From October 9 – 16, the Nobel Women’s Initiative is visiting Canada’s oil sands to get women’s perspectives on the impacts of this huge oil extraction project to the local communities, women and children. This creative initiative is called Breaking Ground: Women, Oil & Climate Change and you can read more about what northern women are telling them on their blog – here.
While I’m typing this I’m listening to Andrew Nikiforuk, an award-winning Calgary-based journalist being interviewed about his new book, The Energy of Slaves, on CBC Radio’s The Current. I haven’t read this book yet, although I have read his hard-hitting Tar Sands: Dirty Oil And The Future Of A Continent. In the interview (and I’m assuming his new book) Nikiforuk makes a strong case for our addiction to cheap oil being so embedded in the fabric of industrialized society that we are not even aware of it, like the ancient Romans taking for granted the cheap energy they got from their slaves. While we aren’t personally doing horrible things to other people (although the indigenous people of northern Alberta might disagree), we are doing horrific things to our water, our air, our oceans, and the biodiversity of the planet. Collectively, we are faced with a moral dilemma that we’re not even aware of, like Romans didn’t consider slave-holding a moral dilemma.
Biologist, author, and cancer survivor Sandra Steingraber makes a similar case about our oil addiction and the need for a new abolitionist movement. Steingraber focuses her call particularly at parents, saying that it’s time for all parents to become fossil fuel abolitionists, in the same way that abolitionists called for the end to slavery during 19th Century America. Although fossil fuels drive our economy in much the same way that slavery drove the economy at that time, it’s time for parents to actively fight for the greater good of society. Steingraber makes it clear that our children are part of the ecosystem of the planet, and if we continue down the path of fossil fuel addiction, their well-being will be sacrificed on the altar of the economy. No responsible parent would willingly choose to put the profits of the oil, coal, and gas companies ahead of their children’s future – and yet that is exactly what we collectively are choosing to do right now if we continue with business as usual.
I’ve posted a link to the Nikiforuk interview below. If you prefer video, here are Andrew Nikiforuk and economist Jeff Rubin speaking in 2010 about the oil economy and the future of oil: