Beautiful Destruction is the first publication – ever – to bring together, in one place and one time, a full range of viewpoints on the tar or oil sands. Sixteen very different people and organizations with very different opinions, ideas, experience and insights about the Alberta oil/tar sands and their place in the world. The essay contributors represent the environment, the oil industry, local communities, First Nations, organized labour, media, democracy and culture.
I am deeply grateful to the sixteen contributors, all leaders and thinkers of diverse backgrounds. They wrote without payment. Each received the same parameters: they saw a summary draft of some of the imagery in the book, were given space to contribute 1,000 to 1,500 words, had editorial control over their own piece, did not get to see one another’s essays, and had no control over the photographs in, or layout of, the Beautiful Destruction book.
The essays, like the photographs, reflect the myriad of complexities and contradictions inherent to any human endeavour, especially one as significant as the oil/tar sands. Some are quite Canadian: grappling with First Nations treaty rights, the cultural impact of boom towns or the pitfalls of exporting a raw resource to another country for processing. Others have a more global emphasis, particularly climate change. Together they reflect the tension between our reliance on the hydro-carbons fuelling our global economy versus their affect on our environment. These essays help us see how profoundly our culture, society, politics and economy are formed around this tension.
In my view good, effective art engages the imagination of the viewer and creates space where people can reflect and think for themselves. Good art can help us slip the surly bonds of our limitations to see beyond our prejudices and preconceptions and let us, respectfully, engage each other with rigour and clarity. It was in this spirit that I asked the essay contributors to write.
Dëne k’odheré Allan Adam
Athabasca K’aıtele kuę dënesųłı̨ne haralɂá hots’ı̨
Allan Adam k’ı dënesųłı̨ne ha k’oldher sı K’aıtel kuę (ACFN) ha, K’aıtel kuę naré neyą nı̨ dënesųłı̨ne yatı chu ch’alanıé bası́. Dëne nekuı́ chu dëne ta chu dëne tsıé hęlı̨ benık’esı́ sı. Allan t’atthe dëne k’odhereɂasé ACFN ha 2003 nęnę k’e nı ku ɂeyer tł’ąghe hu dëne k’odheré ha hılchú nı̨ 2007 nęnę k’é, Allan hotıe dënesųłı̨ne nęnę chu dëne ch’alanıé chu dëne nęne k’e ɂası k’enats’edé ha hok’enadher sı hoketł’a yunadhé dëne godhe hobebá. T’ąt’u neyą k’e dëne ha hok’enadher sı nıh k’e t’ąt’u ɂası k’enaı̨dher ɂá nıh hotıe besdołé ch’a ha hok’enadher sı dënesųłı̨ne ACFN nęnę nąnehoɂá. [English bio below]
Former President and CEO of Suncor Energy Inc.
Over two decades, Rick George led Suncor Energy from a small, privately held oil sands company worth $1-billion to being Canada’s largest integrated public energy company valued at $50-billion. Named “Outstanding CEO of the Year” in 1999, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2007 for his leadership in Canada’s natural resources sector, his efforts to provide economic opportunities to Aboriginal communities and his commitment to sustainable development.
Member of Parliament, Leader of the Green Party
Elizabeth May is an environmentalist, writer, activist, lawyer, Member of Parliament (MP) and leader of the Green Party of Canada. She is an Officer of the Order of Canada. A graduate of Dalhousie Law School, she has been active in the environmental movement since the 1970s. By a vote of MPs, Elizabeth was chosen Parliamentarian of the Year (2012) and Hardest Working MP (2013). The Hill Times named her the “Hardest Working and Best Constituency MP” in 2013.
Author and Columnist
Ezra Levant is a columnist with Sun Media newspapers and the host of a daily political talk show on TV’s Sun News Network. He is the author of seven books, including Ethical Oil: The Case for Canada’s Oil Sands and Groundswell: The Case for Fracking. Ezra has a commerce degree from the University of Calgary and a law degree from the University of Alberta. He lives in Toronto with his family. His hobbies include his pro-oil sands website, EthicalOil.org.
Vice President, Oil Sands, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
As Vice-President of Oil Sands at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Greg Stringham is engaged in key energy industry issues. His responsibilities include oil and natural gas markets, pipelines and oil sands issues in Canada and the US and oil sands issues in Europe and Asia. Greg is an active spokesperson, presenting to industry, the public and governments worldwide, providing education on Canadian oil and gas and ensuring fair treatment in global markets and government policy.
Member of Parliament, Deputy Leader and Environment Critic for the New Democratic Party
First elected in 2008, Megan Leslie is the Member of Parliament for Halifax. Since being named to the Official Opposition’s Shadow Cabinet as the NDP’s Environment Critic in May 2011, Megan has been pushing for strong action on clean energy and green technology and a plan to include climate change in a national energy strategy. In March 2012 Megan was also named Deputy Leader of the NDP.
