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.



Northern Gateway Pipeline: Not A Pretty Picture

Renowned Canadian artist Robert Bateman speaks out against the Northern Gateway Pipeline. I guess that makes him a “radical” “domestic terrorist“, or maybe he’s one of the “jet-setting celebrities” who are opposed to any development of Canadian natural resources – or possibly he’s all of the above!



Sign the petition at:   http://www.notankers.ca

To read Canadian Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver’s open letter to Canadians about those radical anti-progress tree-hugging enviros, click here and see for yourself the lengths this government will go to demonize those Canadians opposed to their radical pro-corporate anti-democratic agenda.

Also an interesting read on the close parallels between the Harper government’s rhetoric against environmentalists, and former GOP nutbar candidate Rick Santorum: The Harper-Santorum Axis.

BP Is Creepy: NRDC Issues Damning Water Quality Report on Gulf Beaches One Year After Oil Disaster

The NRDC released its annual “Testing the Waters: A Guide To Water Quality At Vacation Beaches” report last week, which included a special section dedicated to oil-related closures, advisories and notices in the Gulf of Mexico since the BP oil disaster last year. The report said, in part:

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded on April 20, 2010, killing 11 workers and sparking the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Over the course of two months, approximately 170 million gallons of oil and 200,000 metric tons of methane gas gushed into Gulf waters, affecting approximately 1,000 miles of shoreline.1 More than a year later, a sorry legacy of enduring damage, people wronged, and a region scarred remains. As of the end of January, 83 miles of shoreline remained heavily or moderately oiled, and tar balls and weathered oil continue to wash ashore.

America’s favorite “Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet”, The Kinsey Sicks, have come out with their own more satirical take on BP in this video, BP Is Creepy:


*thanks to Cheryl McNamara for sharing this link*

More links:

NRDC’s Report, Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality At Vacation Beaches

BP Finds Success In Report About Its Failure

The Kinsey Sicks

Alberta Oil Spill Causes Ecological and Public Health Disaster For Lubicon Cree Community

I am still on vacation with my family, with only intermittent access to my email and the internet while I am away.  This media release from the Assembly of First Nations, the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada, was in my inbox this evening, and I felt it was important to share it in a timely way.  On April 29, 2011, a leak was discovered in the Rainbow pipeline in northern Alberta. Since then, it appears the provincial and federal governments have been slow to respond to this environmental and public health crisis.

Here is the statement from the AFN:

Little Buffalo First Nation in northern Alberta is in the midst of an ecological disaster and Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo today stated that the federal government, the Alberta provincial government, the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) and Plains Midstream Canada must take responsibility and immediate action to support the residents of the First Nation.  There are reports of more than 28,000 barrels of oil spilled at a site 30 kilometers from the Lubicon Cree community.

“We have been monitoring this situation closely for the last seven days and I am seriously concerned by the lack of response for the people of Little Buffalo First Nation,” National Chief Atleo stated.  “It is totally inappropriate and, in fact, dangerous if officials at the ERCB are refusing to deal with the fact that people in Little Buffalo are becoming sick from the effects of this disaster. The local school has already been closed.  All parties need to work with the leadership and citizens of the community to take action now.”

On April 29, 2011, it was estimated that 28,000 barrels of oil was spilled near Little Buffalo First Nation, located in the Peace River Region of Alberta. Many residents, including children, are experiencing symptoms of nausea, disorientation, headaches, burning eyes and stomach pains. Neither the pipeline owner – Plains Midstream Canada – or the provincial government has met with the people of Little Buffalo First Nation.

The National Chief said:  “We need immediate action and we are also calling for an independent investigation into this incident, with the goal of establishing urgent measures and regulation of oil spill incidents. We have a responsibility to protect Mother Earth and the traditional hunting and trapping territories of First Nations. We have made safer and healthier communities one of our priorities for the new federal government.  This is a clear demonstration as to why we need plans in place to deal with future disasters.”

AFN Alberta Regional Chief George Stanley and an independent environment officer were in Little Buffalo First Nation yesterday for a fly-over of the area.


More links:

Probe Demanded After Worst Alberta Oil Spill in 4 Decades

Slide show of Alberta Oil Spill

Residents, Including Children, Sick After Large Oil Spill In the Peace Region

Regulator Discloses Massive Leak In Alberta Oil Pipeline

Major Tar Sands Oil Pipeline Spills Adds Doubt To Controversial Keystone XL Proposal

Crude Awakening

Jane Fulton Alt is a fine art photographer who was moved by the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico to produce a YouTube video entitled “Crude Awakening”. Fulton Alt’s dramatic pictures of people covered in oil are set to  Johnny Cash’s version of  “Hurt“.

