Fort McMoney, a documentary game by David Dufresne. Take control of Fort McMurray, Canada, the third largest oil reserve in the world, and make your worldview triumph. A TOXA/ONF production in association with Arte and with the financial participation of the CMF.
Eating My Hat Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass
On September 27, 28 and 29 the TSES was lucky enough to be one of the invited participants at the 2013 DUMBO Arts Festival, an annual celebration of art, music and culture in the DUMBO neighbourhood of Brooklyn, New York. Our parking spot in the Pearl St Triangle afforded us a great view of the bridge, immediate access to amazing food vendors and heaps of visitors.
In popular media, the Tri-State area is depicted as rich mecca of culture, jostling with bodies, ideas and creativity. As someone who lives outside New York I always wondered about the accuracy of this representation and half-assumed that the epic tale of NYC was an accidental exaggeration that had grown over time. After encountering a mere fraction of New Yorkers* at the DUMBO Arts Festival I am delighted to report that I will be eating a side of hat with my ketchup chips. My assumption about the greatness of New York woefully under estimated the amazing people who make that place possible. Visitors to the TSES at DUMBO entered the space with inquisitive and open minds. While some had heard of tar sands, many had not, but all were uniquely willing to discuss their thoughts, explore the van and engage with difficult topics. Nearly every person we met (including the remarkable younger visitors who came by) asked smart questions and provided us with useful information, references and anecdotes. To say were were overwhelmed by the support for the project would be an understatement. We left the festival exhausted but regenerated, ready to tackle the continuing discussion about the Keystone Pipeline, oil sand and the future with renewed gusto and knowledge.
*Please forgive my naive use of the term New Yorkers to encapsulate people from Greater New York. I know not what else to call you. I realize the importance of regionally specific community identities and apologize if my lazy use of language implies otherwise.
It was pouring rain when the TSES arrived in the Byward Market to participate in Supernova, Ottawa-Gatineau’s all night art event Nuit Blanche. The show was scheduled to begin at 6:20 but the instant we opened the doors to start setting-up the visitors began to arrive. Like the deluge of rain that pounded down upon us on all night, the guests to the TSES continued in a constant flow until we closed our doors 10 hours later at 4:20 am. Due, perhaps partially, to the precipitation, our inviting interior and welcoming awning, there was a seemingly endless line queued to get into the van. At first we were a little startled by our popularity. It seemed that everyone in the city of Ottawa from teens to politicians, business owners, bus drivers, club goers, tourists and families wanted to hear about oil. The vans windows steamed with the warmth of the bodies crammed into the space, talking about oil, investigating the samples and debating the Energy East pipeline- a proposal put forward by TransCanada to modify a gas pipeline to carry tar sand bitumen from the oil sand fields of Northern Alberta, across the Prairies, through Northern Ontario, through the Ottawa Valley into Montreal, Quebec City and ending in Saint John New Brunswick. While some were pleased that there might be a chance for Eastern Canada to get some more financial benefits from tar sand mining, others were apprehensive about the impacts of pipelines passing through their neighbourhoods. Like the rain, the perspectives on the issues seemed endless. Many mulled the metaphoric importance of tar sands actually coming to, and directly impacting Ottawa, its citizens and the federal government.
This evening was particularly special for TSES creator Allison Rowe, who was excited to return to her hometown to share this work with the community that originally sparked and supported her interest in art and environmental issues. During the course of the night Allison’s family, high school classmates and summer camp friends passed by the van. Perhaps most exciting of all was an unexpected visit from her high school art teacher, Mr. Oster who is still inspiring students and teaching traditional, as well as digital technologies at Merivale High School. Thank you to everyone for making this such a great night!
Should the Keystone XL pipeline project be permitted in the U.S.? The proposed pipeline — which would travel from Alberta’s tar sands oil deposits to Gulf Coast refineries in the U.S. — has drawn strong responses from individuals on both sides of a growing debate.
The Canadian dollar rose against the majority of its 16 most-traded peers before data tomorrow forecast to show the nation snapped two months of jobs losses in a sign the economy may be emerging from a mid-year slowdown.
On Saturday, an oil pipeline leaked 13,200 gallons of crude oil (the equivalent of one and a half tanker trucks) into the Gulf of Thailand. The oil slick is continuing to spread, blackening the beaches and water of a tourist island on the country’s west coast.
