This morning in Durban, South Africa, a group of youth and indigenous activists from Canada gave delegates to the U.N. climate talks mock gift bags containing samples of fake tar sands along with tourism brochures for Canada and Canadian flags. Kandi Mossett, one of the activists participating in the action, says Canada’s reliance on tar sands oil “is the largest catastrophic project that I am aware of on earth right now.” Mossett, who is the Native Energy and Climate Campaign organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network, notes that the tar sands extraction process is energy- and water-intensive, emits immense amounts of pollution into the air, and destroys the landscape. “To even get to the tar sands, they have to remove boreal forest, old-growth forest. And they call it overburden. They just scrape it off and get rid of that, and then they dig down and move so many tons of earth,” Mossett says. “And then they squeeze out the last little 10 percent of oil that’s actually in the sand. And then they have to use chemicals to make it liquid enough to be able to put it through the pipelines. It’s much more toxic than any other kind of, you know, sweet crude oil.” [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: A group of youth and indigenous activists from Canada staged an action outside the United Nations Climate Change Conference this morning here in Durban, South Africa. They were protesting Canada’s reliance on tar sands oil. The activists gave delegates mock gift bags containing samples of fake tar sands along with tourism brochures for Canada and Canadian flags. Democracy Now! spoke with some of the organizers.
CANADIAN YOUTH ACTIVIST: Hello. I’m from Canada. Here’s your sample of the tar sands, your ticket to catastrophic climate change. Hello.
CONFERENCE DELEGATE: Hi. How are you doing?
DANIEL T’SELEIE: My name is Daniel T’seleie. I’m K’asho Got’ine Dene from Fort Good Hope, Northwest Territories, in Canada. We’re here today because Canada’s environment minister, Peter Kent, has arrived in Durban, and he’s made it very clear that he’s here to push tar sands oil on the rest of the world and not to negotiate for a good agreement or to represent the people. So we thought we would hold a little welcoming party for him and help him push the dirtiest oil on the planet: tar sands oil.
The tar sands deposit is huge in Canada. It covers an area of boreal forest about the size of Florida. And NASA scientist James Hansen has told us that if we exploit this entire resource, that’s game over for the climate. That’s going to push us past the tipping point of catastrophic climate change. So there’s a very direct link there about the huge emissions from the tar sands, and they’re skyrocketing. It’s the fastest-growing source of emissions in Canada. The Canadian government has made it quite clear that not only are they not going to meet their current Kyoto Protocol commitments, but they aren’t going to agree to any targets under a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. And again, this is one of many tactics they use to block progress in these negotiations and tie things up here.
KANDI MOSSETT: My name is Kandi Mossett, and I’m actually from North Dakota. It is the largest catastrophic project that I am aware of on earth right now because of the amount of emissions that it kicks up into the atmosphere, because of the immense amount of water that it uses. And also, to even get to the tar sands, they have to remove boreal forest, old-growth forest. And they call it overburden. They just scrape it off and get rid of that, and then they dig down and move so many tons of earth. And then they squeeze out the last little 10 percent of oil that’s actually in the sand. And then they have to use chemicals to make it liquid enough to be able to put it through the pipelines. It’s very—it’s much more toxic than any other kind of, you know, sweet crude oil. So it’s even worse. And it is about four barrels of water to every one barrel of oil. It’s immensely toxic. Not only that, it doesn’t make any sense. They’re actually using coal-fired power plants to get out the tar sands oil. They’re using natural gas to get out the tar sands oil. And now they’re talking about nuclear energy, building nuclear plants, to be able to get out more of the tar sands oil.
FRANÇOIS PAULETTE: My name is François Paulette. I’m with the Dene Nation in the Northwest Territory. At this very moment, we are in ground zero. People in Fort Chip that are dying of cancer, there is unknown cancers that has come into our territory. The river that stretches from the tar sands to the Arctic Ocean and dumping all this waste, these hard chemicals into the Arctic Ocean, and a lot of people are affected by this.
KANDI MOSSETT: The Oprah Winfrey Network has commercials that they’ve been airing about ethical oil. And they have women on there with their faces all covered and everything, as if the tar sands oil is more ethical than oil from Iraq or things like that.
ETHICALOIL.ORG AD: We bankrolled a state that doesn’t allow women to drive, doesn’t allow them to leave their homes or work without their male guardian’s permission. Today there’s a better way: ethical oil from Canada’s oil sands. Ethical oil, a choice we have to make.
KANDI MOSSETT: It’s ridiculous, what it’s saying. There’s human rights abuses. People are dying in Canada as a result of the tar sands. And there is no such thing as ethical oil anywhere.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank you to Democracy Now!’s Mike Burke and John Hamilton.