We generally get the same strawman arguments over and over again so over the next little while I want to take some time to answer them.  

Here’s the first one.  (If you encounter it in your travels feel free to forward them this response.)

Criticism 1: You’re a hypocrite. What do you think your clothes are made of? What are your signs made of? What do you think your car runs on hippie? Oil that’s what!


Let me answer this in four parts.

First, trying to say that you can’t criticize something unless you completely rid it from your life is really a pretty silly argument.

Imagine if you applied this argument to other areas of your life: you wouldn’t be able to criticize the government until you stopped driving on roads, or using any public services. You couldn’t criticize your boss until after you’ve quit or retired. And let’s not talk about in-laws…

That said, we do our best to try to reduce our individual and organizational environmental footprint and I’m happy to compare my carbon emissions to the premier, prime minister, or Shell’s CEO any day. 

Second, we are not pushing to stop all forms of oil development, nor do we want the oil industry to be shut down tomorrow.

We realize our laptops, clothes and cars still use oil – for now.  

There are some forms of oil extraction, like the tar sands or Arctic drilling that we are opposed to because of their higher social and environmental cost. To make an analogy, we aren’t against all forms of insulation but we are against using asbestos as a form of insulation. We are also Greenpeace Canada, so working to stop some of the biggest environmental threats in Canada seems to make a lot of sense.

Here are ten reasons why we oppose the tar sands:

  1. The Beaver Lake Cree have recorded more than 20,000 treaty rights violations on their traditional territory due to tar sands development.
  2. In order to avoid runaway climate change, UN Climate chief Christiana Figueres once again stated bluntly, “two-thirds of the fossil fuels we have will have to stay in the ground." That means many tar sands projects can never be built if our world is going to have a chance.
  3. According to the Harper government’s own numbers, emissions from the tar sands are set to quadruple.
  4. Alberta, home to the tar sands, has disturbed the natural landscape more than any other province is Canada.
  5. new study shows that when mixed with sediment, bitumen sinks in salt water, making a tanker spill almost impossible to clean up.
  6. Over 130 First Nations have signed the ‘Save the Fraser’ declaration opposing tar sands development on their traditional territory.
  7. The oil industry literally re-wrote Canada’s environmental laws to further foster tar sands development.
  8. Alberta enforces less than 1% of tar sands environmental violations.
  9. After 8-months, four CNRL tar sands spills are still spilling. This is supposed to be the environmentally friendly form of tar sands development.
  10. A recent federal study showed that one toxic tailings pond alone is leaking into the Athabasca River at a rate of 6.5 million liters per day.

(If you need more reasons why the tar sands are more of a nightmare than a panacea, feel free to check here or here.)

3. We don't want to shut down the tarsands tomorrow. We know that thousands of workers work in this industry and that their families depend on their paychecks. What we are advocating for is the start of a transition. A transition that supports workers and their families, provides training and certification programs, and provides good jobs, that one can still raise a family on, at the other end.

We know transitions take time but we need to get started on that conversation today. 

Finally, while we oppose extreme energy sources, we are also actively pushing our governments to stop blocking progress and invest in sustainable energy solutions such as:

  • Increasing the fuel economy standards of vehicles so they pollute less and use less gas;
  • Implement policies and infrastructure to increase the use of mass transit, bicycle, high-speed rail and pedestrian transportation;
  • Implement robust retrofitting programs to save energy and money for home and business owners alike; and to
  • Speed the use of renewable energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal.

We’ve run the numbers on how much oil this would save, and the policies we propose (in Canada and globally) would eliminate the need for extreme oil and leave our communities and environment much better off.

We are pushing for solutions, and, even without any government leadership many are becoming a reality.

Imagine what we could do if we had some more help?

I hope that answers your question and we can move past this argument and begin a real conversation about how we can reduce our environmental footprint, address the climate crisis, and speed up real solutions that would strengthen and diversify our economy.