This essay is one in a weekly series by Sandra - published at www.livingdownstream.com - exploring how the environment is within us. For more on the interactions between health and environment, and to take action, visit Clayton Thomas-Muller's page, Home Lands vs. Tar Sands.
Most people have heard of the Alberta Tar Sands. I was particularly struck by how far reaching Clayton's message has been when I was in Germany at the World Congress of Science and Factual Producers TV conference at the beginning of the month.
People I met there, including TV producers from Europe, the UK, Australia and the U.S. were well aware of the travesty taking place near the tiny town of Fort McMurray, Alberta.
A lot of people are talking tar sands these days, but you might not have a clue what it’s all about. It’s a rather sticky subject, leaving Canada with a not-so-flattering reputation as a big bad polluter.
But as time passes, and consequences are beginning to appear, the critics are being proven right; these tar sands are dirty, and they’re wreaking havoc on our Canadian landscape, its people, and the world at large.
The tar sands, found primarily in Alberta, are a mixture of sand, clay, and petroleum. Because the oil is contained in this mixture, it takes a lot of energy and waste to extract it for use.
Once extracted, the oil is shipped to other parts of the world, predominantly to the US through underground pipelines.
The health of our earth is linked to the health of its inhabitants. This fact is no more evident than in communities affected by environmental disasters and destruction. Clayton Thomas-Müller, a campaigner with the Indigenous Environmental Network, discovered this intricate linkage in his work campaigning against Canada's tar sands.
Production of oil in the tar sands means acres of deforestation and water pollution; producing 1 barrel of oil requires pollution of 2 to 5 barrels of fresh water.
We have to take notice that there's a crucial missing piece in the growing local food movement. It makes sense to grow our food close to home, but we also need to grow our seeds close to home.
Just after World War 2, there was a strong desire to create domestic self-sufficiency because people remembered bad times when they couldn't get food across borders and worldwide shipping was disrupted. Our federal government spent millions of dollars developing Canadian-bred varieties of fruits and vegetables, but most of those are now just relegated to seed banks.
I've been working for the environment using art for two decades now, and I often design interactive installations or events (such as the Toronto Tree Festival) to 'seed' ecological consciousness or 'bloom' a green organization.
My 'SEED ANGEL' performance piece for Vandana Shiva was a call to visually represent and to honour the international green hero.
Vandana Shiva's work is about promoting the world's small farmers, reclaiming seeds in their native form and providing us with healthy choices in our food supply. On the other end of the spectrum is the industrialized food system, or, food as most of us know it in North America.
To fully understand the magnitude of harm our food system is causing us, we have to look no further than our own bodies and environment.
In this video interview, Dr. Shiva explains the science of agricultural biotechnology (genetic engineering), and the dangers it poses to the world’s food supplies. Trained as a physicist, Vandana Shiva is one of the world’s leading environmental and social activists defending the rights of poor indigenous peoples, and helping to preserve native cultures.
As a woman, and a pioneer in the sustainable food movement, she has courageously taken her stand among the peasant farmers of India, and indigenous people throughout the world, as a fierce defender of nature, and of women’s rights.
Back in April, I went to see Vandana Shiva speak at OCAD (Ontario College of Art and Design) in Toronto. I arrived to the event about one and a half hours early to get good seats. As I approached OCAD to meet up with my girl, Maggie, I saw Vandana Shiva standing in the grass with a few people giving an interview. I'm not sure why, but I hid behind one of the colourful legs of the building, and watched her speak.