From Endless Pines to Oil Mines

Tar sands mining has drastically altered the landscape of Alberta, stripping away the boreal
forest (foreground) to reveal oil-bearing sands beneath.
Photo: Jennifer Grant, Pembina Institute

Mile after mile, he sees nothing but untouched Canadian spruce and jackpine trees. Jason Pye inhales their fresh scent and listens to the Athabasca River rushing through the lush Northern Alberta forest. Tiny mule deer, squirrels and foxes dart in and out of the foliage. A brown bear grazes on a hill, unphased by the human visitor.

Suddenly, the tranquil beauty is interrupted. Through the trees, he glimpses smokestacks gushing a steady stream of black exhaust.

As he wanders farther, the landscape becomes patchy. Desolate stretches of dry earth speckle the dense woodland. Piles of axed tree trunks line his path. He continues his morning hike until the forest reaches an abrupt end.
There, muted blacks and browns replace hues of rich green. A barren abyss stretches as far as his eyes can see.

A thick, dark substance coats the grainy soil.

“It looks like a giant crater came and just wiped out thousands of miles of trees,” Pye says.

Read more on the Alberta Tar Sands.

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