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Why we need to win the battle over the tar sands
‘the fight over the tar sands is among the epic environmental and social justice battles of our time’
Brad Hornick on rabble.ca
As our governments willingly unleash unprecedented destruction upon the earth through the promotion of extractive industries, and growing mobilizations of climate activists challenge climate emergency, I am reminded of a cautionary warning: “the Owl of Minerva takes flight at dusk.”
This environmental metaphor conveys that the awareness of a historical period only becomes apparent when that era is coming to a close and as we come face-to-face with urgent tasks that need to be addressed.
As if responding to this desperate need to hurry the inauguration of a new historical era, Stephen D’Arcy, Toban Black, Tony Weis and Joshua Kahn Russell, editors of A Line in the Tar Sands, bring together the voices of activists and academics to argue “peoples’ movements will either succeed in transforming our economic and political systems to build a new world, or we will burn with the old one.”
This argument, cemented by Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben stating “the fight over the tar sands is among the epic environmental and social justice battles of our time” in the opening pages, suggests the very active tar sands struggle is no less than a life-and-death battle for the future of the planet.
It is a battle that pits these peoples’ movement against the largest and most destructive industrial project — a project driven by the big the most profitable and powerful transnational energy corporations: ExxonMobile, British Petroleum, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, Sinopec.
The tar sands constitute the largest industrial project on Earth, and represent the stranglehold the fossil fuel industry has over our communities and the very future of our planet. Despite the formidable political and economic power behind the project, streams of resistance have emerged, challenging the threats to Indigenous territories and sovereignty, climate change, the great hazards posed by extraction, pipelines, and refineries, abuse of workers, destruction of water, air, and land, the lack of democratic participation, and more. A tapestry of leading voices involved in the struggle, A Line in the Tar Sands is a tool for organizers and newcomers alike, offering critical analysis, strategic reflections, and visions of hope for the future. If you breathe air or drink water, this book is for you.
For more on our vision, approach, and who we are, click here.
The editors’ proceeds from this book will be donated to frontline grassroots environmental justice groups and campaigns.
Here’s what others are saying:
This book is intriguing in telling the story of how and why the many and diverse segments of society from the four directions came together to question and challenge some of the world’s richest transnational energy corporations, banks, investors, governments and other pillars of today’s western world. It will interest those who study, and those who work in Human Rights, social change movements, protection of waters and lands, and other change makers. From the indigenous people’s sharing of prophecy, to direct actions of locking down to and blockading energy extraction mining equipment, marches, hip hop tours, mega load blockades, horseback rides, hunger strikes, to mass arrests in front of the White House and Parliament, to court cases, to strategizing and mobilizing on a global level, this book examines the ongoing battle to protect Sacred Water and Mother Earth through the voices and actions of the people who are living it. Read A Line in the Tar Sands and be heartbroken to learn the extent of the destruction of Mother Earth, and be inspired by the people working to stop the destruction and promote a better way of life.
– Debra White Plume, Moccasins on the Ground, Owe Aku International
More and more people are realizing the Canadian Tar Sands are one of the most critical arenas in the global fight to unplug fossil fuels and transform our current dead-end Extractive Economy model. A Line in the Tar Sands brings us powerful stories and strategic insights from the organizers who are turning the multi-pronged frontlines of the problem into the frontlines of the solution. Tap into the momentum of the movement that is making defusing the Tar Sands bomb an international priority. Whether you are new to the fight or a veteran organizer, this book is for anyone who is part of building a sane, just, hopeful future from the ground up.
— Patrick Reinsborough & Christine Cordero, Center for Story-based Strategy
Avoiding ‘game-over for climate’ requires a line in the tar sands sludge. This book makes clear why, and how this tar sands quagmire could be the beginning of the end for the mighty fossil fuel industry.
– Dr. James Hansen, former Director of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
Tar Sands are “the symbol and the thing” of all the pillars of the extractive economy – from finance capital to militarism – and the necessary assault on rights, sovereignty and livelihood it requires. The antidote lies in the voices and visions of the diverse communities on the front lines of the fight. A Line in the Tar Sands elegantly connects migrant rights, human rights, rights of nature, indigenous sovereignty, corporate concentration and broadcasts a vision for ecological justice rooted in a healing movement of resistance, resilience and restoration.
– Gopal Dayaneni, Movement Generation Justice and Ecology Project
“Opposition to the tar sands of Alberta and the pipelines that would carry their deadly crude has created one of the most potent civil society movements in our history. Led by grassroots and First Nations communities and fuelled by anger at the gutting of our freshwater heritage by the Harper government, this movement has the potential to change politics in Canada forever.
