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Over the past few weeks, Canada has been hit hard. Serious and unprecedented flooding has struck Calgary and Toronto, along with others from Fort McMurray to Kitchener-Waterloo. Petrochemical spills of nearly every kind have dumped crude, tailings and “sour gas”, culminating in last weekend’s horrific train-crash in Lac Magantic which levelled the centre of town and killed an estimated 50. As images and video roll in, showing a sunken Union Station and a burning Lac Magentic, virtually everybody I’ve seen or spoken to for days has been in a state of shock and awe.

How could this happen to us?

We all know, of course, how and why this is happening. Weather being the default subject for Canadian small-talk, it’s something that comes up in conversation with just about everyone I see, and for years aside from a very tiny fraction of deniers, there’s been an overwhelming consensus among everyone I’ve spoken to from all walks of life. “Yeah, we fucked it all up”, I hear over and over again, almost always followed, of course, with, “but what are we gonna do?”.

That’s a question we should probably answer sooner, rather than later.

Scientists have been warning for decades that climate change would bring about this kind of extreme weather. Other experts have been trying to warn about the dangers presented by oil development and infrastructure for at least as long. Similar disasters have been afflicting the Third World for years now, and even beginning to hit the shores of America. As frightening as this was, it was still largely academic – pictures came in from places we’d never heard of and could scarcely find on a map. Now that the places we’re seeing underwater are ones we know well and identify personally with, the threat becomes real in entirely new ways.

How would we be responding, I wonder, if this devastation had been wrought by dark-skinned foreigners who spoke a different language and worshipped a different god? If “extremists” blew up a few dams to let loose floodwaters, or snuck a “suitcase nuke” into a small town? On a global scale, “environmental refugees” already outnumber those displaced by war, and with a growing number of super-storms, droughts, heat-waves, freezes, crop-failures, wildfires and floods, the damage being done is already well beyond anything Al Qaeda could manage.

For now, this anger is muted, but that won’t last forever. People are losing homes, farms and communities, and as the damage starts to pile up, resentment will begin to build. Just as it took a couple of years of widespread layoffs and foreclosures before mass political action started to take hold of public spaces, I suspect it will take more time and suffering before people start to get really angry. Once that happens, though, it won’t take much to spark a reaction. When people see the fortunes made by oil company executives in relation to their shattered lives, they’ll draw the obvious connections and begin to see this theft for what it really is.

This crisis isn’t hypothetical any more. It’s happening, and it’s only going to get worse. It can no longer be spoken about only as separate “climate”, “energy” or “financial” crises, but as a converging set of consequences. As conventional oil supplies dwindle we’ll continue to see rising fuel costs, economic slowdowns and risky new drilling technologies. The current rush toward tar sands and fracking development is a clear result of both desperation to revive ailing industrial economies and the growing shortage of conventional crude. These new sources of oil, in turn, emit far more carbon and present a significantly increased risk of accidents and disasters. All of this is connected and there aren’t going to be any simple solutions.

How will people react, I wonder, when the first major North American city has to be abandoned for good? Rolling Stone recently published a convincing argument that Miami can’t survive rising sea levels, no matter how many walls it builds. What about farming communities, fisheries and areas dependent on forests? How will we react when one of these floods strikes before people are able to evacuate? When scientists start to agree that we’ve passed “the tipping point”?

There is, of course, a point where life as we know it starts to become untenable and “civilization” will start to break down. Large-scale centralized decision-making depends on the ability to assume that things like climate are relatively constant. This is the literal foundation for everything we build – roads, bridges and buildings are all built on the assumption the ground under them won’t turn to mud. Our agricultural system, now planted often in thousand-acre fields of a single crop (or even a single clone) and managed globally, are becoming colossal gambles on the stability of local climates. Our nationally-networked power grids have limits and depend on thousands of miles of transmission lines. “Just in time” delivery, the new mantra of “warehouses on wheels” which drives the big-box economy, leaves only days worth of supplies in stores at any given time. In short, we are woefully unprepared for the future we’re probably creating, in ways which strike at the very heart of our way of life.