Fulton Alt says:

Living on the shores of Lake Michigan, I am acutely aware of the disastrous toll the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has taken on all forms of life, especially as our beaches opened to the 2010 swimming season. This environmental, social and economic catastrophe highlights a much larger problem that has inflicted untold suffering as we exploit the earth’s resources worldwide.

We are all responsible for leading lives that create demand for unsustainable energy.
We are also all responsible for the solution and we must work together to protect the balance of life.


More links:

Jane Fulton Alt’s website

From Fulton Alt’s website, a link to ThomasFrank.org. Thomas is an artist who lives under the shadow of the BP plant in East Chicago, Indiana. Fulton Alt writes: “When I contacted him earlier in the week he was “in Detroit at the U.S Social Forum working on a response to the TAR SANDS, another horrible no good disaster BP is deeply involved in.”

Want to know how we can kick this fossil fuel habit? Check out:




If you are on Facebook, join “1,000,000 Strong Against Offshore Drilling

“Hole In the Ocean”

“Hole in the Ocean” was written written by Joe Monto & Steve Bartlett to keep the focus on the BP oil spill disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico. This is already the largest environmental disaster in United States history, and the oil is still gushing out of the oil well.

The song is dedicated to the 11 men who lost their lives on the Deepwater Oil Rig on April 20th, 2010.

The words to  Hole In The Ocean” are:

The wave crests on fire
And storm clouds below
The oozing dark monster

Creeps silently slow
The heartache of many
The future unclear
We stand on the shoreline
Surrounded by fear


There’s a hole in the ocean
That’s breaking my heart
When will it end
Why did it start?

Can we ever return
To our blue watered bay
There’s a hole in the ocean
That stands in our way

2nd Verse:

For the diving birds diving
And the fish ‘neath the waves
There is so much to do
There is so much to save

With bitter tears stinging
For the ones who were lost
Is there really a way
To assess what this cost?


Eleven souls sailing
That April day
It happened so quickly
‘Twas no time to pray


Click here to send a message to President Obama to ban offshore drilling permanently.

Click here to find out how BP is quietly breaking ground on a controversial project in B.C.’s Rocky Mountains without a provincial environmental review.

What BP Doesn’t Want You To See: Dead Fish Washed Ashore, Gulf Coast Birds Mired in Oil

This shocking photo was taken by NY Times reader Sabrina Bradford on a beach in Waveland Mississippi. It dramatically demonstrates the impact of the oil catastrophe on fish and the fishing industry. 37% of the Gulf of Mexico is now closed to fishing.

From Greenman 3610, this video which communicates what words cannot, and shows clearly why BP was keeping the media away from some beaches:


More links:

Click here to view Sabrina Bradford’s photo online at NYTimes “Reader’s Photos” collection.

“BP Attempts To Block Media From Filming Extent of Oil Spill Disaster

“Over a third of Gulf of Mexico waters closed to fishing”

Think Climate Change Won’t Affect You? You’re Wrong. Feel Powerless To Do Something About Climate Change? You’re Not!

  • Via Cathy Orlando, a climate champion from Sudbury, Ontario, this posting on Green Nexxus.com:

Climate Denial Crock of the Week needs your vote.

If you don’t know about Peter Sinclair, also known as “greenman3610” on YouTube, you should.

I came across Peter’s blogs while preparing to debate potential climate deniers at Climate Project presentations. His work gave me the confidence to go out into the world and slay the monster called the “climate denier”.  After 35 videos, which many people, including climate scientists from all over the world have publically declared are very helpful in persuading climate deniers – Peter has the opportunity to get some much needed funding.

Climate Denial Crock of the Week is in a contest at brighterplanet.com for a potential $5000.00 dollar grant. This grant could help Peter upgrade his computer and software so as to keep improving quality and increasing the frequency of his  videos.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to click here to go over to Brighter Planet and register, and then vote for Climate Denial Crock of the Week. You can vote up to 3 times! And it will only take a few minutes!

It’s a tight competition …  a see-saw battle, and he is currently down in the voting.

There was a welcome shout out (click here to view it) from a popular European “YouTuber” which brought in hundreds of new votes and subscribers.

