The World’s Dirtiest Oil
Learn the facts about tar sands oil. In this YouTube video from TEDxVictoria, Garth Lenz alternates photographic footage of the land as it presently is, with land after it has been affected by tar sands mining operations.
Besides subjecting large swaths of land to strip mining, the extraction process has also so far produced the largest toxic impoundments in the history of the planet. So far, the water polluted and then impounded as the result of tar sands mining could cover Lake Eerie with a foot of water. Then, Lenz reminds us, “Let’s face it, we all live downstream ….”
Both tar sands mining and mountain top removal in the Appalachian mountains also raise ethical issues related to the very idea of land “ownership”. The Western idea of land ownership, where one party has exclusive rights to use of land and may prevent others from any use of it, is not universal. However, even in the Western model of land ownership, there has also been an unstated but implicit understanding that that right of exclusion is not permanent. The rule against perpetuities expressly states that no interest in land is valid if it extends beyond a life in being plus 21 years. Thus, historically, while uses of land might encumber that land for more than a single generation, no particular use of land has presumed to grant the owner the right to turn the land into an unusable wasteland for all time, forever, going forward. Not so with newer methods of surface mining which eradicate topsoil and destroy all means for large swathes land to support future plant or animal life.
This collage of Tar Sand mining operations was created by Jungbim and used courtesy of author and of Wikimedia Commons
Photograph of mountaintop mine by J.W. Randolph, Courtesy Wikimedia Commons