Long before that happens, though, we’ll see regional impacts scattered seemingly at random. Like everything else, they’ll hit poor regions harder than most and bring with them a whole host of ugly social side effects. In his new book, Tropic of Chaos, Christian Parenti illustrates some of the consequences we’re already starting to see. In Afghanistan, years of drought led poor farmers to switch from wheat to drought-tolerant opium in defiance of the occupation, a move supported by the remnants of the Taliban and one of many reasons they still enjoy so much support from those communities. In Africa and the Middle East the Arab Spring was preceded by increases in food prices linked to droughts and crop failures. Ultimately, our climate isn’t the only mind-bogglingly complex system involved here, nor is it the only one threatened with losing stability.

This “apocalypse” isn’t coming tomorrow, but if recent events are any indication, it’s not a threat we can afford to ignore any longer. This isn’t just happening in Bangladesh and the Maldives anymore, it’s happening right up the train tracks. We still have time to make changes, but no way of knowing how much. The IEA suggests that we have until 2017 to stop building fossil-fuel infrastructure before we’re “locked in” to a level of at least 450ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere by the middle of the century, and a warming of at least 2 degrees Celsius. Given how much chaotic weather we’re seeing now, it’s hard to imagine how bad it might get past that point.

I don’t know about you, but I plan on being alive in 2050, and don’t wish to spend my last years watching this planet tear itself apart. Every time something like this happens, I ask how bad it’ll have to get before we collectively change our ways, and almost inevitably the answer is “worse”. That’s not good enough anymore. We aren’t changing our ways – we’re doing the opposite. Does a 28 000% increase in oil-by-rail shipments sound like the act of a country that’s serious about tackling climate change and oil dependence?

Big oil blew up a small town. That’s a wake-up call we can’t ignore. Blame whoever you wish – the railroad, the engineer, anonymous vandals or a lack of regulation, but ultimately this disaster comes down to the choice to increase oil production on a continental scale. Whether this oil is transported by train, tanker or pipeline, the risks will still be spread across the land, and even if companies miraculously manage to avoid any more accidents, burning this oil will still produce more droughts, floods, crop-failures and wildfires. One way or the other, we will have to stop using these infernal fuels, the only question is what we’ll be left with when we do.

Andrew Nikiforuk is a long-time writer and activist, best known lately for his critiques of Alberta’s Tar Sands. He’s written for major publications like McLeans, the Toronto Star and the Tyee as well as being the author of many books including Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent, Saboteurs: Wiebo Ludwig’s War Against Big Oil and most recently, The Energy of Slaves: Oil and the New Servitude. He’ll be headed to Hamilton in a couple of weeks, as the speaker for the 8th annual Spirit of Red Hill Lecture, for a talk entitled Bitumen, Pipelines & the Petro State, on the night of Wednesday November 28th, 7:30, at the First Unitarian Church (170 Dundurn St. S.).

When discussing the Tar Sands, he has a lot to say. A native of Alberta himself, he’s researched extensively into the economic and environmental consequences, from leaking tailings ponds near the MacKenzie river delta to the difficulties involved in upgrading bitumen into synthetic crude. Rather than suggesting the “gigaproject” simply be halted, Nikiforuk argues for a “national debate on pace and scale” of the project, favouring a carbon tax to slow development as we transition to cleaner and more sustainable fuels. I won’t spoil too much of these videos or his upcoming lecture, except to say that they’re well worth a watch, and I hope to see ya on the 28th.

Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent – A general discussion of the Tar Sands and oil industry and their implications for the future of North America.

The Tar Sands and Fort Chipewyan – A talk from Ft. Chipewyan Alberta on what the Tar Sands mean to small, nearby northern communities.

Andrew Nikiforuk and Jeff Rubin discuss the Future of Oil – From TVO’s Big Ideas, a talk about the Peak Oil and the Tar Sands.

Andrew Nikiforuk debates Ezra Levant debate the Ethics of Alberta’s “Oil” Sands – A debate between between “dirty” and “ethical” oil, with Ezra Levant, one of Canada’s most outspoken and obnoxious conservatives.

For around a year now, America has been witnessing something of a natural gas boom. Thanks to the massive production capable through hydraulic fracturing (fracking), small towns like Bakken, ND were beginning to say the same kind of explosive growth as Tar Sands hotspots like Fort McMurray. Swept away by shale gas madness, many in the business press were beginning to envision the USA as the world’s next big energy exporter, like Canada or Saudi Arabia.

Are you frackin’ kidding me? America would first need to meet its own colossal appetite for energy, which isn’t likely to happen any time soon. The very fact that people believe this could happen (and are investing a heavily in it) is a testament to how little most people understand about energy – who uses it, where it comes from, or how that happens.