If you’ve already voted, I hope you’ll refer friends and contacts to the link above, or the video (mildly amusing) announcement .  ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39FZKW2tS8o )   

Click here for the whole playlist.

Please take the time to vote for Peter Sinclair – it takes about a minute, and will support a fantastic cause, for Sinclair exposes those that would have us do nothing about climate change until it’s too late.

  • This Friday has been declared a National Day of Action, Night of Mourning Against Offshore Drilling. From Rising Tide North America comes this call to action:

Once again the fossil fuel industry has brought crisis to the Gulf Coast. Devastation of untold proportions spews non-stop from BP’s oil well as politicians try to save face with empty promises, and oil companies preserve their profits with PR campaigns. This catastrophic spill comes on the heels of Obama’s plan to expand offshore drilling. The price of burning fossil fuels is too high. From combustion to extraction the oil industry poisons our communities, destroys ecosystems, and destabilizes the climate. Now is the time to stop offshore drilling dead in its tracks and drive another nail into the fossil fuel industry’s coffin.

People are encouraged to take action to demand:

-An immediate ban on all offshore drilling

-A rapid and just transition away from fossil fuels

-No bailouts for the oil industry. All recovery costs must be paid for by BP, Halliburton, Transocean and other implicated companies.

-The federal government must remove any caps on liability for oil companies.

-BP provides full compensation for impacted communities and small businesses.

-BP provides full funding for long-term ecosystem restoration for impacted areas.

-Oil companies operating in the Gulf fully fund restoration of coastal ecosystems damaged by canals, pipelines, and other industry activities.

Click here to go to Rising Tide’s National Day of Action page for more information on specific actions to take.

Click here if you live in Canada and want to sign a petition to protect our Pacific Coast from oil spills.

While this action is focused in the U.S., those of us living in other countries can take action as well, as the issue of offshore drilling affects many other countries.  Here in Canada, the Montreal Gazette reported this week that Canadian offshore drilling regulations were relaxed by the Stephen Harper’s Conservative government last year, so don’t think the same thing can’t happen off of our shores.

Previously, companies were required to install specific kinds of equipment, such as safety valves and blowout preventers. The old regulations outlined everything from how companies should cement the casing on an oil well, to how they should conduct pressure tests.

Under the new regulations, well operators must set environmental-protection goals, list the equipment they will use to achieve those goals and disclose their plans for inspecting, testing and maintaining such gear.

However, they are not required to install any specific equipment.

Click here to read the full story.

The Council of Canadians has issued this call to action:

According to the Parliament of Canada website, the Natural Resources committee next meets on Tuesday May 11 starting at 9:00 am.

So please contact your Member of Parliament as soon as possible and express your concern about the environmental destruction that is likely to occur with oil and gas drilling in the Arctic.

Tell them that you support a moratorium and that the government should be promoting the transition away from fossil fuels to publicly-owned renewable energy.

Given the imperative to reduce the world’s carbon emissions, we should not be allowing transnational corporations like Imperial Oil and BP to extract carbon-emitting oil and gas from the Arctic. Our message has been – leave it in the ground.

To see the membership of the Natural Resources committee – and in particular to take note if your MP sits on this committee –  click here to see the membership list.

Click here to read our letter to the ministers calling for a moratorium.

Bill C311, The Climate Accountability Act, could be a tool for Canada to start tackling climate change.  It now has a sponsor in the Senate, Liberal Senator Grant Mitchell.  Mr. Mitchell said recently:

We urgently need federal action on a climate change framework for Canada. Not only is climate change a defining ecological issue, it is increasingly an economic one. I commend Mr. Hyer for his hard work on this bill, and I look forward to the collaboration of my colleagues in the Senate to move it forward.”

It looks like the bill will have its first reading in the Senate near the end of May, only a few weeks away.  It’s time for those of us concerned about our children and grandchildren’s future to get busy contacting Canadian Senators and reminding them that without a stable climate, our economy is going to go bust.  Click here to go to  a page with the contact info for all the Senators. Remember, Senators are not elected so they have no constituents,  therefore it’s best to contact them all, and remind them not to thwart the will of the elected House of Commons.

Have a great, climate-action, kind of a day! Don’t forget to take action and hug someone you love, too!

