Mankind’s Worst Nightmare

If you want to be scared, I mean really scared, you don’t need to watch the latest sequel to Nightmare on Elm Street or read the latest Stephen King horror classic.

No sir re, real terror can be found by simply firing up Google Earth, the computer program that allows users to look at satellite pictures of any place on the planet. By mousing over and zooming in, you can see what Alberta’s tar sands look like from space.

It’s not a pretty sight, in facts it’s pretty darn scary to say the least.

The scale of the Alberta tar sands project is unprecedented in mankind’s history. The oil industry elite stand to make billions of dollars carving up the pristine boreal forest and wetlands of Northern Alberta in order to meet the insatiable oil demands of our southern neighbor’s. But these oil dollars pale in comparison to the environmental price that we will all eventually pay.

The tar sands consist of a mixture of silica sand, minerals, clay, water, and most importantly, crude bitumen. The process of converting bitumen so that we can use it to power our cars, heat our homes, and transport our food is not easy and very carbon intensive.

In fact it is so carbon intensive that converting tar sands to bitumen produces 3 times more climate changing CO2 than conventional oil extraction.

It’s estimated that two tons of earth must be excavated to produce one barrel of thick tar-like bitumen. And it requires as much as three barrels of fresh water from the Athabasca River to make one barrel of bitumen. It also takes a huge amount of energy to extract the oil from the sands.

Now think about this: each day Canada exports 1.4 million barrels of bitumen to the United States and that number is expected to triple in the next decade as the world’s dirty oil replaces the diminishing easy, cheap oil.

We live in a world of peak oil, every year demand grows by 2 percent, but our global oil reserves are shrinking by 7 percent, with this scenario it’s no wonder that the oil sands are becoming harder to ignore.

Because of cheap oil, for over 100 years we have been committed to exponential growth and the only reason is because oil has allowed us to.

Oil has given us tunnel vision in terms of short term thinking and short term gains while ignoring the long term downside that’s all around us.

We are beggaring the future, by not only destroying other cultures and species, but beggaring our future generations by indulging in this oil fuel binge and burning up all of our carbon based fuels in a little over a hundred years or so.

We know that our lifestyles must change. We know that burning fossil fuels such as oil and gas creates smog that harms our health and creates global warming. We know that global warming poses an incredible threat to humanity.

With all the money being made from the tar sands, very little of it seems to be reinvested in renewable energy that comes from wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal sources. If anything, we could be investing this money in low-carbon projects so that we won’t have to pull every bit of bitumen from the ground.

Maybe the bogeyman is simply a man in a suit trying to satisfy his shareholders, make a profit, and cozy up to federal politicians so he can continue doing his work without having to answer to his environmental crimes.

Or maybe there’s something more frightening to consider. Perhaps the bogeyman is us—the public that places the short-term economic value of the tar sands above the priceless value of our environment and our health.

Is this the price of progress? Or is progress measured by using up the rightful legacy of our future generations and ruining the biosphere?

I think the nightmare has just begun.

By: Master Tim Bell

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