Stand together against the tar-sands scourge – by Rober Redford (Globe and Mail – November 21, 2011)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

During four decades of environmental advocacy, actor and filmmaker Robert Redford has received numerous honours, including the United Nations Global 500 award.

Vancouver — Working in Vancouver for the past several months has allowed me to spend fall in one of the most spectacular cities in the world, amid the natural splendour and wilderness wonder of British Columbia.

It’s been a reminder to me of the close partnership Canadians and Americans have forged as neighbours, bound by geography, history and culture reaching back to our national beginnings. Over the generations, these bonds of common experience and identity have combined to create something even more important: the values we share around the need to stand up for the lands we treasure and love.

Today, together, we need to stand up once more, because the lands we treasure and love are imperilled by a threat we must meet as one.

In Alberta’s great boreal forest, one of the last truly wild places on Earth, tar-sands producers have turned an area the size of Chicago into an industrial wasteland and international disgrace.

Where spruce and fir and birch trees once rose and waters ran fresh and clean, tar-sands production has left a lifeless scar visible from outer space, a vast repository of enduring pollution that threatens fish, birds, animals, public health and an entire way of life for native people.

And for every single barrel of oil produced, at least two tons of tar sands are excavated and tapped, a processing nightmare that generates three times more carbon pollution than is released to produce conventional North American domestic crude.

Not only is tar-sands production laying waste to Canada’s forests, polluting waterways, air and land, but the resulting carbon emissions are threatening Canada’s long-time commitment to reducing the greenhouse gases that are warming our planet and threatening us all.

This is unsustainable. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s another shameful example, frankly, of the oil industry doing whatever it takes to make a profit and leaving it for the rest of us to bear the costs and put up with the mess.

I want to be very clear that I’m not pointing a finger at the people of Canada; neither is any American I know. We’re all in this together, and that’s the only way we’ll turn it around. We need to stand up, Canadians and Americans as one, to draw the line at tar sands.

The United States is the largest consumer of oil in the world. Americans are a big part of what’s driving this scourge. That means we need to do more to reduce our demand.

Our oil consumption is down about 9 per cent since 2005. That’s a good start, but we need to do more. We’re pushing for cars that get better gas mileage, more efficient workplaces and homes. We’re investing in wind, solar and other forms of renewable energy. And we’re developing communities that give us more choice in how we live, shop and go to work.

Big Oil is fighting us every step of the way. In Washington alone, the oil and gas industry has spent more than $400-million over just the past three years lobbying our elected officials.

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