If you could defuse one of the world’s biggest carbon bombs, wouldn’t you?
Each day, our window for saving the climate — and the billions of lives that depend on it — gets a little bit shorter. While people all around the world are taking action, oil companies are trying to light the fuse to one of the world’s biggest carbon bombs.
Deep in western Canada, on lands where Indigenous communities have lived since time immemorial, sit the Alberta tar sands. The tar sands are vast oil fields and mines in the Canadian province of Alberta.
Seen from the sky, the tar sands reach beyond the horizon and seem to go on forever, resembling a painful scar on the Earth of epic proportions. The tar sands cover an area larger than England. Nearby riverbeds are visible as water levels strain under industrial use. Chemical runoff pools collect in massive toxic lakes that stain the landscape. Lingering in the air above (and in the surrounding communities) is a sharp smell like burned tires, searing the lungs.
Experiencing all this for the first time can be overwhelming and traumatic — even difficult to believe. It’s not what comes to mind when people from around the world imagine Canada’s crystal clear rivers and lakes, the evergreen forests teeming with life, or the breathtaking beauty of popular national parks little more than a stone’s throw from this environmental nightmare.
The tar sands are one of the biggest industrial projects on the planet, and they might be Canada’s most embarrassing secret.
Throughout the years, the tar sands have encroached on Indigenous lands and contaminated the environment and wildlife these communities depend on for their culture and way of life. Tar sands chemicals have further been linked to higher rates of cancer in Indigenous communities and dangerous air pollution.
The type of oil they contain is extremely heavy and difficult to extract (it’s called “bitumen”). Getting it from deep in the ground to the surface can use up massive amounts of water — enough to rival what a small city may use on a daily basis. Even more water and energy is needed to refine it into anything resembling what goes into your gas tank. The amount of climate-polluting greenhouse gases emitted per barrel of tar sands oil can be 30% higher (throughout its life cycle) than conventional oil. The tar sands industry already has greenhouse gas emissions greater than New Zealand and Kenya combined.
The world can’t afford to expand the Alberta tar sands, not if we want to preserve this planet for future generations. Even current generations are already being impacted by climate change’s effects on sea level rise, drinking water, disease and extreme weather events.
In 2017, Indigenous leaders from the Pacific Islands came face-to-face with the tar sands, a culprit in climate change and rising sea levels, which is having a devastating impact on their homes and families right now.
The Unstoppable Wave of Resistance
The stakes are high in the tar sands — for the communities and for the world. But instead of slamming on the brakes on expanding operations, Canada’s government is trying to ramp things up.
It plans to build three new pipelines to carry tar sands oil across North America and even to help export this dirty oil abroad. See the map below and read our blog here to understand how these pipelines will criss-cross North America, threatening land, water and communities.
Credit: Adapted from Mazaska Talks
Today, one of the most urgent tar sands fights is the one against Texas oil giant Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline, which would cross Indigenous land without consent and endanger rivers, streams and drinking water on its way from the tar sands to the ionic Pacific Coast near Vancouver, Canada. The increased oil tanker traffic it would bring to the coast could push a population of 76 endangered orca whales to extinction.
So people all over the world are rising up in an unstoppable wave of resistance to say NO to pipelines and YES to clean energy. This movement is led by Indigenous communities, who have been standing up against the tar sands and pipelines for more than a decade. They know that solutions are possible, even in the heart of the tar sands.
For all of these reasons, Greenpeace supporters all over the world are joining the campaign to stop the tar sands and new oil pipelines from hurting people on all corners of the globe.
Join us in calling on Canada’s government to defuse one of the biggest carbon bombs on Earth.
Indigenous communities, Greenpeace and people all around the world are saying NO to toxic oil pipelines that threaten the water and climate. Rise up and join the wave of resistance today.