Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Repudiation of Treehugger's Fort Mac article: What's really going on up there?

Fort Mac, aerial view
I've known Treehugger has been going downhill for awhile.  Like most on-line venues, as it has become successful, its voracious appetite for content has relaxed its criteria for journalism to near vaporous levels and has embraced a more mainstream outlook.  Shopping green and personal choices has become more of a focus than global change or activism.  Only to be expected, really, though I still looked forward to perusing its pages, since I assumed there was some degree of quality control.
That has all changed this week.  Hidden in the Design and "Green Architecture" section was an article about which I have some degree of knowledge, and this didn't agree with any of it.  In a curious piece on the construction of the Fort Mac airport lay a entire plethora of completely mistaken or misleading embeds on the Albertan and Canadian economy, labour, governance, and environmental standards.  It is rather subversive in its bizarrely unprovable statements presented as fact, which seemed to be designed to present a completely fictitious picture of Western Canada.  Why?  Well, the image they paint is far more in line with the Harper propaganda machine that it is with the reality on the ground, down to using identical language, in fact.  Think this appalling greenwash is a coincidence?  Think again.  The key words for the search on this 'article' are Alberta | Green Building | Tar Sands.  On an article about designing an airport with wood?  They apparently remembered to use the term 'tarsands' for searches...

Article is here: Fort McMurray Airport Is The Largest Cross Laminated Timber Building In North America
My comment was still there as of this writing, but no one has cared to refute it yet.  Though some voted it down...  If anyone can find anything inaccurate in what I wrote, please let me know!  I, at least, prefer to present the truth, rather than live in ignorance...

(Don't just take my word for it.  Here's a Rolling Stone article from someone who went deep into the tar sands culture in Fort Mac.)
I'll reprint most of my comments I left on Treehugger here.  I'll leave out some of the sarcasm.  You're welcome.
There are no such thing as oil sands. It's a greenwash, or at least a neocon framing, and is of very recent origin. Before mining, the correct terms are bituminous sands or bituminous earth (some of it isn't sand), though using those can be tiresome, so tarsands is acceptable, though slightly less accurate. (As to what's in those pipelines, it's here.) Oilsands as a term isn't even close. NPO's who use "oilsands" are in the clear. Those that don't have their funding removed and are labeled eco-terrorists. Just by putting that in your opening, you prove the article's bias and lack of accuracy.
The Mountain Pine Beetle is indeed working it's way through the trees, but it isn't the forests. Because it grows so quickly, the areas that are clear cut and then replanted by the timber companies companies choose the Lodgepole Pine almost exclusively, to the tune of 95%. It is the Lodgepole Pine that is particularly vulnerable to the Beetle, so the forests themselves aren't being nearly as hard hit as these tree farms.  It is these 'replanted' areas are the most devastated, not living healthy forests. It's much harder for the bugs to jump trees from different species, doncha know... Explain to me why they *still* keep planting Lodgepole Pine and devastating our remaining areas? Maybe they want the dead beetle wood for this "stronger than steel" product...
I guarantee you that workers do not fly home to the Maritimes after their "shifts". Unless you mean after months on the job.  Then it's more of a much needed vacation. It costs more to fly to Newfoundland from Edmonton than it does to fly to Europe, even though airplanes that travel to Europe stop at the Gander, NF airport to refuel - a point that makes my Newfie husband's blood boil, actually. The standard joke is that Fort Mac is the third largest city in Newfoundland, but the image of rig pigs leading the high life and jet setting over to the Rock for the weekend is more than laughable. The real need for that airport was for the executives, consultants, and other 1%ers who fly in to make their monthly contribution and inspection, and then fly out again as fast as they can. People are dying of horrible cancers up there. Wouldn't want to stay too long.. Oh, and they ship up foreign indentured workers, too, so they really had to lobby for the behemoth of an airport. Otherwise, they'd all have to drive up the Highway of Death to get there..
Fort Mac isn't really a town, either. It's a city of over 60,000 people, without counting the camps. And no one does. In fact, the facilities in the city specifically do not take into account the hundreds of work camps surrounding the area, which are then built with the bare minimums in mind. Estimates, and that's really all there are, suggest up to 30,000 men and women are working in these compounds in the woods. When they come into town on the weekends, exhausted and bored, there is utter chaos. And don't get me started on the tales of one of the greatest drug trades in Western Canada, and its subsequent addiction problems.  I mean, what else are you going to do in a cramped hole in the bush?
One of the best belly laughs is this phrase. "Ninety-three percent of the timberland in BC and Alberta is Crown land, and almost all of it is certified sustainably managed. " I would love to know how this is even credible, given that forestry management is almost entirely the purveyance of the companies now that Harper has slashed the government positions to mere fantasy. It was bad before, but now many of those departments have literally ceased to exist. Some have suggested it is a deliberate Harper ploy to facilitate Chinese ownership of Canadian forests. Yes, it's Crown land, but all that means is that the government has the right to lease out the land for a few dollars on the acre and let a company have it's way with it. The companies almost own the land, but don't have to pay any real taxes or many royalties, and they can order people off it or have them arrested, even if they are activists or native and claim the land in historical documents. Especially then. That wasn't the way Crown land was originally designed, of course. It was supposed to be held in trust by the government for the people, with no one owning it, everyone welcome, and managed for future generations. There is still a homestead law in effect that allows an individual to claim a certain amount of Crown land if they meet certain criteria. Clearly, it's not supposed to be given wholesale to transnationals for their own use, for a mere pittance...
There is also no mention of exactly what toxic material this magical glue is made of. One can only assume that something that can create "strong panels of almost any size, and is fire resistant as it is designed to char, which acts as a fireproofing. It can replace concrete and steel in apartment buildings, offices and now, airports" is certainly a petrochemical miracle, and not of the traditional starch or hoof variety...
I used to refer many articles from Treehugger to my audience, but this is one of the most eye-popping, glaring propaganda masquerading as journalism I have ever seen. If your contributor got paid for this, assuming he isn't just a agent of the Harper Resource management office, I'd ask for my money back.

For further reading on what's really going on, instead of the greenwashing propaganda:

"But in addition to simply destroying natural habitat, oil companies may now be involved in directly killing off wildlife in the area, according to a new report."
A treaty signed in 1899 enshrined First Nations' right to practice traditional life, and is now being used for a legal challenge to Shell Oil’s mining of tar sands.