” Plume said, adding that the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty could be violated if the pipeline crosses Native lands.
When White Plume was arrested as hundreds of onlookers watched, she calmly placed her arms behind her back as officers from the U.S. National Park Service cuffed her arms and led her to be taken to the city jail to be booked and released later in the day. Several Indians followed suit, peacefully submitting to arrest to document their displeasure for the history books, while hoping to have an impact on the immediate future.
The oil in Canada that would flow if the Keystone XL Pipeline expansion becomes a reality is contained in large underground formations called tar sands, and the extraction process is widely observed to be harmful to the land and can also pollute water sources. Another concern is that the company that owns the project has had several accidents involving its drilling projects in recent years.
Of those arrested, many were indigenous citizens of United States and Canadian tribes who journeyed long and far to the nation’s capital to make their voices heard against the development. One of the visitors, Chief Bill Erasmus of the Yellowknife Northwest Territories in northern Canada, said that fossil fuel development already taking place near his homelands, development that the proposed pipeline would expand upon, has already been a destructive force for Natives in the form of environmental pollution.
In light of his concerns, Erasmus was part of a group of indigenous citizens who recently sent Clinton a letter explaining their rationale for opposition. “Our people, in some areas, can no longer eat the fish,” he said at the rally. “Our people can no longer drink the water. Water levels are decreasing. Where I’m from, it’s never been like that before.”
In addition, such development is not necessary, he added.
“We’re saying that this pipeline is not needed,” Erasmus said. “The oil is not for America. The oil is for the highest bidder.”
According to indigenous and environmental organizers of the event, Obama has the ability to stop the pipeline in its tracks, even though its initial stages have already begun in Canada.
“If President Obama would just listen to what’s in his heart and not to the corporations, Barack you would know what to do,” said Kandi Mosset, who works with the Indigenous Environmental Network, at the rally. “Your heart tells you. Look at your little girls… What do you want them to remember from you when they grow up?”
Organizers said the number of people arrested during the indigenous gathering on the 13th day of ongoing protests was high compared to the numbers on previous days of arrests, which saw celebrities Daryl Hannah, Margot Kidder, and Tantoo Cardinal, a well-known Cree actress—as well as hundreds of non-famous citizens—arrested for the cause.
Beyond those arrested, hundreds more attended the late-morning protest, which drifted into mid-afternoon by the time everyone had been handcuffed. Throughout, the protesters remained in strong spirit, joking with each other as they waited their turns with police, and occasionally bursting into group chants such as, “No tar sands, no pipeline, no problems,” and, “This is what democracy looks like!”
Representatives of the National Congress of American Indians did not officially take part in the demonstration, even though the D.C.-based Indian advocacy organization in August issued a statement against the pipeline, saying it poses a major threat to Indians.
“The National Congress of American Indians is not involved in the civil disobedience actions at the White House,” said NCAI spokesman Thom Wallace. “However, we continue to communicate and stand firm on the position from our resolution that the pipeline poses grave dangers to tribal nations.”
On one side of the frame is ethereal autumn forest. As your eye travels toward the top of the photo, a stark line. The golden foliage ends abruptly, and you are staring at Mordor: black and gray ash hills amid fetid pools of oily muck and belching smokestacks.
Such is the visual journey that photographer Garth Lenz, who grew up in British Columbia, took over the notorious oil sands of the Peace Athabasca Delta to observe the industrial development known as the Alberta Oil Sands. Now he brings them to those of us who do not have physical access to the massive wound in Canada’s boreal forest that would furnish our replacement for Middle Eastern oil, if western industry and political leaders would have their way.
His photo series, Canada’s Tar Sands and the True Cost of Oil, won first place in a photo competition at Social Documentary.net, Ten Years After Nine/Eleven: Searching for a 21st Century Landscape. It is on display through September 16 at the PowerHouse Arena in Brooklyn, part of a larger show that connects the U.S.’s so-called oil addiction to the events of September 11, 2001. A reception will be held on Saturday, September 10, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. to showcase the exhibit and the connection.
You can find rsvp information and directions here.
