Monday, October 20, 2008
TAR SANDS AND ITS OPPOSITION:
The following article was recently published at the Anarkismo web site, but it come originally from 'Intersections, the journal of the (relatively) new Common Action organization in the American Pacific Northwest. This is a platformist group with members in four major cities in their area. This will be the second attempt to form such a federation in the Pacific Northwest, following an attempt a in 2002, the Northwest Anarchist Federation that gradually fizzled out by the end of 2006. Hopefully this one will be more successful than the last.
A great environmental and social catastrophe has been brewing in northern Alberta. As the price of oil skyrockets, drilling companies are trying new, experimental methods for obtaining crude. One of these is the extraction of crude from the tar sands lying beneath the Athabascan river basin. To extract oil from the tar sands, forests must be leveled. Alberta's rate of deforestation is now second only to the Amazon. In practices similar to the Mountaintop Removal Mining of the Appalachians, the rich topsoil is carted away to be disposed of. The oil-rich sands lying underneath are taken to processing plants where they are boiled at extremely high temperatures until crude oil can be separated from the sand.
The process is very water intensive, and water used to extract tar sands is contaminated forever. Already the water level in the Athabascan River has dropped three meters, and production is expected to increase five times in the upcoming years. Indigenous communities across Canada have already been experiencing massive shortages of drinkable water, and the tar sand developments will only make it worse. Nearby Fort Chipewyan provides a tragic example of what is to come. Cancer and leukemia rates increased five times since the developments began, and citizens are unanimously demanding an end to the extraction of tar sands. Canada's government has refused, because in their eyes public health is less important than "the market." Said Chief Eli Moonias of the Nishnawbe, "I wonder how different the response would be if the residents of Toronto were without access to water.
"Pipelines are also a source of controversy among indigenous groups, who assert that they do not reap the benefits of the pipeline, but will be the ones to suffer the consequences of any ruptures. Chief Patrick Mitchell of the Stellat'en stated that "I only speak for my own First Nation here, (but)…we would look to physically stop any work being done" on the proposed Gateway pipeline. The Trans-Mountain Pipeline, which runs down to Ferndale and Anacortes in northern Washington, is also to be expanded.
The tar sands development is not providing needed jobs to the region. On the contrary, Alberta's business community is terrified that there will not be enough workers available to carry out their plans. To construct the needed processing facilities, guest workers are being brought in from overseas, and receive no protection from Canadian labor laws. These guest workers, who now outnumber traditional immigrants, are kept segregated from unionized workers and receive the most dangerous jobs. They do not have the right to organize or apply for a work permit, which would give them protection from their employers (as well as the ability to quit and find work elsewhere in Canada), never mind citizenship. Already two Chinese men have lost their lives in an easily preventable accident when a container fell on them. No one knows their names.
Guest worker programs are becoming popular the world over, from Canada to Dubai, and recently the US Congress has debated adopting one in our country as well. However, these programs are little more than a new form of indentured slavery, with one crucial difference – in colonial America, a worker who had completed their term of servitude became a free citizen afterwards. Modern guest workers are instead deported when their boss no longer needs them. The Alberta Federation of Labor, which is actively opposing the tar sands development, has stated that "we believe the labour movement has a responsibility to defend these workers. We believe they deserve the same rights as any Canadian worker…independent of the wishes of the employer that brought them here."
To learn more about the issue of the Tar Sands see the websites 'Tar Sands Time Out' and 'Oil Sands Watch'. Other websites such as Climate Ark and Global Community Monitor also have good material on the issue. For the labour related side of things mentioned above the website of the Alberta Federation of Labour has articles such as 'Temporary Foreign Workers-Alberta's Disposable Workforce', 'Battleground Fort McMurray' and 'The Truth About Labour Shortages in the Oil Patch'.
What is the journal 'Intersections' ? The following is an introduction to their first issue. To find out more about their organization go to the Northwest Common Action website.
Announcing INTERSECTIONS, Vol. 1, Issue 1:
Newsletter of Common Action
Common Action is proud to announce the publication of our newsletter Intersections. Written with regular people in mind, the newsletter strives to connect community issues to anarchist ideas, serving as a paper that any neighbor might find interesting, informative, and reliable. It can be left in laundromats and bus seats just as easily as a radical bookstore.
This issue's contents include:
* Whose Streets? Gentrification in Seattle by Andrew Hedden and Jacquelyn Hermer
* Northwest Anarchist People of Color Gathering: A Report-Back by Brooke Stepp
* Hope, Change, and Direct Action by Greg A and Jeremy
* Crude Profits by Joshua Neuhouser
* Advice Column by Sally Darity
Intersections is available as a PDF for reading and single page printing, and 11" x 17" printing.Please visit our website to download it : http://nwcommonaction.org/
To get a hard copy, or to let us know what you think, hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org
Related Link: http://nwcommonaction.org/