America was a major oil exporter decades ago, but production in the lower 48 states peaked decades ago and has been in decline since. Anybody who doubts “Peak Oil” should take a look at these charts, as they paint a very good picture of how this can happen even in a nation as rich and technologically advanced as the US. A nation defined largely by the Texas Oilman suddenly found itself at the mercy of Arab oil embargoes with no ability to pump enough to compensate, and more than three decades of promises to “get off foreign oil” have done nothing to reverse this decline.

In all likelihood, we’re at, near, or already past this point globally. The last decade saw prices skyrocket from under $20/barrel to over $100. This brought a lot more “capacity” online which could never have been practical at former prices – deep offshore drilling rigs, mining tar sands and oil shale or warzones in the Third World. In spite of this, global production has stayed fairly steady since about 2005. This has put an enormous strain on the world’s already weak economy, leading to the only really effective form of conservation we’ve found: recessions.

Natural gas, unlike oil, doesn’t “peak” – the analogy usually used is a “cliff”. Rather than the long, drawn-out declines seen with thick, viscous oil, pressure in a gas well can drop off very quickly. When “good” wells are hard to find, oil production turns to even slower processes like the tar sands. The Gas industry has turned, instead, to hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), a rather explosive process which moves much faster, accelerating the decline after an initial period of euphoria.

It now looks like that euphoria is starting to fade. Over the past few years fracking has flooded the market with cheap gas, pushing prices to a third or quarter of the price of actually producing it. Prices bottomed out in April, and the number of drilling rigs online has now sunk back to 1999 levels. This ridiculous state of affairs was driven by tens of billions of dollars invested in the dream that Bakken and others like it would become the next Fort McMurray. These investment funds have been used to sell gas at a loss, in the hopes of maintaining the illusion – in essence, a Ponzi scheme. This is the epitome of bad financial planning – as it not only prevents those funds from being used to build new rigs (or rigs in places they might turn a profit), but also because investors inevitably catch on. This process is starting to show cracks, as companies start going broke, scaling back production or finding their wells empty, putting our continent in the position for a huge price shock in the near future.

In many ways, energy has been the domain of large centralised corporations since the days portrayed in There Will Be Blood. Edison himself consciously developed electricity to be a centralized, profitable system, and we’ve seen the process repeated many times with hydro, nuclear and other new means of generation which ultimately became better engines for generating money than energy. Unfortunately, while we can print as much money as we want, energy is subject to the basic rules of thermodynamics: it has to come from somewhere, and only in finite amounts.

America’s fracking boom is in serious danger of becoming a bust. Beyond the danger of groundwater contamination, past the risk of earthquakes and leaving out the obvious consequences of burning all this gas, we must also accept the limits of physical reality. Extracting gas faster doesn’t mean there’s any more in the ground than before – only that we’ll run through it much sooner. It’s time to accept that there are no giant oil or gas fields waiting for discovery or brilliant new ways of accessing them which will solve our growing energy woes. We’ve known for a decade now that this crunch was coming, it’s long-past time to start preparing for it.

Once again, the price of gasoline is on the rise. In the past week, it’s shot up to $1.26-8 per litre around here, a rise shadowed by a few dollars a barrel raise in the price of oil yesterday. Whether these prices, along with many other markets, can continue their rapid rise from the depths of depression into some of the heights seen just before the crash is uncertain, but the rising cost of oil is without a doubt one of the most threatening factors.

It isn’t just consumers who pay for gas. Oil products play an important role in industries from agriculture to plastics, transportation, medicines and heavy construction. Everything rises with the price of oil, leaving many already-struggling folks to pay even higher rates for food, heating and transportation. Petrochemicals are the lifeblood of our industrial economy, and cutting our supply is like choking our society.

Why so high? Tensions with Iran certainly aren’t helping, but it would be utterly dishonest to ignore the rest of the world. Oil production is maxxed-out worldwide, a problem which has been recurring since the middle of the last decade, where evidence now suggests “peak oil” has probably already occurred. Despite an enormous rise in price (3-4 times where it was a decade ago, even at it’s depths), major exporters like Saudi Arabia have been unable to bring much ‘spare capacity’ online, and alternative “dirty oil” sources like Canada’s Tar Sands are far more expensive (and destructive). In spite of this, there’s been an enormous growing thirst for oil as industrial nations like ours refuse to cut back and developing nations like India and China rapidly industrialize. The Oil Drum reports that humanity just passed “500 Exajoules”, or a total of 10 times the energy we used a century ago, showing clearly that our demands on this planet are still growing.

