Illustration by Laura Callaghan.
Our mandate this year is to create a Thought Bubble that will speak to Canadians. Sure, maybe it was the result of an all time, patriotic high from witnessing people flooding to the streets to celebrate our olympic wins in Vancouver last winter (go Canada!), or maybe it was the fact that when the whole Thought Bubble crew sat up late at night watching live feeds from Copenhagen day in day out for the duration of Cop15, we felt like the worst country in the world. We were actually quoted to be “to the environment what Japan is to whaling”. We were ranked 56th, out of 57 countries in the Climate Change Performance Index. We broke our own law by signing the Kyoto Protocol, and then breaching it. Canada couldn’t even stand on it’s own two feet and pledge more than the US’s measly 17% reduction from 2005 levels. When you consider the fact that all other countries pledged reductions of a similar amount from 1990 levels, that brings Canada’s reduction to a mere 4%. According to Treehugger, our emissions will actually be 2.5% HIGHER. As Treehugger states in the article:
“…reductions by 2020 from 1990 levels need to be in the 40% range in industrialized nations to put us on a track to keep global average temperature rise below the critical threshold of +2°C and give us a shot at returning CO2 concentrations to 350ppm.”
350 ppm refers to the concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere that we need to retain (or achieve, rather) in order to avoid severe climate consequences. In 2009, it was at 387.35 ppm (parts per million) according to the Mauna Loa Observatory and 350.org.
Canada has spun an upsetting, million-knotted string of disappointments, to be sure. Not to mention the elephant, juggernaut of an issue called the tar sands. The “second largest source of oil in the world after Saudi Arabia”, according to the government of Alberta. In addition to that their website says that, “production is expected to increase from 1.31 million barrels per day in 2008 to 3 million barrels per day in 2018″. There’s no signs of it stopping anytime soon. It’s widely held that the tar sands is the largest, most destructive project in all of human history. According to oilsandstruth.org, “the tar sands mining procedure releases at least three times the CO2 emissions as regular oil production and is slated to become the single largest industrial contributor in North America to Climate Change.” It has cleared an absurd amount of ancient Boreal forest, and endangered downstream communities who are reporting increasing rates of rare cancers. If you’ve wondered why Canada is so absurdly pathetic at committing to environmental law, or even setting respectable emissions reduction targets, the tar sands is why. Interestingly, it spells rat backwards, that ought to say enough!
Driving across Canada, we spoke to many strangers and friends along the way. We talked about taxes, indigenous issues, but most of all, we heard about the tar sands, and not just as a problem Alberta’s responsible for, but a problem that Saskatchewan may soon get pulled in to too. Canadians we talked to actually trembled at the thought. There are claims that tar sand production is already slowly spreading into Saskatchewan. That’s why we want to team up with the Council of Canadians, Canada’s largest citizens organization. Started in 1985, they “work to protect Canadian independence by promoting progressive policies on fair trade, clean water, energy security, public health care, and other issues of social and economic concern to Canadians.” Who could be better to team up with to create a Thought Bubble on Canada’s biggest and baddest issue? One of their campaigns is already about the tar sands, and actually ties into another issue they’re passionate about: water. A massive amount of water is needed for the oil extraction process (2 to 4.5 barrels of water for every barrel of synthetic crude oil produced, to be specific), threatening the Athabasca River in Alberta. We’re going to combine these issues (as they’re all related), and inform the Canadian public about a topic we should most definitely have a spare bedroom made up for in our Thought Bubbles.
In closing, this is the result of our cross-country, what’s in Canada’s Thought Bubble tour that we so earnestly had hoodies created for (which I now wear everyday to lounge in and remind myself of my passion): a tar sand Thought Bubble. A tar bubble about tarnada’s tarnishing trap.
To learn more about some of the issues we also heard about from our trip, keep an eye on our Twitter feed. We’ll be posting quotes throughout the next few days.
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