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Makeovers: Our selves, our oil sands 

Still the same, really

By Carolyn Pogue

I know that I could get a makeover, inject a little Botox to erase lines, lift sagging jowls, tuck, trim and colour. There’s a lot of pressure to look younger, fitter and more beautiful. It’s a growing industry, I hear. The image-makers are even trying to makeover Mother Earth. At least, in the Alberta oil sands they are.

EthicalOil.org has launched a campaign to convince us, through enticing advertising and a slick website, that Alberta oil is ethical. The logic? Alberta oil is from Canada, a democracy, rather than being from Libya, a dictatorship.

Started as a blog created by neoconservative policy analyst Alykhan Velshi to promote the ideas in Ezra Levant’s book Ethical Oil: The Case for Canada’s Oil Sands, the website and its accompanying posters set us up for a too-simple choice between good and evil.

I live with a man who has a word or two to say about the oil sands. Bill Phipps, who served as United Church moderator from 1997 to 2000, was part of the KAIROS church leaders’ tour to Fort McMurray and Fort Chipewyan, Alta., in 2009 to learn first hand about the effects of oil sands development on the environment and communities. KAIROS, lest we forget, is the Canadian ecumenical justice organization that lost its government funding suddenly and almost without explanation shortly after the aforementioned tour.

When Bill saw the slogan “Conflict Oil vs. Ethical Oil,” he said, “But that’s not the issue. The primary issues are the accelerated development of the oil sands to feed an oil- and consumer-addicted world, and the affect on First Nations and the land on which they depend.

“The major ethical issue is our addiction to fossil fuels, climate change and the very future of Mother Earth.

“Although Canada has a better record on ethical issues such as democracy, human rights, First Nations employment and women’s rights as well as a more stable political environment than many others who supply oil to the United States, the major ethical issues involve the titanic development itself. Therefore, the cosmetic public relations campaign represented in these ads camouflages essential ethical issues, which need serious public debate.”

Bill says he knows people in the oil patch who would welcome such a conversation. “I wish I knew people in the Alberta and Canadian governments who feel likewise.”

Spending money on makeovers might make us feel better when we look into our mirrors, at least for a while. But when we look into our hearts it’s the same old, same old. Nothing has really changed.

Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a longtime Observer contributor. New posts of The Pogue Blog will appear on the first and third Thursday of the month. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
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