A Healing Walk through Canada’s Tar Sands Dystopia

Cree organizer Clayton Thomas-Muller provides a deeply personal account of a ceremonial healing walk through the broken landscape of Canada’s tar sands. This year’s walk begins July 4.

A COUPLE YEARS AGO I was asked by the Keepers of the Athabasca to be Master of Ceremonies for a unique event: the first annual walk to heal the Canadian tar sands.

It took place in the region of the most controversial energy project on earth. The idea was not to have a protest, but instead to engage in a meaningful ceremonial action to pray for the healing of Mother Earth, which has been so damaged by the tar sands industry. Members of the five First Nations of the Athabasca region and residents of the nearby town of Fort McMurray, Alberta, tired of the never-ending fight with big oil and its supporters in the Canadian government, had made a conscious choice to protect their way of life. This was done by turning to ceremony and asking through prayer and the physical act of walking on the earth for the hearts of those harming Mother Earth through extreme energy extraction to be healed.

By extreme energy extraction, I’m talking about practices like tars sands mining and fracking, which the oil and gas industry has had to resort to now that most of the easy-to-find liquid crude is gone. By scraping the earth for fossil fuels that are mixed with sand and rock, these techniques do tremendous damage to the places where they occur.

My journey started in Fort McMurray, also know as tar sands boom town. Many have described this place as the land of milk and honey, a place were you can trade five years of your life (and soul) and be financially “set up.” I met with a motley crew of activists, elders, and youth from Fort Chipewyan, Fort McKay, Anzac, and the metro areas of Calgary and Edmonton, as well as some allies who had traveled from as far as British Columbia and beyond.

The plan was to take vehicles to the beginning of the infamous stretch of road that branches off of Highway 63 to form a ring through the tar sands. This road has gained a notorious reputation due to the many people killed in accidents there—including 46 between 2007 and 2012. Its traffic rivals that of downtown New York City, and gets especially heavy during two daily shift changes.

Our plan was to pray, make offerings to the four directions, and walk through the heart of tar sands development as concerned elders, parents, and youth.

Read the full article on YES MAGAZINE

tarsands

Debt and the Tar Sands

Fort McMurray, Alberta / Photo: Kris Krug

by Charles Eisenstein

The Occupy Movement has been characterized by, and criticized for, its lack of focused objectives. Originally gathering around issues of economic inequality and debt, it soon ballooned to include every progressive issue under the sun, and then some. Yet amid the cacophony of proposals and messages, we could always detect a hint of a unifying theme. We sensed that all of these issues are somehow connected; we sensed that we were protesting something. What was that thing? What is it now? What is it about current actions to, say, stop the excavation of Alberta’s tar sands that makes them Occupy actions? What does ecosystem destruction and climate change have to do with financial inequality?

Just as we suspect, both arise from the same source. Inequality and environmental degradation are written into the rules of our financial system on a level so deep they are nearly invisible. To see how, let us start by asking, Why is it that there is money to be made by excavating the tar sands, but not by protecting the wilderness and the indigenous way of life there? After all, money is a mere social agreement, created by human beings. It is a story – a system of interpretations of symbols that defines value. How have we come to assign value to those activities that are destroying Earth?

The answer has to do with how money is created: as interest-bearing debt. At any moment, because of interest, the amount of money in existence is always less than the amount of debt. The only way to avoid defaults, unemployment and concentration of wealth is for new money to be constantly created through further lending. Lending can only happen and loans can only be repaid when there are profitable investment opportunities: the creation of new goods and services. That is, it can only happen in the presence of economic growth. When the economy stops growing, debt rises faster than income, defaults rise, employment falls, and the concentration of wealth intensifies.

Continue reading “Debt and the Tar Sands” »