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 with Rob Miskosky

The Propaganda Machine

Billboards in Denver, Portland, Seattle and Minneapolis were recently unveiled describing Alberta’s oil production as “The other oil disaster”, suggesting Alberta’s oil sands production is far more harmful than that of the Gulf oil spill. The billboards feature images of a Syncrude tailings pond dead duck (or at least that’s what it’s being billed as, no pun intended) and an oil-soaked pelican from the Gulf.

Corporate Ethics International (CEI), another environmental group making misleading claims and exaggerations—which seems to be the norm in today’s Suzuki-ism world-gone-nuts—partnered with other environmental zealots to purchase the billboards and launch its “Rethink Alberta” campaign, targeting Alberta’s tourism industry by suggesting tourists stay away from “dirty” wild rose country.

The Rethink Alberta billboard.

CEI, who joined forces with Sierra Club, Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund, Rainforest Action Network and others, claim on their website, “It sells itself as the home to Banff and Lake Louise while it destroys a forest and eco-system the size of England to extract the most polluting and toxic oil on earth.”

And then, “Worse, it is the fastest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, which threatens the very forests and glaciers that have made Alberta special.”

Funny thing is CEI’s main office is located in California—one of the biggest smog producing regions in North America—where a new study by the research group RAND says that “air pollution is causing over $193 million in hospital based medical care each year.”

More than 25 percent of carbon pollution produced in the U.S. comes from vehicles and one only needs to look at a paved-over California to understand why the smog hangs as thick as it does.

“People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” is an idiom often forgotten by environmentalists and animal-rights activists who turn a blind eye to the end result of their actions.

For CEI to target a sector of Alberta’s economy that has little or nothing to do with oil sands production is a slap in the face of an entire province. And as many have pointed out, much of what CEI is selling is a big lie, or at least an expensive exaggeration.

And why isn’t this sanctimonious group calling for a boycott of the Gulf coast where the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history and perhaps the world, is decimating marine and wildlife habitats and potentially destroying hundreds of miles of beaches, wetlands and estuaries? Would that not be an equal gesture, as ridiculous as it would seem? I can’t help but think that were it not so close to home and perhaps putting at risk the millions of dollars donated by uneducated America to push their environmental idealism on others, we would be seeing exactly that from this gang. One only has to look at Y2Y to realize where the funding comes from. Just follow the money trail.

And this is where I take issue with environmental groups who call for the saving of this or the stopping of that. These people are generally advanced in age; their children are already in their late twenties or early thirties with chosen professions; they are also predominately wealthy and have either forgotten or have chosen to ignore the difficult path that lies ahead for a younger generation still trying to make its way through life.

With little purpose it is easy to take up a save-the-world agenda and proclaim it to be for the next generation, especially when there is no impact on you or your family. This is pure selfishness. Campaigns like Y2Y and the Big Wild offer no comfort for a younger generation and no guidance or direction to those affected once these campaigns are accomplished.

The end result of a campaign such as the Big Wild, where 50% of Canada is earmarked as a no-go zone for industrial activity, is the loss of thousands of jobs for every subsequent generation that requires the ability to, at the very least, have the same opportunities as the activists trying to shut everything down were given. Resource extraction is a necessary component and connected to nearly every Canadian’s ability to make a living. Removing that ability becomes a social nightmare that environmentalists eagerly turn a blind eye to.

You can talk about alternative energy sources all you want but at the end of the day environmentalists will find, as they usually do, that these sources of energy also bring with them unwanted results. Wind generators are blights on the landscape and some suggest are the cause of many bird deaths each year. Wind farms are ugly... period. Sell that to tourism.

Or how about nuclear power that brings with it “high relative costs; perceived adverse safety, environmental, and health effects; potential security risks stemming from proliferation; and unresolved challenges in long-term management of nuclear wastes,” according to a study undertaken by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Do you want one of these in your backyard?

And hydropower calls for the use of dams and the flooding of large areas of land effectively destroying wildlife habitat and altering the natural water table level. Landowners are often required to leave the area being flooded and blocking the flow of a river in one area has serious consequences for other downstream areas and users.

And while I realize that global greenhouse gas emissions are projected to continue to increase world-wide, and that we need to pursue other means to develop carbon free energy sources, we must do so without the herky-jerky reactions of an environmental movement that has little concern for the end result.

The world is moving to reduce its carbon footprint but it has to do so at a pace that makes sense. There has to be a balance and we can’t move forward without planning for the long-term economic consequences that will be piled on the next generation of Canadians.

Alberta’s energy sector is working to lessen its load on the environment, including new tailings pond technology that will rapidly speed up its ability to reclaim strip-mined land. And lest we forget, reclamation is law in Alberta under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act.

But that doesn’t sound very good if you happen to be an environmentalist looking to pad you pockets with money purposely garnered by what could easily be termed “The Big Lie”.

Until groups such as CEI crawl back under the environmental rock from which they came, our children have a bleak future indeed. ■

For previous Outdoor Pursuits click here.

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