White Water, Black Gold

You can’t practice abstinence while running a brothel. Yet politicians of almost all stripes talk simultaneously about developing the Alberta oil sands while getting serous about reducing carbon emissions. Sound like a crock? It is.

Mitchell Anderson, It’s the Tar Sands, Stupid

It’s not just the carbon emissions from the tar sands that are polluting our ecosystem and making our children’s future more precarious. The amount of fresh water contaminated by the Alberta tar sands boggles the mind.  The tailings pond (where 90% of the fresh water used ends up) are large enough to be seen from outer space. Oil sands mining is licensed to use twice the amount of fresh water that the entire city of Calgary uses in a year.  White Water, Black Gold follows adventure filmmaker David Lavallee on his three-year quest across Western Canada for the truth about the impact of world’s thirstiest, and dirtiest, oil industry:

This is a journey of jarring contrasts, from the pristine mountain ice fields that are the source of the industry’s water, to the Tar Sands tailing ponds, where thousands of migrating birds have unwittingly landed and died.

Both government and industry spokespeople deny any cause for concern, but in the course of his journey Lavallee, backed by university scientists, makes a number of discoveries that challenge that assessment and raise serious concerns for Canada and the United States.

Native peoples living downstream are contracting unusual cancers; new science shows that water resources in an era of climate change will be increasingly scarce; the proposed upgrading of the oilfields could endanger multiple river systems across Canada that makeup about half of its water supply; and a planned oil pipeline across British Columbia brings fresh threats to rivers, salmon and the Pacific Ocean.


This Saturday, June 18th, is  International Stop The Tar Sands Day, where events are taking place in front of Canadian embassies around the world to shine light on the terrible price the tar sands extract from our planet and the people living around it.  In anticipation of International Stop The Tar Sands Day, The Winnipeg Chapter of the Council of Canadians has organized a screening of White Water, Black Gold this Thursday, June 16, at 7 pm at the Unitarian Church, 603 Wellington Crescent.  Admission is by donation. I’ll see you there!

More links:

International Stop The Tar Sands Day

Tar Sands Vs. Clean Water: Eating the Earth For Cars

David Lavallee

The Pembina Institute: Water Impacts of Oil Sands

It’s The Tar Sands, Stupid

0 thoughts on “White Water, Black Gold”

  1. If you can’t make this showing it will also be shown at Sam’s Place Neighbourhood (159 Henderson Hwy, Winnipeg). on Friday 17 June at 7:30 as part of their “Over the Bridge Festival”.

  2. at the risk of sounding like a broken record….
    Sorry, but your resident curmudgeon’s opinion is that another artist, making another film of outrage will not change anything except add more waste to the world.. Awareness?- maybe, but i am 44, an average Canadian who went to average schools and had average educators.. The environment and sustainability has been pounded into my head all my life and i assume millions of other average citizens have heard this message too, to what ends?.. – more destruction, more waste, more ways to deplete natural resources, more senseless day to day activities ..etc., why?, because people refuse to change their lifestyles while turning a blind eye to its effects… Bottom line is that oil companies do not spend billions to extract bitumen for the good of their health!- they supply a raging demand from all walks of life including people who bring a film crew on site and document their doings..
    Another video, another symposium, another organized event, another talking head just brings more attention to the artist while using more of that dreaded oil they are raging about..- sorry, not my idea of proper actions required to change our current mindless state. If this video maker wanted to really make an environmental difference, he would have stayed home while living a humble conscious existence while using less of everything…

    my apologies for my incessant negativity.. i just cannot pretend that everything will be fine, with too few human action to be positive about..

    • Francis, have you considered the history of profound social movements such as the abolitionists, the civil rights movement, and the suffragettes (to name just a few)? While you are expressing honest frustration, the truth of the matter is that it IS the repetition of the same message (in various ways) that causes – often very suddenly and unpredictably – huge societal shifts. While it would be nice, and much easier on those of us who see the effects of what we are currently doing, to have us speak the truth as we see it and then have the world instantly mold itself to reflect that reality, the truth is, it just doesn’t happen that way. Life is much more complicated.
      In the end, if we want to be blunt about it, Francis, you and me and the rest of us, we’re all going to be feeding the worms (maybe even the ones at Nature’s Perfect Plant Food?:). On my way to that state, I don’t want to waste my energy pointing fingers and going on and on about how bad the state of the world is and how so many people are not doing what they should. That attitude has never changed a damn thing. If Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, David Suzuki, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Dickens, William Wilberforce (and the list goes on and on) had done that, what a much much different and less humane world we would be living in.

      As Dr. Phil likes to say, “how’s it working for you?” I have the sense that you are frustrated much of the time, and I truly hope that doesn’t rob you of the joys that are still to be found in this admittedly very imperfect world that we live in. I’ve chosen (and it is a choice!) to be happy, despite what I know and can see happening around me, and do what I can do. And that includes blogging about, and going to “White Water Black Gold” to hear a story that I already know being told from a new perspective, and meeting up with like-minded people who are also concerned about, and taking action on, this issue.

      (and BTW, 44 is MUCH too young to be so curmudgeonly!)

  3. Well. well, I’m 44 too, I’ve changed my daily habits, educated my children on sustainability and started a eco-friendly vermicomposting business. None of this would have happened had I not paid attention to the message from film makers, environmental activiats and artisans of all stripes. These people are brave enough to “get the word out” and by remaining “in your face” they are slowly making headway against the giant that is the oil industry, none of them are doing this for fame nor fortune. I understand Francis’s frustration but please don’t shoot the messenger.


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