Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tar Sands Healing Walk 2014

This year I got the opportunity to attend the fifth and final Tar Sands Healing Walk, a 14k walk though a desert landscape of toxic tailing ponds, sand dunes, open pit mines, refineries, and man camps were pristine boreal forrest once stood. Organized and attended by grass roots volunteer's from all corners, the event was steeped in Aboriginal tradition and teachings. Colonialism, mining, and pipelines were among the topics discussed in workshops.

Having bussed and hitchhiked my way across the country twice now I've listened to just about every opinion on the tar sands. I don't always push the topic in conversation but the elephant in the room inevitably comes up and almost everyone over the age 20 has an opinion on it. I got rides from wellsite geologists, truck drivers, welders, steam fitters and alike who have all spent time working in the “patch”. I've yet to meet anyone who unflinchingly supports what is going on. Everyone admits that working there is a moral sacrifice, even those who have been coerced into referring to it as the "oil" sands.

Aside from being completely unsustainable, aside from the pollution, aside from global warming, aside from the pipelines, aside from all the obviously dire consequences that come along with tar sands, Im worried about the social impact it is having on our nation.

For years there has been a growing divide between those willing to make the moral sacrifice to go work on the rigs and those who are not. That duality has now evolved beyond a question of profession. As methods of dissent become more radical cracks emerge between those who used to stand together against a common fear. Neighbour became pitted against neighbour when a rash of "No Pipeline" graffiti emerged in Vancouver, dividing up those who believe the gravity of the situation justified the destruction of murals and those who  oppose that view.

Wether you are of the opinion that the ends are justified by the means matters not. It is very concerning that some folks are willing to give up their freedom for a cause, while others believe in the cause yet are critical of the method because they cannot stand to let it invade their neighbourhood with eye sore graffiti. This is the kind of division that can pull the thread on once tightly knit communities. 

With that being said, I’ll let you review the evidence and decide for your self. Do you support a diversity of tactics? When the forces that be are so inaccessible, so powerful, so unrelenting, how far are you willing to go? What are you willing to condone? Your backyard may not be a tailings pond, but someones is, and I bet that someone is willing to trade in your defaced mural for that tailings pond any day. 

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