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‘Tar sands has its baby-seal moment’, says Don Martin

This month’s issue of National Geographic contains a 24-page feature on the tar sands, titled Scraping Bottom. The impact could be huge – the magazine has 50 million readers in 32 languages.

Colimnist Don Martin writes in today’s Ottawa Citizen that, “It opens to a three-page aerial spread of pristine boreal forest dotted with lakes beaming through the trees as a luminescent robin-egg blue. This is the ‘before’ picture. Flip over the fold-out at the front of this month’s National Geographic magazine and you’re confronted by the ‘after’ photo, a ground zero of environmental devastation, with sickly grey ponds bisected by slick roadways prowled by mammoth trucks carrying now-discounted black gold.”

“This photo shoot for the magazine’s influential global audience is described as the ‘baby-seal moment’ for Alberta’s oilsands, a public relations hell equal to a seal pup’s skull-clubbing death that no amount of damage control can overcome, no matter how reasoned the argument.”

“Add in photos of the tar ponds in all their toxic duck-killing glory, the gouging out of oozing craters visible from space, the inexplicably discoloured fish, the workforce crush and an opinionated narrative documenting the ‘riveting sight’ of the area’s ‘dark satanic mills’ which discharge chemicals that ‘sting your lungs when you get close enough’ and, well, it’s a black eye which may never fade away.”

“And even though the oilsands have historically leaked into the bordering Athabasca River, one official’s plan to sell the project to Americans ‘as cleaning up God’s oil spill’ (he was joking, I think) just won’t fly.”

PRENTICE TO VISIT DC NEXT WEEK TO START TALKS “Environment Minister Jim Prentice is scheduled to visit the U.S. capital next week to kick-start the official ‘dialogue’ on climate change and carbon capture that was announced during U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit last week. A top priority should be to arm-twist Congressman Henry Waxman, the influential and very green chairman of the House energy committee. He helped author a potential ban on government agencies using oilsand-derived product.”

The full column is at