by Brian Merchant, February 14, 2012
Cross-Posted from TreeHugger
Amidst all the political wrangling over the Keystone XL pipeline, some may lose sight of what the fight is ultimately about. And that, of course, is one of the most environmentally devastating projects ever undertaken: the tar sands mining operation in Alberta, Canada. Today, a Reddit user who says he was until recently a well-paid tar sands worker, shared the following video—along with why he quit his job over moral objections to the destruction his work was helping to cause.
The video is a year old, but none of the fundamental facts presented therein have changed. The tar sands are still a blight of epic proportions, and the U.S. oil industry and the conservative political establishment are vying to squeeze even more oil out of it. It’s still resulting in the destruction of Canada’s Boreal forest, one of the last and largest swaths of pristine forest in the world—it’s bigger than the Amazon rainforest. And it’s still unclear how much damage it’s doing to public health: officials and investigators aren’t sure how much toxic waste is leeching out and contaminating nearby waterways.
All that is to say nothing of the veritable “carbon bomb” that the tar sands contains—if we were to burn it all, the nation’s top climate scientist, NASA’s Dr. James Hansen, says it would be “game over for the climate”.
So … yeah. Nasty stuff. So nasty, in fact, that the Reddit user, jonnypondwaterwho posted the above video on the website today did so because he had decided to quit his job for moral reasons. Under a post entitled “I just quit my [very well paying] job in Northern Alberta, Canada because I didn’t want to be a part of this: (video)”, he added some commentary. He wrote that
“My job is probably already filled. The oil sands will probably continue to expand and be extracted for the next 30+ years. It is that sort of ignorant “oh well it’s going to happen anyway” attitude that is sending the environmental state in a downward spiral. Me quitting my job was a personal/moral decision I made because I didn’t want to be a part of the wide destruction and contamination of the environment in that area. But hey, maybe I’m just naive. People need to think differently I reckon.”
He also offered an anecdote about life in the worker’s camps in Alberta:
We were living in a newly created camp. We lived in camps for two reasons 1) we were In the middle of nowhere, and 2) we worked for two (sometimes 3) weeks at a time. These were basically a bunch of long portable homes with about 50 rooms in each. There were about 500 people living in this particular camp (some camps have up to 10 thousand people).
This place wasn’t fenced off so you would see the occasional wild animal (bear, deer, moose etc…) on the way to the job site. After about a month I was seeing at least 2 black bears per day in the camp area. They were seen licking the grease from the kitchen dumpster, and trying to scratch there way into bunks … We then had a meeting, our “supervisors” told us we had nothing to worry about and that the bears would be “dealt with”. They had killed these bears needless to say. I would still see bears coming into the area, I would guess they killed up to 10 bears in three months. And that’s just in this small camp of 500. That is but one of my personal experiences. And I believe the pictures explain themselves in the video.
The community at Reddit rallied to support the user’s decision, applauding him for making the right call. I have to say—I share the sentiment.