Big Oil’s Big Mess in the Gulf of Mexico: “America’s Chernobyl”

It looks like it is going to be a catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.  What’s unfolding right now is not an oil “spill”, it’s an unchecked gush of oil – oil pouring out at a rate we now know is at least 5 times, and may be 10 times, what BP originally announced.  Time.com put it this way:

It may be time to stop referring to the Deepwater Horizon rig accident in the Gulf of Mexico as an oil spill. A spill sounds like something temporary, a glass of milk overturned, which empties and then can be cleaned up. But what is unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico, not far from the sensitive shorelines of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, isn’t a spill. It’s an unchecked gush of crude oil from beneath the bottom of the ocean into the water — and no one can say for sure when it will finally stop.

From the Louie Miller, Director of  Mississippi branch of the Sierra Club:

… BP, the world’s third largest energy company formerly known as British Petroleum, has mishandled the crisis ever since an oil rig the company was managing exploded April 20 off the Louisiana Coast and sank two days later.

“I don’t think I’m overstating the case by saying this is America’s Chernobyl at this point in time,” Miller said at a news conference today in Gulfport.

“This is going to destroy Mississippi and the Gulf Coast as we know it – from property values … to our barrier islands. It’s a big deal, you all. And unfortunately, we do not see the response that we have asked for.”

Oil Spill Facts:

  • The oil spill exceeds the worst-case scenario predicted by BP when it filed its exploration plan with the government. The spill is estimated at roughly 210,000 gallons a day. In BP’s exploration plan, the company outlined a worst-case scenario of 162,000 gallons a day.
  • The disaster may have been prevented by a special shut-off switch, but BP did not purchase the switch and after drilling companies questioned its cost and effectiveness, the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service, which oversees offshore drilling, decided the device wasn’t needed. [Wall St. Journal 4/30/2010]
  • At its current rate, the spill could surpass by next week the size of the 1969 Santa Barbara spill that helped lead to the far-reaching moratorium on oil and gas drilling off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts
  • Some estimates show it could take 3-4 months to contain the spill. By that time, the spill could exceed the size of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.
  • 59 Fatalities, More Than 1,300 Injuries, 853 Fires.  There have been nearly 60 casualties and more than 1,300 injuries on the rigs in the Gulf of Mexico alone since 2001.  “Working in the oil industry is more dangerous than working in coal mines.”   [CBS, 4/22/2010]

BP Facts:

  • $5.6 Billion In Profits.  During the first quarter of 2010, “BP said its profit rose to $6.08 billion from $2.56 billion during the same period of 2009. Excluding the impact of energy prices on unsold inventories as well as $49 million of one-time items, and BP would have earned $5.65 billion, topping consensus estimates by about $900 million.”  Profits increased 135% from 2009.  [Bloomberg, 4/27/2010]
  • 41% Raise For BP’s CEO.  “Chief Executive Tony Hayward’s total remuneration and share awards rose 41% in 2009 on performance bonuses from improved operations which made the company one of the best performing oil majors in the fourth quarter, despite lower full-year profits due to the fall in the oil price.” [Wall Street Journal, 3/5/2010]
  • $16 Million In Lobbying.  BP spent $16 million lobbying in 2009. [Opensecrets]
  • $3 Billion In The World’s Dirtiest Oil.  Meanwhile the company invested $3 billion in 2007 in the dirtiest source of oil on earth: Canadian tar sands. “The result will be the development of a major new Canadian oil field and the modernization and expansion of the Toledo refinery to allow far greater use of Canadian heavy oil and to increase clean fuels production by as much as 600,000 gallons a day.”  [Climate Progress, 12/18/2007]
  • $900 Million In Alternative Energy Budget Cuts.  In 2009, BP cut its alternative energy budget to between $500 million and $1 billion from $1.4 billion in 2008.  “BP has shut down its alternative energy headquarters in London, accepted the resignation of its clean energy boss and imposed budget cuts in moves likely to be seen by environmental critics as further signs of the oil group moving “back to petroleum.” [The Guardian, 6/28/2009]

Bloomberg.com reports that Oil spill’s “fisheries failure” may signal the end of coastal towns:

“This is going to be the biggest economic disaster to hit Louisiana,” he said. “It could be 10 times the economic damage of Hurricane Katrina.

Click here to read the full story.


Click here to see pictures of the spill at Time.com

Click here to send a message to President Obama to stop offshore drilling now, and for volunteer sign-up information.

Click here to go to the “Ban Offshore Drilling” petition on 350.org, and/or join the Facebook group 1,000,000 Strong Against Offshore Drilling.