Many had hoped that the “oil shocks” of the last decade were simply a result of financial manipulation, but it’s becoming clear that we’re going to see a repeat of this precipitous rise with every apparent step toward “economic recovery”. It will act as a brake on the world economy and only get worse as the supplies dwindle. Along with that will come increased wars over oil-rich regions, and industrial “gigaaprojects” like the Tar Sands which are beginning to span a continent at incredible costs. The added cost of both will only further burden our economy. We are entering a frightening spiral of resource depletion here, and it’s going to challenge the very way our society operates.

At what point do we stop pretending this isn’t happening?

Sometime soon, those in charge will have to choose between “they’ve been saying that for decades” and “nobody saw this coming”. The arguments levelled against “peak oil” today are little different than those which I encountered a decade ago, acting seemingly as if the last decade’s oil shocks and global meltdown didn’t happen or were somehow unrelated. Decades of policy were written based on the premise of endlessly expanding energy use, even when it became apparent that it was totally impossible.

Peak oil theories never stated that the oil would “run out” one day – just that a slight “peak” would be passed on a long plateau near the middle of our oil supply, after which it would dwindle. Smaller oilfields have always followed this bell-curve, and the sum of a lot of small bell-curves is, of course, a much larger one. After the “peak” is passed, the cost of extracting oil in those volumes rapidly rises. For a short while volumes can be maintained through much larger investment (higher prices, subsidies, frantic pumping etc), but sooner or later they will dwindle. If this theory continues to hold true, the economic shock-waves we’ve seen so far are the tip of the iceberg.

Of course, saying such things labels me an alarmist, an apocalyptic doom-sayer or simply a “nut-job”. Civilizations, we’re told, cannot end and only change for the better. If there is a problem, we’re told, our leaders will deal with it. Unfortunately, “keep calm and carry on” can only work for so long. Those in power have done nothing to suggest that they understand these problems or have any workable solutions to them – instead they’re trying more of the same, but bigger, harder, and with more power. Any real “solutions” are going to have to come from elsewhere. This issue strikes at the heart of our communities, homes and everyday lives, and that’s where resistance has to (and already has) begun. There are no easy lines between “activism” and “lifestylism” here – a real paradigm shift in the way we live requires both, and nothing less can begin to grapple with the scope of the problem here.

Gasoline prices are on the rise again, now well above $1.33/l here and now over the dreaded $4/gallon mark down south. This is prompting all the traditional ire and rage, and it’s happened so many times in the last decade that it’s now a familiar tune. Gas companies are “gouging us” by raising prices well above actual oil prices, and keeping them high long after oil prices drop. The solution posed, of course, is to have politicians legislate the price down by going after oil companies, gas stations and speculators. Obama is now threatening to cut billions in subsidies from oil companies, to prove (as he ramps up his next campaign) that he’s doing something. but will it help?

The first question we need to ask is clear: are oil prices rising? Yes. The price of a barrel of oil now is around five times what it was a decade ago, and now twice what it was after the Crash of 2008. Is speculation a part of this? Definitely – it always is in markets. But it doesn’t tell the whole story. We’re running out, and it’s really beginning to show. Are we approaching “peak oil”? At this point, we may already have passed it.

Peak oil doesn’t mean that there’s an unmovable line on a graph that oil production must follow. It does mean, though, that maintaining this decade’s level of production (highest ever, but unable to increase much) is going to get harder and harder: ie: more expensive and more carbon intensive. It also means that the longer we stretch it out, the steeper the decline will be when we stop, since the total amount of oil left can only drop.

There is enormous political pressure, both from the public and from the private sector to keep oil prices artificially low, since oil is used in nearly everything we do and price increases spread fast. Demand is rising much faster than supply and the only way to shield ourselves from the massive price increase this is generating is to pump oil out as fast as possible. We’re relying on dictatorships like Saudi Arabia, oil sands/shale, offshore drilling, warzone oil and many other options, but all are showing many of their own problems. In the long run, it really only amounts to working as hard as possible and accepting the highest costs in an effort to get the lowest price possible. Not a wise business policy, especially when many nations rely on oil reserves to feed their populations.