Photographer Garth Lenz offers some insights into the composition of his pictures of the Alberta oil sands at a recent exhibition in Brooklyn’s Powerhouse Arena. His photo series, Canada’s Tar Sands and the True Cost of Oil, were part of a show, Ten Years After Nine/Eleven: Searching for a 21st Century Landscape, sponsored by the documentary site Social Documentary.net. ICTMN caught up with Lenz at the opening and spoke with him on-camera.
See a full slide show of his work here, along with links to other coverage.
Calling it “one of the largest acts of civil disobedience on the climate issue that Canada has ever seen,” the Council of Canadians is urging people to converge on Ottawa on Monday September 26 to protest against the Alberta oil sands, the source of the crude that would travel through the Keystone XL pipeline being considered in Washington.
“We must act together for the health of our planet, our air, our water, our climate and our children,” the environmental and policy group says on its website. This protest will not be relegated to the Keystone XL, which is a 1,700-mile pipeline from Canada down to Houston. This protest is against the notion of oil sands development at all, which is set to expand greatly as demand grows. A slide show depicting what has been wrought so far, with links to further ICTMN coverage, is here.
“In a large peaceful protest, many will be risking arrest to tell the Harper government that we don’t support his reckless agenda; that we want to turn away from the toxic tar sands industry; and that we oppose the direction he’s taking this country,” the Council of Canadians said of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s administration. “ Tar sands mining and other extreme forms of energy extraction like Arctic drilling, shale fracking, and nuclear power generation send us in the exact opposite direction that we, as a civilization, must go to ensure global survival. If we burn the tar sands, we blot our nation’s reputation; if we leave that carbon in the ground, we’ll do the world an enormous favor.”
The Council of Canadians is joined by Greenpeace Canada and the Indigenous Environmental Network, and has the backing of individuals including author and journalist Naomi Klein, George Poitras, a member of Mikisew Cree First Nation, which is downstream from the oil sands, and Toghestiy Wet’suwet’en, Hereditary Chief of Wet’suwet’en Nation, and aboriginal actor Graham Greene.
Celebrity-power pressure is starting to get under Ottawa’s skin, Reuters reported, with the high-profile arrests of actress Darryl Hannah and others. Aboriginal actress Tantoo Cardinal was arrested in the Washington, D.C., protests, as was Canadian actress Margot Kidder.
“Criticism of the oil sands—and now the proposed Keystone XL pipeline—is a major concern for us, with implications for our energy industry, our economy and our energy security,” said Energy Minister Joe Oliver to an audience of business people in Toronto, Reuters said.
About 100 people were arrested on September 26 after climbing police barriers on Parliament Hill as they protested against further development of the Alberta Oil Sands.
The 400 total who protested the Keystone XL pipeline that would run from Alberta to Texas were peaceful, according to news reports.
She spoke out against the industry for the financial incentives that TransCanada, the pipeline’s would-be builder, has offered to First Nations communities in return for right-of-way through their territory.
“We’ve seen that routine in Canadian history and we say no,” she told the crowd, according to Postmedia News. “We say no to the destruction of our land, water and people.”
Bill Erasmus, chief of the Dene Nation in the Northwest Territories, also attended. The Dene are opposing Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which would cut through British Columbia en route to the Pacific coast.
“This is part of ongoing activity that is directly related to opposition of the tar sands,” he said in a statement before the protest. “From northern Alberta to the Arctic Ocean, our communities are directly downstream from tar sands developments. Water pollution and climate-changing greenhouse gases from the tar sands are impacting our rights—protected under Treaty 8 and Treaty 11—to hunt, trap and fish as we always have on our land. The Keystone XL pipeline expansion would facilitate a huge increase in tar sands expansion, and this pipeline must be stopped.”
Also attending and speaking was Melina Laboucan-Massimo, a member of the Lubicon Cree and a campaigner for Greenpeace, who spoke about the April Rainbow Pipeline oil spill that had caused burning eyes, headaches and nausea in her community, including among her family. It was one of the largest spills in Alberta’s history, and the effects are detailed in a video she made for Greenpeace.
“Our way of life is no longer the same. Our ecosystem is destroyed,” she said, according to Postmedia News. “The government denied the severity of an oil spill.”
The Lubicon Cree live near a pipeline that carries oil out of the sands. The spill prompted the weeklong closure of a school, among other problems.