I would hazard to guess that in most people’s minds, a trip to the Tar Sands is not likely the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about “special birthday presents.” Many of you, myself included, might imagine that a special birthday trip might include…a destination spa weekend or perhaps a visit to a “world city”…Canyon Ranch, Golden Door, Red Mountain, Rancho La Puerta, Rome, Paris, Montreal, New York…., a memory in the making for a special, once in a lifetime, milestone birthday?
But special places and milestone events are certainly in the “eye and mind of the beholder” and while I would definitely be thrilled to go to any of the places listed above, my recent whirlwind “birthday trip” to Fort McMurray, Alberta is definitely up there as one of the most memorable, special and wonderful birthday presents I have or ever expect to receive!
My brother and brother in-law surprised me with the Tar Sands birthday present. As we live far away from one another, it isn’t always easy to coordinate or pull off time away together. They asked me if I could set aside a day and a night when I was on a recent visit to Alberta, to spend some time “with them.” A mutually agreed on date was set and all that they told me was to “pack some ID, something nice to wear to dinner, a long sleeve shirt, jeans, comfortable shoes and maybe some work-out clothes, and to be ready to leave at 9am.” They both know me well, and while I can get my “spa girl” on most days of the week, they know, respect and tell me often that they admire my passion and commitment to educate myself and others, to advocate for a cleaner, renewable world, and for sharing my knowledge and expertise on climate change.As a born and raised “Alberta” girl, now living in the shadow of New York City, the “Tar Sands” which in my youth were too expensive to develop, but which are known to house one of the biggest reserves of oil in the world, have always been a place I wanted to visit. The Tar Sands conjure up many mixed emotions for me including: pride, disgust, anger, sorrow and despair, to name a few. Often called “the road to Armageddon” by many environmentalists, or “a safe, secure and important energy savior” by many others, the Tar Sands are a complex area of rapid development and investment, located in Northern Alberta on the edge of the Canadian Boreal forest and on the banks of the mighty Athabasca River. As a climate change advocate, I most certainly had my mind pretty well made up as to which side of the Tar Sands equation I stood on, but a first account visit to “the devils lair” brought to the surface many mixed emotions and complex feelings, thoughts and ideas, I didn’t realize or expect that I would have.
Join us at ClimateMama for regular July updates on the Tar Sands as Harriet recounts her visit, first impressions, experience and ideas, and shares her feelings and thoughts as we try to educate you on some of the facts about this mineral rich yet highly controversial area. We hope to help you come to your own conclusions on the role the Alberta Tar Sands currently play, and will or will not play in all of our “energy” futures.