Canada, Oh Canada!

We all know the United States is looking a bit rocky these days – what with the recession, those fatcat bankers bailed out by the taxpayer, only to continue paying themselves obscene bonuses; two foreign wars draining the US Treasury of the few cents the bankers left behind; Sarah Palin likely to become president in 2012…….

Still, if the worst happened Canada’s only a few hours drive away. We could all scoot across the border and settle there. It’s a lovely country, I believe. A wonderful health service, friendly people, the sort of place where morals matter and human beings are more important than ‘making a quick buck’. Not at all like the old U.S. of A.. Right?

Right. Well, at least, I thought it was right. Then I opened up the British Guardian newspaper’s website, and read this:

Until now I believed that the nation which has done most to sabotage a new climate change agreement was the United States. I was wrong. The real villain is Canada. Unless we can stop it, the harm done by Canada in December 2009 will outweigh a century of good works.”

I’m a great fan of George Monbiot. He’s one of the most environmentally active journalists in the world. His research is impeccable. If George writes something, you can be darned sure it’s true. So, has he lost his mind? Canada, an environmental villain?

Sadly, it’s true. The Canadian government, controlled by the oil-tar barons of Alberta, are turning the beautiful nation of Canada into what Monbiot describes as, “……a cruel and thuggish place.”

Why? There’s a simple answer. Canada is developing the world’s second largest reserve of oil. Did I say oil? It’s actually a filthy mixture of bitumen, sand, heavy metals and toxic organic chemicals. The tar sands, most of which occur in Alberta, are being extracted by the biggest opencast mining operation on earth. An area the size of England, of pristine forests and marshes, will be dug up, unless the Canadians can stop this madness. Already it looks like a scene from the end of the world: the strip-miners are creating a churned black hell on an unimaginable scale.

To extract oil from this mess, it needs to be heated and washed. Three barrels of water are used to process one barrel of oil. The contaminated water is held in vast tailing ponds, some of which are so toxic that the tar companies employ people to scoop dead birds off the surface. Most are unlined. They leak organic poisons, arsenic and mercury into the rivers. The First Nations people living downstream have developed a range of exotic cancers and auto-immune diseases.

Refining tar sands requires two to three times as much energy as refining crude oil. The companies exploiting them burn enough natural gas to heat six million homes. Alberta’s tar sands operation is the world’s biggest single industrial source of carbon emissions. By 2020, if the current growth continues, it will produce more greenhouse gases than Ireland or Denmark. Already, thanks in part to the tar mining, Canadians have almost the highest per capita emissions on earth, and the stripping of Alberta has scarcely begun.”

Canada was a signatory to the Kyoto Treaty on climate change. As Monbiot points out:

In 2006 the new Canadian government announced that it was abandoning its targets to cut greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol. No other country that had ratified the treaty has done this. Canada was meant to have cut emissions by 6% between 1990 and 2012. Instead they have already risen by 26%.”

The plain truth is that Canada has been kidnapped by the corporates. Shell and BP (among others) stand to make billions from the Alberta tar sands, but to do so means creating an environmental catastrophe. Just as in America, the oil barons are fighting tooth and nail to prevent climate change legislation, and the Canadian government is the tool they’re using to achieve that end.

Next week, a vital climate summit takes place in Copenhagen. Until I read George Monbiot’s Guardian article, had anyone said to me that Canada was the most likely nation to scupper those talks, I’d have laughed in their face.

George Monbiot has said exactly that. I’m not laughing.

Read Monbiot’s full article HERE, including his comprehensive references, and I’ll bet you won’t be laughing either.

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