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Destroy Environment, Win Trophy?

March 24th, 2009 · 1 Comment

This Friday evening, the Aspen Institute and National Geographic are banding together to give out six awards as part of the Aspen Environment Forum.

A ceremony to recognize and reward excellence for those making a real and concrete contribution to innovation, implementation, and communication of energy and environmental solutions.

Amid the awardees are some heroes, but some are far from heroes. The “government” award: The Province of Alberta, Canada.

Yes, that Alberta government which is facilitating what has been called the most destructive project on Earth: devastating Alberta in the rapacious Tar Sands projects. And, this is occurring in the same month that National Georgraphic ran The Canadian Oil Boom: Scraping Bottom.

Nowhere on Earth is more earth being moved these days than in the Athabasca Valley. To extract each barrel of oil from a surface mine, the industry must first cut down the forest, then remove an average of two tons of peat and dirt that lie above the oil sands layer, then two tons of the sand itself. It must heat several barrels of water to strip the bitumen from the sand and upgrade it, and afterward it discharges contaminated water into tailings ponds like the one near Mildred Lake. They now cover around 50 square miles. Last April some 500 migrating ducks mistook one of those ponds, at a newer Syncrude mine north of Fort McKay, for a hospitable stopover, landed on its oily surface, and died. The incident stirred international attention—Greenpeace broke into the Syncrude facility and hoisted a banner of a skull over the pipe discharging tailings, along with a sign that read “World’s Dirtiest Oil: Stop the Tar Sands.”

Peter Essick, the photographer for that piece, will be at the Forum, to give a lunchtime presentation entitled “Scraping Bottom” on March 26th.

A National Geographic photographer and an environment editor report back on their explorations of Alberta’s oil sands at the height of a mining boom.

This is, of course, the day before the Government of Alberta will receive their ‘prestigious’ prize.

The government striving to accelerate these destructive practices is to be awarded a prize for its “leadership” in carbon capture and sequestration. About that award

Energy Minister Mel Knight is traveling to Aspen, Colorado on March 26 to accept the Government Award on behalf of the Province at a ceremony highlighting the three-day Aspen Environment Forum.

“This award acknowledges that we’re on the right track and are indeed leaders when it comes to environmentally responsible resource development,” said Knight. “Carbon capture and storage will play a major role in Alberta’s efforts to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a real honour to have Alberta’s hard work recognized by the Aspen Institute.”

And, it is hard to see how this choice meets the Award Criteria. “The Aspen Institute awards recognize excellence for those making a real contribution to innovation, implementation and communication of energy and environmental solutions.” Yes, perhaps (PERHAPS) the carbon capture and sequestration projects are a “real contribution”, but this is like awarding a prize for altruism to a bank executive running a predatory loan scheme who gave a can of beans to a food shelter.

Have to wonder whether anyone will note the hypocrisy of having Essick giving a lunchtime presentation, presumably to the entire conference, and then giving an enivironmental/energy leadership award to one of the key abetters of the “worst project on the planet” the next evening in front of the same crowd. Hopefully, more than few in attendence will be squirming in their seats with discomfort come Friday evening

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 beth foster // Mar 27, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    National Geographic is a co-organizer of the Aspen Environment Forum, but we are not involved in giving the awards. They
    were chosen and are being presented by an independent body, the Aspen
    Institute Energy and Environment Awards.