Dirty Energy Ushers Us Into New, and Disturbing, Territory

How much more damage to our land, water, and climate are we willing to tolerate before we just say no to this economic system of death?

alberta oil spill in dene territory
graphic: 350.org


This week in Alberta:

A toxic waste spill in northern Alberta has killed off roughly 42 hectares of boreal forest, in what could be the biggest environmental disaster in North America in recent history.

The spill was first discovered on June 1st, about 100 kms south of the border with the Northwest Territories, near the small town of Zama City. Texas-based Apache Corporation, the oil company responsible for the spill, just released their estimate of its size on Wednesday. According to their figures, 9.5 million litres of ‘produced water’ was released into the environment, covering the equivalent of over 50 football fields-worth of land.

“Every plant and tree died,” said James Ahnassay, chief of the Dene Tha First Nation, according to The Globe and Mail, as he spoke of the effect the spill has had on the land. Read more.

And meanwhile, a little further north:

Permafrost soils are warming even faster than Arctic air temperatures — as much as 2.7 to 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius) in just the past 30 years,” Miller (NASA) said. “As heat from Earth’s surface penetrates into permafrost, it threatens to mobilize these organic carbon reservoirs and release them into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and methane, upsetting the Arctic’s carbon balance and greatly exacerbating global warming.” 

Read more by Joe Romm: NASA Finds ‘Amazing’ Levels Of Arctic Methane And CO2, Asks ‘Is a Sleeping Climate Giant Stirring in the Arctic?’

We are very quickly entering into uncharted territory for humans; the planet will recover, she has proven that over millenia. It’s humans whose existence is in peril. Fear is an appropriate response, but if that’s where we stop, then nothing will change and we will go over the climate chaos cliff. It’s time to step off the “cliff” of fear into action, into the unknown. To signal our willingness to each other and to the universe that this will not happen on our watch without us putting up a fight for our children’s – all of the children’s – future. Their eyes are on us, pleading with us to do something, anything. Here’s some inspiration – for we humans are capable of great beauty and self-sacrifice as well as incredible destruction and horror.



3 thoughts on “Dirty Energy Ushers Us Into New, and Disturbing, Territory”

  1. Christine, the tundra, that moist, peaty bog that blanketed the permafrost, is drying out – and it’s burning. There are no resources anywhere to douse these fires, no way to get equipment to the fires even if we tried. The major melt of the Greenland ice cap last July was eventually tied to soot from a Canadian tundra fire. As the tundra thaws and burns it exposes the permafrost beneath it to the warming atmosphere. I listened to a clip last year of the sound permafrost makes as it thaws. As permafrost melts, it collapses, exposing more permafrost at its perimeter.

    Can you imagine the Marshall Plan-scale of effort that would be required to arrest this? Can you imagine how we would ever muster the public support and political will for such a Herculean task? If you can, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    • I know that things are very very dire, in a way that is hard to imagine as we privileged North Americans carry on with life as usual (for the most part).
      But I have not given up hope. There are too many times in human history (including the amazing odds that we are here on this blue planet at all) where the odds were stacked against the “good guys”. Yet here we are. It’s a long shot, but it’s still a shot. I put myself firmly in Paul Gilding’s camp: http://paulgilding.com/cockatoo-chronicles/victoryathand.html

  2. And what are the options, at this point? I get daily satisfaction from my Transition work in my community, spending time in my garden and with my family and friends. Life is good in many ways, and until it’s not I’m going to work as hard as I can to make a difference, recognizing at the same time that we are all in this together. The world doesn’t need more fearful, anxious people. It needs more hope, and more loving action. That’s what I try – not always sucessfully – to provide.


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