“My heart is moved by all I cannot save, so much has been destroyed. I have to cast my lot with those who age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.” Adrienne Rich
On Saturday we flew over the oil sands mines. The scope and breadth of the entire operation of two companies were in our view. There are 40 companies with permits to dig and drill in situ if the oil is too deep, not all are yet in operation.
Athabasca River flows through the Boreal forest as she has for countless generations blessing all life with water. First we see the Clearwater River winding through the beautiful Boreal and then the place where Clearwater and Athabasca meet…and then the industry.
It takes ten barrels of Athabasca water to make one barrel of oil. The industry very swiftly tells you how they recycle eight barrels of that water. The used water, filled with the chemical naptha (the only chemical they would tell us) and oil sheen floating on top is held in many different tailings ponds, some the size of lakes!
The birds have to be kept from landing on a tailings pond so little cannons boom all day and all night. The diminishment is downplayed while protecting ducks from certain death and reclaiming used water to process again is highlighted.
The industry falls over itself with congratulations.
The actual fly over the mines was at 1,000 feet and we could see well. The site is what I might imagine as a war zone with crater size holes in the Earth. Sickening orange and yellow green pools of water fill smaller craters while two story size loaders fill up with large clumps of sand that will then need crushing, coking and separating.
It is so labor intensive with such an infrastructure that I wonder how it can be so profitable.
Maureen and I both shake our heads at the vastness. A slight headache and sinking feeling arises within, but it is not air sickness. It is dread. It looks like Mars in the middle of the Boreal forest.
We have created a lunar landscape to prop up our modern “wonder world.” But I don’t want you to worry your little heads about it because in 20-30 years the industry can “reclaim” the land, put the overburden (top growth and muskeg back,) plant a diverse little forest that will take another 70 years to grow…Heck, Syncrude just received an award for reclaiming a piece of land and now a small herd of bison roams the make believe prairie.
I am sorry to be so cynical, but it is the arrogance that is just killing me. The thought “Forgive them (us) for they (we) do not know what they (we) do” passes through my thoughts more than once. We have bought into the story of separation and have forgotten we were born from this Earth along with everything else.
When we look for the long time story, it goes something like this.
Once there was an ancient river flowing into a great sea. The river died and its sand deposits were covered by the Western Interior Seaway, an ancient ocean which covered Alberta millions of years ago.
The remains of tiny marine plankton that lived in the ocean formed organic matter in the depressions of the sea bed. Over time bacteria and heat and pressure caused by layering rock and silt cooked the organic material and transformed it into oil.
When the Rocky Mountains formed some 300 million years ago, the oil was forced north into the existing sand deposits left by ancient rivers. The oil is the life energy of billions of beings from the past.
May we, here for so short a time ourselves, come to know and honor the Earth story. ..the story of life and beauty and transformation. May we wake up to our role in the story as celebrators of all that is and work to “reconstitute the world.”