The Common Good

The True Cost of Oil

"Mackay River, Boreal Forest, and Tar Mine, Alberta." The boreal forests and wetlands that surround the Tar Sands are the most carbon rich terrestrial ecosystem on the planet, holding almost twice as much carbon as tropical rainforests. Referred to by the tar sands industry as "overburden," these forests are scraped off and the wetlands dredged, to be replaced by tar mines like this. Photo by Garth Lenz. "Tailing Pond Abstract #3. Alberta Tar Sands, 2010." Visible from outer space, the Alberta Tar Sands tailings ponds are the largest toxic impoundments on the planet. Photo by Garth Lenz. "Boreal Forest and Wetland. Athabasca Delta, Alberta." Located just 70 miles downstream from the Alberta Tar Sands, the Athabasca Delta is the world's largest freshwater delta. It lies at the convergence of North America's four major flyways and is a critical stopover for migrating waterfowl and considered one of the most globally significant wetlands. Photo by Garth Lenz. "Tar Mine and Roads. Alberta, 2010." Trucks the size of a house, look like tiny toys as they rumble along massive roads 80 meters above a mine. To date, 4500 square kilometers have been directly impacted by the mines. Alberta Energy has reported that the landscape being industrialized by rapid tar sands development could easily accomodate one Florida, two New Brunswicks, four Vancouvers, and four Vancouver Islands. Photo by Garth Lenz."Tailings Pond Abstract #2. Alberta Tar Sands, 2010." It has been estimated by Natural Resources Canada that the industry to date has produced enough toxic waste to fill a canal 32 feet deep by 65 feet wide, a distance of more than 2000 miles. Photo by Garth Lenz. "Mackay River Forest, Alberta Tar Sands 2010." Located immediately adjacent to a tar mine, forests and wetlands like this are key habitat for a variety of species. The Canadian boreal is the breeding ground and nursey for almost half of all bird species found in North America. Photo by Garth Lenz."Syncrude Upgrader and Tar Sands. Alberta, 2005." The refining or upgrading of the tarry bitumen which lies under the Tar Sands consumes far more water and energy than conventional oil and produces significantly more carbon. Photo by Garth Lenz. "Cleanwater River #1. Northern Alberta 2005." Located just east of the Fort McMurray Alberta, the Clearwater joins the Athabasca River as it winds its way north through the tar sands, accumulating toxic waste from the vast unlined and leaching, tailings ponds which border it on either side. Photo by Garth Lenz.