The Great Question
The dilemma faced by Canadians, as well as the rest of the world: how to meet our needs, both collectively and individually, in an increasingly technological society, without contributing to more environmental issues in Canada. The long-sought after Northwest Passage is finally a reality, but besides dramatizing recent global climate change, its use brings more air and water contaminants into the sensitive northern ecosystem. The Alberta tar sands are the largest industrial project on earth, producing an estimated 2.3 million barrels annually which by itself makes up 2% of Canada’s GDP, not even including indirect factors such as construction, finance, and employment. And they create a skyrocketing share of pollutants for the nation.
What can be done?
The land, the air, and especially the clean waters of Alberta are increasingly being contaminated by tar sands activity. A widely distributed population has enabled many Canadians to deny the full impact of this destructiveness, but the recent proposal for a hard cap on carbon emissions by the province of Alberta shows many are taking notice. Environmentalists are working toward four main goals – eventual elimination of fossil fuel usage, immediate and long-term reduction of carbon emissions, a “climate test” for any new potential activity, and clean-up of already contaminated areas. Can addressing environmental issues in Canada successfully coexist with economic prosperity? It will continue to be a tense relationship, but one way or another, we’ll find out.