President and Co-Founder of 350.org
Bill McKibben is a founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org and is the Schumann Distinguished Professor in residence at Middlebury College in Vermont. He has written a dozen books about the environment, including his first, The End of Nature, published 25 years ago, and his most recent Oil and Honey. He lives in the mountains above Lake Champlain with his wife, writer Sue Halpern.
Francis Scarpaleggia est un député canadien qui a fait de la protection des ressources en eau du Canada sa priorité politique personnelle. Il est à l’origine de l’étude des répercussions de l’exploitation des sables bitumineux sur les ressources hydriques du Canada qu’a entreprise un comité de la Chambre des communes et a rédigé sur cette étude un rapport intitulé « La dimension cachée: l’eau et les sables bitumineux ». [English Bio below]
Co-Founder of Democracy Watch
Duff Conacher, LL.B., is an internationally recognized leader on democracy issues. He is a former Ralph Nader’s Raider and co-founder of Democracy Watch and the Democracy Education Network. He heads the firm GoodOrg.ca Consulting, providing advisory services to governments, businesses and citizen organizations in the areas of ethics, governance, responsibility and advocacy. He is a graduate of the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, where he also developed a course on good governance and ethics in government and business.
Award-winning Canadian journalist Eric Reguly is the European business and economics correspondent for Canada’s The Globe and Mail newspaper. Based in Rome, he writes about business, economics, energy and the environment and is a regular guest on US and Canadian radio and television programs. Born in Vancouver, BC, he has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario and has worked for Alberta Report, the Financial Times of Canada, the Financial Post, Time Canada and the Times of London.
Associate Regional Director, Alberta and the North, Pembina Institute
Jennifer Grant (M.Sc. in ecosystem management; B.Sc. in biological sciences) is the Pembina Institute’s associate regional director for Alberta and the North, and former director of the institute’s oil sands program. She has worked with the Pembina since 2006 on the cumulative environmental impacts of Canada’s oil sands development. Passionate about collaborative approaches, Jennifer enjoys working with a variety of actors in the effort to advance Canada’s transition to a clean energy future.
Charles Wilkinson is a writer/director for a large body of work in film and television. His new book, Peace Out – a Gas Guzzler’s Introduction to the Environment, is in bookstores. His latest film, Oil Sands Karaoke, is playing worldwide. His next one is about a north coast paradise that may well be a beacon of hope. Charles lives with Tina,. kids and friends on Canada’s Pacific coast. Visit charleswilkinson.com.
President, Alberta Federation of Labour
Presiding over the growth of Alberta’s largest labour organization, McGowan has advanced the public discussion of important issues: workplace safety, the Temporary Foreign Worker program and job losses due to the increasing export of raw bitumen. Raised in rural north-central Alberta, and having acquired a B.A. from the University of Alberta and a master’s in journalism from Carleton University, McGowan has worked as a journalist and union communications officer, and helped defeat the Klein government’s attempt to privatize health care.
Georgina Beaty, Jonathan Seinen, Greg Gale, Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman, Layne Coleman
Architect Theatre (co-artistic producers Georgina Beaty and Jonathan Seinen) is devoted to working across Canada with a range of artists to tell the stories our country needs to hear right now. Their works include Highway 63: the Fort Mac Show (Canadian tour), This Must Be The Place: The CN Tower Show (Theatre Passe Muraille), How Should You be? (Vancouver’s Studio 58 Theatre School) and, in development, The Golden Spike, based on the proposed pipelines in northern British Columbia. Visit architectheatre.com.
Dr. John O'Connor
Family Physician, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, Northern Alberta
As a family physician for the past 30 years, Dr. John O’Connor is committed to advocating for the well-being of his patients. John is a family physician in the Fort McKay and Fort Chipewyan region and a hospitalist in Fort McMurray. In 2007 he found himself in the midst of controversy after he announced that he was seeing elevated cancer rates in Aboriginal populations. His observations were later confirmed by a study by the Alberta Cancer Board.
Originally from Williams Lake, BC, Louis Helbig comes from a background that includes being on Canada’s national cross-country ski team, a degree from the London School of Economics and flying bush planes. He left Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs in 2006 to pursue art. Besides his tar/oil sands work, another ongoing project is Sunken Villages, about 15 Canadian and American communities that disappeared with the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1958. Louis’s work is held in public and private collections worldwide and is regularly published in major periodicals.
Francis Scarpaleggia (English)
Member of Parliament
Francis Scarpaleggia is a Canadian Member of Parliament who has made the protection of Canada’s water resources his personal political priority. He initiated a study by a committee of the House of Commons on the impacts of oil sands development on Canada’s water resources and authored a report from the study entitled “The Hidden Dimension: Water and the Oil Sands.”
Chief Allan Adam (English)
Chief Allan Adam, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation
Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) was raised in Fort Chipewyan with strong, traditional Denesuline teachings and values. He is a proud husband, father and grandfather. Allan was elected ACFN councillor in 2003 and chief in 2007, and dedicates himself to protecting ACFN lands, culture and rights, now and into the future. True to his upbringing, he values his time on the land and proudly advocates for the protection of the environment and the ACFN homelands.