The article everyone’s talking about

National Geographic turns its lens on Alberta’s oil sands—and the pictures aren’t pretty


The Alberta government says the depiction is “fair,” and Jim Prentice, the federal Environment Minister, brushed it off as “just one article.” But the latest issue of National Geographic—featuring a 20-page story/photo spread of Fort McMurray’s oil sands—is so much more than a blip of bad publicity. In fact, some have gone so far as to describe the exposé as the “baby-seal moment” for Alberta’s oil sands—a PR nightmare that no amount of damage control can ever reverse. The story features, in glossy detail, sludge-filled toxic ponds, discoloured fish, and other snapshots of environmental devastation. The words are equally troubling. “In northern Alberta,” the author writes, “the question of how to strike that balance [between economics and the environment] has been left to the free market, and its answer has been to forget about tomorrow. Tomorrow is not its job.” Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was quick to criticize the fact that Stephen Harper has “done nothing” to clean up the oil sands, but he, too, jumped to the defence of the industry responsible for all those nasty images. “Am I proud of this industry? You bet,” he said “It’s a world leader. We just need to make it better. But I don’t take lessons from the National Geographic.” For those of you who do want to take lessons from National Geographic, here’s the story.
National Geographic

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The article everyone’s talking about

  1. About time the National Geographic cast some light on the environmental destruction which is the tar sands. The CO2 emissions created extracting a barrel of oil from the tar sands is about three times the cost of a ‘conventional’ barrel. This industry wouldn’t exist in Canada without major government subsidies. Its about time we close down the tar sands AND Fort McMurray.

    • Easy for you to say. I guess you don’t depend on it to make a living!

      • I sure don’t, and that is beside the point, the point is there won’t be any reason to keep living if we don’t get a lot smarter about energy choices, as individuals, as groups and and as a planet of people. The Earth isn’t a special interest group. It’s our home. It is too bad it takes an American publication to force some change on the practices of Syncrude and the other bunch in “the patch”. As Canadians we should have done something a long time ago. Greenpeace has had a few PR actions regarding the tar sands, but not too many people notice.

        • So are you letting the yanks off on the coal plants they use after all to carry your logic forward you should be after the american coal fields as all the oil sands are way less than 10% of the amount the coal plants generate – also maybe the idea could be to tell the yanks to stop buying the stuff … then and only then I say we don’t sell it to them – very simple – as to National Geographic great magazine for a doctors office or some such but labelling an industry as satanic is a political eco nazi act and as such deserves to be scorned and and all development can look bad if you set up a photo op to make a poltical point that has little relevance to the issue at hand and quite frankly they should be ashamed of themselves I though they had more class obviously not!

          • your logic seems to be if it feels good do it–we won’t be around when the fit hits the shan anyway?

            trying to minimize responsibility becuz someone else does it then? self-defeatist much?

          • Gee Wayne, I didn’t realize that they tried to squeeze oil out of coal…that’s kind of…well…difficult isn’t it?

            So we actually put in more energy and money to squeeze out something from the tar, than the price of that little droplet, and you think it’s a deal. It’s a travesty that we would try to cut the legs from under this thriving industry that makes us…er…nothing…but well pay others to make a profit, dammit!

            I have a bunch of toothpaste tubes that have residual stuff in it. Maybe you’d buy them from me for $2 a pop?

  2. I can see why the industry is upset, and while i don’t normally advocate using hyperbole as a way to make yr pt, i’d say they had this coming. I’ve lived in AB and worked in the patch from time to time and can attest to the foot-dragging that goes on vis enviromental stewardship. Not to say that things don’t change, or improve because they can and do. This is unfortunate in lot’s of ways. It will create a backlash and reinforce fortress AB mentality in some quarters ; but not for long.
    The good news is it will spur change, discredit the foot-draggers and hopefully result in a more open and honest debate within AB, one the industry would rather duck -that’s no longer an option now and that’s good news.

  3. Give the Igster a cudo for standing up and deep sixing the eco-nazis!

  4. While the oil prices are low is probably the best time to have this conversation. They aren’t getting much money pulling it out as they should, so we can probably think about what we should do while the market is cool, rather than when the price of the oil goes up again in the future.

    It is the perfect time to pull back, do some clean up, let the fields rest for a bit, and go back in with a more sustainable plan when there is more money for everyone.

    Maybe Canada should also use this time to join OPEC?

  5. Alberta and the O&G industry (particularly those invested in the oil sands) put big targets on their foreheads when opposing any regulation of their out of control unfettered development.

    This was coming for quite some time. Totally irrresponsible and short sighted by the Alberta Gov’t and the O&G industry (if they are in fact different). Some may describe it as poetic justice.

  6. damn!

    the very idea that the rest of the world might punish us for our “dirty oil” with tariffs (imposed foreign carbon tax) is very annoying. Canadians have really wimped out–we’re sinking in the Tailings Ponds of history while the posers in Ottawa just sit there, pretending to wring their hands, and watch. btw, the conservs knew this might happen but they didn’t care and campaigned against a very cheap carbon tax option proposed by Dion which would have inoculated us against this very thing.

  7. This article is without balance and unfair to a lot of folks who depend on this industry ; however the industry had this coming and the incompetent nincompoops in Ottawa did nothing to prevent it!
    SH, not a leader!

  8. This is just another example of government allowing industry to produce something without full studies of the consequences and the after its happening finding that there are a few problems.Unforseen .Overlooked.
    We did that with the automobile.

  9. They made way to much about the destruction of the area which had no appeal to anyone before the work ever started there. In time the scrub brush will grow over again and look as useless as it did before. Not like it was an attractive valley or something, few people had ever visited the area or ever would have, now maybe it will become a tourist location. The influx of tree huggers will boost the economy until things pick up again.

  10. This is Alberta… NO politician has the honor to stand up… they are too busy jockeying for positions on the boards of those mining companies you mentioned. Their tunnel vision is just minutely more myopic than the citizens, as evidenced by the comments above…. what about meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
    It is way past due, thank you NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, you are about 20 years late but better late than never.
    How about this… go ahead, continue… AFTER you clean up 100% of what you have done to date? The clean up is no problem, right? easy as pie! right? so do it!
    Anyone out there stargaze? Noticed any other planets that can grow food? What about meeeeeeeeeeeee?

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