Some people are now waking up to this fact. A recent paper from the NYU Law School on Integrity has stated that Government calculations on the costs/benefits are fundamentally skewed. By imposing a “now or never” outlook, they never explored the option of simply waiting. Cleaner and cheaper technologies will inevitably exist in the future, and we’ll likely be able to sell at higher prices, too. And while it’s written about America, exactly the same could be said about Saudi Arabia or anywhere else.

If we hadn’t been highly subsidizing the price of oil until now, it would already be much higher. But what would that mean? We’d already be a lot less reliant on it. We’d already be using less (which paradoxically, might mean we’d be paying less at the pump now). We’d have more bikes and solar panels, and probably be eating much healthier food. The longer we refuse to admit that oil is actually running out, the rougher that eventual transition will be. As we can now see from the volatile world economy, we’re not saving ourselves any money by going on a mad dash for the last of endangered resources, and unfortunately many of the first casualties of the 2008 crash were the same green energy programs that might have helped us deal with this.

It’s easy to pretend that gasoline and oil prices are high because corporations are greedy and corrupt. It’s absolutely true. But it’s not the whole story. We, as people, can’t fix this problem by getting angry and demanding that our leaders “fix” it. Politicians and corporations aren’t going to take us “off the grid” because there’s nothing in it for them. But every time the price of gas goes up, there’s a little less in it for us to play along.

If recent events in the Gulf of Mexico prove anything, it’s that the price we pay for big toxic industries is often far higher than it appears. The potential for disasters like this is something we live with every day, but seldom talk about. Oil spills from tankers and drilling rigs are one possible source of a disaster which could pose enormous damage to human life and the environment. There are many others, each one of them with the same level of horrific potential as exploding underwater drill rigs.

1.Tar Sands Dam Failure
Oil spills can happen on land, too. And they aren’t always only oil, either. In Northern Alberta there are some very nasty man-made lakes of tarry sludge, held back by some very sketchy dams. It’s been described as “an oil spill in slow motion”. These tailings ponds contain the waste from processing the “world’s dirtiest oil”.Birds often die as soon as they land – 7000 ducks and geese per year. Many of these are sitting a very short distance from rivers leading toward the Mackenzie Delta, with the potential to poison Canada’s largest river system.

2.Coal Mining Disaster
What do you get when you mix high explosives, fossil fuels, and pristine Appalachian landscapes? A war on mountains. Through a type of super-destructive strip-mining known as “mountaintop removal”, mining companies use amounts of explosives on par with the Vietnam War to blow apart entire mountains to get at the coal inside. This process literally remodels the landscape, flattening it. And this means that tailings ponds from the processing are sitting on very unpredictable land. On a small scale, these disasters are common – poisoning farms and waterways. But on a larger scale, it could be very threatening to communities downstream. One Tennessee disaster is said to have dwarfed the Exxon Mobil spill. And though Canada has a lot of potential for ruining lands the size of Western Europe this way, America has a far higher population density, meaning a lot more people would be affected.

3.Uranium Mining Dam Failure
What could be worse than a massive tailings pond full of the by-products of Tar Sands or coal mining operations? The by-products of uranium mining, of course. Canada is a world-leader in Uranium mining, especially in the North (Ont., Sask. and NWT). And we already have seen many dam failures, which led to massive radioactive waste dumps. One of these disasters would mean hundreds or thousands of years of radioactive toxicity for all areas exposed.

4.Nuclear Reactor Meltdown
It’s been said that nuclear reactors are the world’s most advanced tea-kettles. Despite all the high-tech measures used to keep them safe, they are ultimately just steam engines. By piling enriched Uranium together, it heats up and boils water. But if that temperature isn’t kept under control, all sorts of horrible things can happen. A “meltdown” occurs when the nuclear fuel begins to melt, usually melting any safeguards as well(pretty much everything melts and burns at these temperatures). And whether something burns, explodes, hits the water table, or simply just puts off enough of the fuel in smoke that it poisons everyone for hundreds of miles around.

5.Plane Crash
For decades we heard stories about hijackings and plane crashes. The worst we thought could happen was a week or two of icy hiking and eating people. Then 9/11 happened. But while busy office towers during the weekday are terrifying targets, there are a lot of others. And say what you want about the construction of the Twin Towers, but would the average tenement apartment or condo tower stand up any better? How about power plants, especially nuclear ones? Did you know that virtually all of Ontario’s nuclear waste is still stored on site at power plants? And what if they hit a dam, or a water treatment plant? Whether it’s an accident or not, every single plane flying might as well be a cruise missile, and that is something we need to consider when building things which someone might want to hit.