Rich in detail and filled with hope, A Line in the Tar Sands tells the story of this movement and inspires a whole new generation to action.”
– Maude Barlow, Council of Canadians
The most important stories in the Tar Sands struggle are hidden by the media. This revelatory book tells of Canadian duplicity, migrant workers, healing ceremonies, movement reflection and strategy, EU lobbying, the contradictions of NGO politics, Indigenous activism, and much more. The story of Greenhouse Goo is global. But so it its resistance: beautiful, complex and rich. A Line in the Tar Sands is drawn with hope and righteous anger, celebrating the cosmologies that the Tar Sands industry – and its politicians – would destroy.
– Raj Patel, author, Stuffed and Starved
Grounded learning comes from a cycle of action and reflection: we make change in the world, step back and assess our efforts, revise them, and then come back with more powerful and focused action. This is how our movements learn from one another and become more strategic and visionary. This book captures that action and reflection – it starts with organizers from different parts of struggle, offering their insights and learnings. Then they’re woven together in the pages within this anthology to offer new ways of understanding the interconnected crises we face – and become a tool for solidarity. Whether you’re a seasoned practitioner or newly interested in the Tar Sands, this book is for you.
– Sharon Lungo, The Ruckus Society
“The battle over the bitumen of Alberta pits malignant Petro-Capital against an inspiring and growing ensemble of activists. It has the feel of a Stalingrad in the war for a livable world: the stakes are that high. A Line in the Tar Sands tells this story superbly and with quiet passion. Here is a book for everyone who cares about the future.”
– Joel Kovel, author of The Enemy of Nature
This collaborative effort not only details the insanity of tar sands development, it also shines a light on the indigenous led resistance movement challenging the fundamentally exploitative paradigm underlying extreme energy extraction. It provides a model of genuine solidarity in the fight to replace oppression with a healthy and just world.
– Tim Dechristopher, Bidder 70
“A Line in the Tar Sands weaves a holistic story/perspective of the history of the tar sands, the emergence/constant growth of the environmental movement and Indigenous peoples determined to stop this insidious development. It draws upon the science that warns society why the Tar Sands must be stopped and upon Indigenous peoples philosophies whose teachings obliges us to defend the land and all living beings. This diversity of voices leads us to conclude, that world leaders like Prime Minister Stephen Harper and corporations are colluding to defraud present and future generations of a healthy planet upon which to live. The total amounts of money and propaganda spent to lobby UN states to consume dirty oil is not only criminal but signifies the abolition of a democratic process supposedly premised upon energy and job security but in reality is rooted in a centuries old imperialistic land grab and ‘greed’.
From reliable scientific evidence to well respected Indigenous leaders, the compilation of perspectives reveals that the tar sands is not just about oil, it encompasses environmental racism through the dispossession of Indigenous peoples’ lands and resources, to the fear mongering by corporate controlled governments to justify their greed.
It is evident from compiling all these stories together that every citizen of Mother Earth must inform themselves of the devastating impacts of Tar Sands development. And to do so we must have the knowledge of all facts, perspectives and impacts at our disposal. A Line in the Tar Sands does so in a forthright manner. It reminds us of the fact that we all have an obligation to protect the land, the waters and the habitat of ‘All our Relations’, for the present and future generations. As Crystal Laeman states; “if you breathe air or drink water, this is about you”.
As Indigenous peoples and scientists alike have stated, Mother Earth will cleanse herself and still exist long after human beings become extinct. This is not just about saving our planet, but about preserving our environment so that our species and others may continue to exist. The stakes remain high drawing us to conclude that this story must be heard throughout our World and can no longer remain outside of societies’ conscientiousness.”
– Katsi’tsakwas Ellen Gabriel, Indigenous Human Rights Activist, Turtle Clan from Kanehsatà:ke Mohawk Territory
In northern Alberta, the petroleum industry is engaged in the worst environmental crime in history. If business as usual continues in the tar sands, the world’s fast-warming climate will be pushed over the edge to disaster. A Line in the Tar Sands is essential reading about that crime, and about the growing movement to stop the tar sands criminals before they stop us.
– Ian Angus, editor of ClimateAndCapitalism.com, co-author of Too Many People? Population, Immigration, and the Environmental Crisis
Alberta Tar sands oil if fully exploited would add enough carbon dioxide to the earth’s atmosphere to break the planetary carbon budget, unleashing untold, irreversible, worldwide ecological destruction. A massive, diverse people’s movement has arisen in response, drawing “a line in the sand” before the fossil-fuel juggernaut. A Line in the Tar Sands is the indispensable guide to this front-line struggle on behalf of humanity and the earth.
– John Bellamy Foster, coauthor (with Fred Magdoff), What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism