Protesters played music, "tar sands twister", "tar sands volleyball", and "dirty oil hand painting" in front of the Canadian Embassy to create awareness for Canada's tar sands environmental disaster in Alberta. Berlin, Germany. 17/07/2010
"It's bottom-of-the-barrel oil, like sucking up the beer spilled on your rug from last night's party," says organizer of Berlin's demo-festival on International Stop the Tar Sands Day.
"Keep Canada Green! Stop the Tar Sands" yelled participants at a 'demo-festival' in front of the Canadian Embassy in Berlin Saturday July 17. About 100 people played games like "tar sands twister" and "tars sands beach volleyball", watched stand-up comedy while engaging hundreds of tourists in Berlin's busy Postdamer Platz.
"I believe in Canadians. They will make the right choice to shut down the Tar Sands, the worst environmental disaster on the planet," said first-time organizer Derek Leahy, a Canadian living in Berlin.
Eminent NASA scientist James Hansen has called Canada's 140,000 square kilometre tar sands one of the planet's greatest threats. Located in remote the forests and lakes of northern Canada, the tar sands are the world's biggest industrial project - and perhaps its most polluting.
Not only is a pristine region amounting to 40 per cent of Germany being destroyed, there are giant “lakes” of toxic waste totaling more than five times the size of Berlin’s famous Wannsee where 50,000 flock to cool off at Europe's biggest inland beach says Leahy. Recent reports show those toxic lakes are leaking into the Athabasca river, part of world's third largest river system.
"Extracting oil from the tar sands not only destroys forests and wetlands, almost double the fresh water 3.4 million Berliners use every day is being contaminated to produce the world's dirtiest oil," Leahy said in an interview.
While public awareness is low, there is little debate among experts that squeezing oil from the tar sands is a destructive, energy-intensive process that emits three to four times as much carbon dioxide as conventional oil production. Tar sands are a mix of clay, sand and sticky tar or bitumen 20 to 50 meters underneath the Boreal forest in the western Canadian province of Alberta. After the forest is removed and lakes drained, several tonnes of earth must be processed with superheated steam and chemicals to produce one barrel of heavy oil.
"It's bottom-of-the-barrel oil, like sucking up the beer spilled on your rug at last night's party," says Leahy.
About 1.5 million barrels are produced each day by multi-national oil companies like BP, Exxon, Shell and Total with almost all being shipped to feed the thirsty US market. Canada has quietly become the biggest source of foreign oil for America.
"Oil extraction from tar sands is polluting, destructive, expensive and energy-intensive. These things are facts," John Podesta, President of the Center for American Progress, a US think tank reminded Canadian officials in Washington DC recently. The Canadian government is worried that the Obama Administration will impose a "dirty oil" tariff. Europe is considering similar rules.
Not only are major European oil companies like BP, Statoil, Shell, and France’s Total involved, banks in Switzerland, United Kingdom, France, Italy, and the Netherlands have invested in tar sands projects says Berliner Jendrik Terasa, one of the organizers of the demo-fest.
"I love Canada's beautiful nature. It is terrible what is going on there," said Terasa who has lived in Canada. "This is not just a Canadian issue, Germany is heavily involved in selling equipment and in financing there."
"The destructiveness of Canada's tar sands is far worse than the Gulf Oil spill. And billions of euros are being pumped into double the size of tar sands operations," he said in an interview.
Collin North, a young Canadian living in Berlin explained that he was participating because he does not want to be part of a generation that did nothing to stop the tar sands. "Thinking 50 or 100 years into the future, what will people living then think about what we have done to the planet," North said.
North summed up the first International Stop the Tar Sands Day in Berlin as: "...a great day -- entertaining and informative. We're taking a step in the right direction."