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article imageFight against Alberta tar sands sees launch of tourism boycott

By Stephanie Dearing     Jul 15, 2010 in Environment
A coalition of international environmental activists have banded together to try to stop the expansion of oil sands developments through a tourism boycott.
Boycotts are nothing new, having been used over the past fifty years as a way to put economic pressure to bear on an issue. Boycotts are democratic participatory vehicle that allows citizens to voice disagreement with governments and corporations about practices, policies or actions undertaken by that entity. For example, in 1980, Canada boycotted the Moscow Olympics to protest the soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
The success of a boycott relies completely on how many people "buy into" the campaign. A recent coalition boycott of Canada's forestry industry resulted in an agreement to substantially protect Canada's boreal forests.
This week, a bold and brazen international campaign against the Alberta tar sands developments was launched by a coalition of ten non-profit organizations. Corporate Ethics International said it was asked to lead the "... International Tar Sands Oil Campaign. This is a multi-million dollar, multi-year effort aimed at stopping the expansion of what has been labeled "the most destructive energy project on earth.""
There are several campaigns against the Alberta tar sands and one of those sub-campaigns targets tourism to Alberta. Called Rethink Alberta, the sub-campaign advises the public that Canada has the world's dirtiest oil. People are urged people to sign a pledge that says: "I pledge not to visit the province of Alberta until the Alberta Government does the following:
a.Halts the expansion of the Tar Sands.
b.Stops spending millions of dollars on public relations campaigns designed to keep the United States addicted to dirty Tar Sands oil.
c.Takes meaningful steps to transition its economy away from dirty Tar Sands oil to clean energy alternatives."
Claiming the tar sands are a disaster on a scale as great as the Deepwater Horizon spill, the coalition accused the Government of Alberta of rubber stamping new developments without requiring companies to undertake thorough environmental assessments.
However, thanks to a federal Conservative omnibus bill, passed by the Senate Monday, it is now easier for corporations to exploit Canada's natural resources because the government has reduced the scale and scope of required environmental assessments. The omnibus bill dealt with a number of matters, including Canada's budget, the privatization of Canada's nuclear industry and the operations of Canada Post overseas, said CTV.
As part of the Rethink Alberta campaign, billboards in four American cities displayed oil-covered birds from the Gulf of Mexico and the tar sands of Alberta, declaring the tar sands a disaster reported the Calgary Herald. The campaign includes videos. The billboard campaign will launch in the United Kingdom in two weeks.
Athabasca Oil Sands NASA Earth Observatory image 2009 by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon using EO-1 AL...
Athabasca Oil Sands NASA Earth Observatory image 2009 by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon using EO-1 ALI data courtesy of the NASA EO-1 team. Caption by Holli Riebeek
NASA Earth Observatory
Alberta's Premier, Ed Stelmach opposed the Rethink Alberta campaign, telling the media "We absolutely will fight back through promoting Alberta's story using accurate information."
Last month, in response to another campaign against the oil sands, the Canadian Association of Oil Producers said "The Canadian oil sands industry is constantly bombarded with mean-spirited, one-sided info-tainment cobbled together by agenda-driven environmentalists masquerading as journalists who present their “work” to the world as the truth.
These days, the big target seems to be oil sands development in the province of Alberta. And there’s seemingly no end to the nonsense foisted on an unsuspecting world in the guise of protecting the public good."
The Edmonton Journal reported that Alberta usually only has around 500,000 visitors a year, but even so, those who work in Alberta's tourism industry are worried about the impacts of the campaign, fearing people could lose their jobs.
One supporter of the oil sands, Bert McKay, wrote a letter published in the Edmonton Journal earlier this month pointing out consumer demand drives the development of the oil sands. "... Do you have a car? If you do, 60 per cent of that fuel is probably from Alberta's oilsands.
Do you shop at the supermarket?
Eighty-nine per cent of all the food on the shelves is brought there by 18-wheeler trucks and trains fuelled by diesel, again largely from the oilsands.
Have you gone on vacation anywhere? Planes don't run on energy bunnies.
Does your house have electricity? Presumably it does, like 99.9 per cent of Albertans' homes. That electricity is generated in most cases by burning coal.
Have you shopped at the hardware store lately? Between 800 and 1,200 items on those shelves originate from oil or its energy equivalent.
... We are the seducers. We demand oil. We are banging on the doors of the oil companies to have them bring gasoline to our local service station at a reasonable price."
The Rethink Alberta campaign has a sister campaign against the proposed Keystone Pipeline to the United States. The pipeline owners, TransCanada, talk as if the pipeline is a done deal, but the $7 billion project has yet to be approved by the United States. CTV reported there is opposition to the project from some US Congressmen. The decision, however, is in the hands of Hillary Clinton and it is anticipated the pipeline will be approved. Last year a similar pipeline from Enbridge to the US was approved, triggering a lawsuit against the decision.
The divisions seen in US politics over the Keystone Pipeline are similar to those seen in Canada. NDP leader Jack Layton has opposed the pipeline since 2007 when he said "... Shipping thousands of barrels of unprocessed bitumen to the United States through the Keystone pipeline is not my idea of sustainable prosperity..."
Premier Stelmach responded to more recent comments made by Layton against the pipeline in a letter, stating "In its March 2010 approval of KXL, Canada's National Energy Board found that the project was, "in the public interest and accepted that the project would connect a large, long term and strategic market for Western Canadian crude oil with the U.S. Gulf Coast in a manner that would bring economic and other benefits to Canadians."
None of the previous campaigns against the tar sands have deterred corporations, such as Total, which recently garnered a larger stake in the oil sands through a $1 billion deal with UTS Energy this month.
More about Boycott alberta, Tar sands, Canadian association petroleum producers, Keystone pipeline, Rethink alberta
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