Dear future Prime Minister

Here's how to solve our most urgent environmental problems

The Issue
Dirty Oil

Our Advice
"Stop Hiding Your Head in the Tar Sands"

What Government Should Do
Most federal politicians would rather give up their annual summer break than take on the environmental impact of the tar sands and risk alienating Western voters. But Canadian energy’s dirtiest secret has a big, greenhouse gas-spewing footprint that’s leaving its mark on just about every environmental issue in Canada. We may get oil—and cash—from the tar sands, but extracting black gold requires a huge expenditure of energy and water. Think of it as the last dregs at the bottom of peak oil’s bucket. Environmental Defence has called it “the most destructive project on earth.” According to Tim Weis, the director of Renewable Energy and Efficiency at the Pembina Institute, it’s also the fastest-growing source of energy greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. And when it comes to the region’s forests? Think: Mordor in The Lord of the Rings. “The tar sands are one of the most devastating projects imaginable in terms of impact on biodiversity—particularly to the boreal forest,” says Suzuki’s Plotkin. Tony Maas, WWF-Canada’s freshwater program director, worries about the tar sand’s huge consumption of water from the Athabasca watershed. “Only about 10 percent gets returned to the river; the rest just sits there in massive tailings ponds,” says Maas. There’s also evidence, and even acknowledgement on the part of industry, that the tailings ponds are leaking back into the river. And that pollution is carried by the river’s flow to communities and ecosystems downstream. It all comes down to Canada’s missing-in-action climate plan: “The federal government is going out of its way to provide exemptions for industry,” says Sierra Club’s Buckthought. “We need to look at alternatives…. With the rapidly escalating emissions from the tar sands, Canada is having a really detrimental impact on the global environment as well.” In short, tar sands development needs, at the very least, to be drastically curtailed until its impact is properly assessed.

What Voters Can Do
Confused by what to tell your politicians? Rainforest Action Network runs a site devoted to stopping the tar sands development. Other actionable campaigns can be found at tarsandswatch.org and naturecanada.ca.