6.Plastic Fire
Thanks to the massive amount of synthetic materials our society uses, there are massive stockpiles of them everywhere. Sometimes this means tire yards, and other times big warehouses full of plastic chips. As one friend who’d worked in local plastics recycling industry put it, “everything that has to do with plastics is super-highly regulated, until you use the word recycling, then you can do whatever you want”.
Plastics are basically oil hardened into solids. And that means they burn fast, hot and put out a lot of toxic smoke. This is a possibility that we in Hamilton know well, after the Plastimet Fire in 1997, one of the most toxic fires in history.

7.Chemical Plant Disaster
A few years ago a fire at a local pesticide plant dumped enormous numbers of toxic by-products into local waterways. This is a small taste of what a pesticide plant can do, as well as many similar chemical industries, if disaster hits at one of their plants. A worst-case scenario would look a lot like the disaster at the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, which killed an estimated 20 000 people.

8.Mass Food Poisoning
Never before in history have so many people relied on foods processed in so few places. This massive industrial centralization of our food supply means that when dealing with high-risk foods like meat or sprouts, contamination can spread rapidly over the entire continent. Look at what happened with Maple Leaf sandwich meats. Food borne bacteria like Salmonella and Listeria kill about three Americans a day. There is no reason to centralize our food in this way except to generate massive profits for a few rich corporations.
The elements of our food supply, and especially our meat supply, which take extreme risks in this fashion go well beyond central processing. The Mad Cow scare showed how processing meat scraps into food for cows was putting the whole system at risk. And though it didn’t kill millions, it could have. Modern factory farming techniques concentrate far too many animals together in small, unhealthy spaces. They’re fed cheap industrial food (such as grain-based cattle feed) and given growth hormones and other drugs. And then there’s the massive number of very toxic chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers) used in agriculture. I know many in the medical profession, and though the health dangers of pesticides have been disputed in public very effectively, If these products were safe, agricultural workers wouldn’t have the highest risk of cancers like Leukemia and Hodgekins’ disease

9.(un)Natural Disasters
I was in New Orleans the winter following Hurricane Katrina. The scale of the destruction was like nothing I’d ever seen (especially Biloxi). It wasn’t that they couldn’t deal with it – every city has people to re-build homes and put lamp posts back up. But even with hundreds of new workers and volunteers, it was obvious that it would take years to get to all of them. In one of America’s most famous cities, the disaster response effort was like something out of Haiti or Malasia. Both Canadian and Mexican federal agents were on the scene before the American Government. Rebuilding it all is costing billions, and has dumped refugees all over the nation. It was like a nuclear bombing, but with black mold instead of fallout (I slept in a moldy squat while there – not nice to my lungs).
The wreckage was unbelievable. If this happened only a few times every decade to major American cities the entire nation would crumble. This kind of reconstruction effort takes for granted that the rest of the country isn’t suffering the same way.
We may never know if Katrina was caused by climate change or not. The climate is too complicated a system to make that kind of guess. But we do know that we are mucking around with the climate in very serious ways we don’t understand, and that one of the signs we’re seeing is a big increase in hurricanes. Whether this is “natural” or not, we really don’t know. But why take the risk?

10.Business as Usual
None of these disasters put out anywhere near as much toxic contamination, lay waste as many landscapes or kill as many people as the “normal functioning” of our capitalist system. None of them demand anywhere near the cost for eventual cleanup.
An estimated one billion gallons of tar sands tailings leak into groundwater each year. And stelco pumps out twice as many dioxins (one of the world’s nastiest pollutants) each year than the Plastimet fire. Countless corporations which operate in Canada have been linked to death squads in Latin America and elsewhere, such as Coca-Cola or Barrick Gold. More oil is spilled every year from leaky pipes and pumping stations in the Niger Delta than has been spilled in the BP oil disaster in the Gulf. Aging reactors like the infamous Chalk River Reactor near Ottawa regularly spill radioactive materials into waterways. Oh, and around five people die at work every day in Canada.

One way or the other, these processes cause death and destruction on a global scale. These disasters are only the worst and best publicized examples. And while they don’t often factor into the price (how do you insure a nuclear power plant?), they still filter down to every single one of us. And every additional day it goes on makes things worse.

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