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Monday, August 23, 2010

Are We on the Verge of Ecological Disaster?

This link is from a Harvard publication and was brought to my attention through Ruben Nelson of Foresight Canada. Ruben is one of the Reboot Alberta "Weavers" - the integrated whole-systems thinkers who help me try and make sense of the energy and angst behind the Reboot Alberta citizens movement.

Ruben's note was a reference to a piece in yesterdays New York Times by Thomas Homer-Dixon entitled "Disaster at the Top of the World."  I hesitate to add the New York Times link due to copyright concerns.

There is a great danger that Alberta will be very vilified by geopolitical propaganda forces like the Corporate Ethics "Rethink Alberta"  advertising campaign against tourism to our province due to oil sands development.  They, amongst others, have decided to target the oil sands as "dirty oil" and push perceptions that Albertans are not doing enough to respond to the environmental charges being laid against us.  Well quite frankly we are not doing enough.  But that is a far cry from doing nothing about the environmental and habitat consequences of oil sands development either.  The problem is our actions speak softer than  our words and too much of what we say is done in expensive glossy and untrusted paid-advertising counter-attack campaigns.

We need to do more, better, smarter, faster and with more authenticity integrity, honesty, accountability, transparency and demonstrate the on-going and extended efforts towards environmental stewardship of Albertans.  Only that way will be counter the criticism and return to being proud as owners of how this vital and necessary resource is being developed.

Albertans already know this from some values research we have recently completed.  For example the research that shows over 75% of Albertans think an integrated approach to protecting wildlife habitat, doing science based reclamation. ecological monitoring  and more concern for water and greenhouse gases is what we need to use as values to guide and drive oil sands development.  Acting with wisdom on these concerns starts to put Alberta in the preferred future spot of being the best for the world and not merely getting irresponsibly rich as we are been seen by many outside Alberta these days.

There is work being done but it is not what is being talked about in response to the criticism.  Jobs and investments are important but they are the givens in the oil sands game.  We already have more of them than we can handle responsibly. Yes they might dry up if commodity prices drop but we have no control over market prices and besides there is enough work and investment in the hopper now that will lasts us long into the future.  Time for the narrative to more on to the real issues of concern to Albertans about oil sands developments about environment and habitat protection and reclamation planning and performance.

Ruben has some hard-edged observations in his e-mail to me as to why there is a need for public pressure to do the right thing and that this cannot be left to governments and industry alone.  He said that "...business will not act as a sector - it is too tied up in short-term self interest, and democratic governments will not act until there is an obvious mega-disaster among their own citizens."

As citizens and owners of the oil sands Albertans have to start taking responsibility for how they are developed.  If you want a progressive political culture in the Next Alberta register now for RebootAlberta 3.0 at www.rebootalberta.org