I was very surprised when watching this film to find out that Canada is now the biggest exporter of oil to the US. Unfortunately, the oil comes from the tar sands of Alberta, which, despite Governmental denials, appear to be wrecking havoc on the environment and the people living in it.
This report for Al-Jazeera’s Witness programme (which has many good environmental documentaries to its credit) is by Niobe Thompson and explores the darker side of this oil boom.
In Fort Chipewyan and other places near the tar sands deaths from cancers and tumours are way above average, including unusual ones, clinically shown to be associated with the kind of heavy metals that are produced as a by-product of the exploitation of the sands, and there are more being reported every year.
David Schindler has led the first independent research on the effects the tar sands are having on the local environment, and unfortunately the results are anything but comforting, with heavy metals being found in places which can only be caused by the exploitation of the tar sands, and deformaties being seen in local fish.
Besides the local health dangers, the film also examines the effect the tar sands is having on global warming because the amount of energy that it takes to exploit the sands only produces more oil which then gets burnt and adds to the problem.
The politicians of course, are in a state of denial, but independent investigations like Schindler’s, and the publicity it receives, put them under enormous pressure to face the issues which they are overseeing and seeking to extend with the proposed Keystone Pipeline System .