The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has restarted its campaign to green-wash the tar-sands. I will be failing in my duty if I do not comment on the latest ad.
The star is Chelsie Klasson, who works in community relations for Imperial Oil. She beams from the page in a head and shoulder shot accompanied by the headline: ‘Every day I see the positive impact oil sands development is having on our communities’.
She continues: ‘Working in community relations I get to see how tax dollars and royalty payments from oil sands development are making a difference. It’s funding hospitals, schools and social programs. I tell everyone I possibly can about how the oil sands are having a really positive impact on our communities.’
CAPP ad connoisseurs (we happy few) will notice the difference between this ad and the previous series. Chelsie stands against a blurred background — though you can just read the word ‘hospital’. Gone are the pristine lakes and woodland scenery, which were such inappropriate backdrops for justifying an industry which is transforming northern Alberta into Mordor. Does this represent a move by CAPP to meet its critics half-way? If only.
I cannot disagree with Chelsie that the profits from the tar-sands are providing jobs and having a short-term positive impact on public finances in Alberta, and the rest of Canada. Not everybody feels their community is benefiting, and as so often in Canada the losers are First Nations people,
Imperial Oil is a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest company ‘able to determine America’s foreign policy and the fate of entire nations’. (Daily Telegraph). Chelsie might find that the residents of Chad would also disagree with her about the benefits of the company’s activities. Would you want to be the public face of this company?
Canada is not immune from the effects of climate change, but there is a facile fantasy here that the country will benefit, or at least adapt. Canada may be losing its pine forests to red pine bark beetle; the prairies may become too subject to drought for agriculture, but elsewhere agricultural productivity will increase, new land will become cultivatable further north, and the melting ice means that the mineral riches of the Arctic can be exploited. However, all this depends on the rest of the world’s economy continuing to function in some fashion for Canada to trade with. It depends on Canada avoiding the effects of world conflict (which may become nuclear) over diminishing resources.
It also depends on climate change happening slowly enough for adaptation to take place, even though Canada is doing nothing to help slow the process down, and everything it can to make sure that there is no meaningful mitigation. The warming is accelerating. The arctic was forecast to be ice free by 2050. The latest prediction is 2020. At that point we lose the albedo effect of the ice cap that reflects sunlight back into space, and methane is released from the melting tundra further speeding up warming, which may become unstoppable. The window of opportunity for Canadians to bask in the ‘positive impacts’ of the tar-sands industry is growing smaller. If Chelsie lives to old age, she will probably have witnessed the deaths of billions caused by climate change, and I predict that by then she will regret having been the public face of the tar-sands industry.