On August 4th, First Nations and Métis Elders in northern Alberta will lead members of the most impacted communities, as well as supporters, on a walk through tar sands Ground Zero. It’s a spiritual but also a very physical journey of healing and resistance, a prayer for the land, the water, the air. And for us, too.
Looking south from my temporary home in Alberta, I watched the news anxiously as President Obama approved the southern portion of the Keystone XL Pipeline. If completed, it will carry oil 1,700 miles from here in Alberta to refineries in Port Arthur, Texas—dangerous for people, for water, for the land. I heard stories of surveyors on the ground at the construction site in Texas, wondering how in the world this deal had gotten fast-tracked so easily.
About five hours north of me are the tar sands, the source of the oil, the epicenter of this political endgame where communities perch on the edge, hanging tightly on. More pipelines like Keystone mean more tar sands; more tar sands mean more contaminated water, contaminated land, and contaminated food for those living on this thin edge.
I’d come to Canada as a writer but also as an American, to witness and to take responsibility for the fact that it’s our oil addiction that funds the growth of the tar sands industry, that widens these open pit mines a little more each day. That’s right: almost all the oil currently produced here goes to the states. Like many other middle-class folks, I’ve been protected from the worst effects of our addiction: when I get in a car back home, I don’t have to think about where that fuel comes from, or at what cost.
That’s part of the reason why I’m going to take part in the third annual Healing Walk: as a witness, as an acknowledgement of my own part in the system, and in solidarity with the people on the front lines of this fight.
Having just returned from the tar sands, I know it’s going to be ugly. I know the smell, and the rising emptiness when you realize that, looking around, you can scarcely see another living thing. But it is important, I think, to walk through—so that we can come out again on the other side.
Want to support the Healing Walk? Click here to donate and sign a petition in support of the First Nations on the front lines in Alberta, and here to support the resistance to the Keystone XL pipeline in Texas.
(photo credit Stop the Tar Sands)