TSES spent the weekend at the River and Sky Camping and Music Festival which took place in Field, a small town in Northern Ontario. We departed the city with heaps of cottagers, equally excited for the weekend on Friday afternoon. As we sat on the 400, the air transformed from a sticky heat, to a “rain’s coming wind” as another aggressive storm rolled in to province and thundered down upon us. We crept along the highway, listening to weather reports, podcasts and traffic updates. It was a long couple of hours but eventually we made it the festival grounds and set-up house in the RV lot with other campers and a rather disgruntled looking tied up horse. Beers were cracked just as the sun was coming down, a biological cue to any insect hankering for a meal to come out and devour the hoards of unsuspecting music festival attendees. Our concerns about deet (a naive memory of the past) vanished as we drenched ourselves in as much protection as the chemical could provide from the endless onslaught of bug bites. A battle which we confirmed the next morning, had been miserably lost.
The All Mighty Rombus started things off on the stage, setting the tone for what would be a weekend of amazing music. The TSES crew snuck reluctantly away from the campfire session later that evening to prepare for the following day, when we would be open to the public.
At 8:30 we nudged the van awake and rolled into the center of the festival and parked between two beautiful pine trees, adjacent to the main stage. We set-up slowly, enjoying the birds and the fresh air. By the time we opened our doors at 10, a yoga class had started outside the van and kids, in various levels of dress, ran circles around their parents. Visitors began to drop by, many of them families, to check out the van. We chatted, ate cookies and discussed the politics of mining, an issue that hit close to home for many whose families had/do earn their living working in the industry. Owing to Science North, a science education centre located in Sudbury, many of our youngest guests were incredibly knowledgeable about open pit mining. Visitors told us about their concerns that proposed pipeline retrofits to carry tar sand bitumen from Alberta to the East Coast would have on their community. Many who came buy shared our grief over the recent train derailment in Lac Megantic. It was clear from the tone of our conversations, that the transportation of oil is a major concern for many. On this sunny Saturday few considered the potential employment which would come from pipelines or train transport worth the risk. However many also expressed faith in Canada finding ways to progress and grow the economy in harmony with environmental and human protections.
For the TSES the highlight of the day was sharing our space with so many bright and inquisitive children. The trusting and caring community atmosphere of the festival facilitated children visiting the van unaccompanied by adults, something which rarely happens at the TSES. Children not only spoke with us but with one another, about the things they were reading, the maps they were looking at, and of course, the different magical places they were “driving” the van to. One guest, 14 month old Fiona, spent no less than 30 minutes at the wheel, an undeniable feat of attention for someone so young!
We packed everything up in the early afternoon and headed down to the water to swim, listen to music and share snacks cooked over a fire. It was a perfect day in Northern Ontario.
This has been a challenging couple of weeks for many Canadians. First, there were the rising waters of rivers in Alberta which caused extensive flooding and destruction across the province. Just a few weeks later a tanker train derailed in Lac Megantic Quebec, causing a massive explosion that killed and injured many. And on Tuesday Canada’s largest city Toronto was unexpectedly consumed by an aggressive thunderstorm that pummeled the population into a watery clean-up. All this is complimented by the upcoming cabinet shuffle in parliament, and the warm air of a Canadian summer.
As we attempt to comprehend and deal with these events it occurs to us at the TSES that this is a time for reflection. While many out there are (understandably) issuing demands for information on the specifics of each incident, it seems valuable to consider the potentiality of approaching these topics as a whole, in lieu of a series of parts. It is the sum of our experiences that define us. Though counter-intuitive as it many be to let the weight of these events wash over us slowly, allowing each fragment of information to swirl into the others, this assimilated ocean of knowledge may lead to new conclusions, new questions and new beginnings.
Allison Rowe is pleased to announce the inclusion of the Tar Sands Exploration Station in the River and Sky Music Festival taking place in Northern Ontario July 19 - 21, 2013
The TSES team is thrilled to be participating in the River and Sky Festival, a great celebration of Canadian music and culture in the beautiful Northern Ontario landscape. Get your tickets now and keep your eyes out for the van!
400 PPM: Are we even going to try to deal with this?
On May 9 it was announced that the Carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere has passed the 400 parts per million (ppm) mark. The last time our planetary atmosphere was this carbonic, the world was a radically different place absent of arctic sea ice, covered in massive deserts with sea levels 40 meters higher than they are today. There were even camels in the Arctic. When I imagine this time I picture a mash-up of tank girl’s sand shower, at the edge of a monsoon, inside an oven wrapped in hangover dry mouth.
For us at the TSES 400 ppm is a loaded number. Unlike a high test mark, this elevated number indicates that the citizens of the planet have not responded to the ever frantic calls of the science community to get our shit together and lower our carbon emissions. In 1992, we were at 350 ppm and in 2005 when the Kyoto Protocol came into effect we were already up to somewhere around 380 ppm. Things are getting worse, not better and the catastrophic weather events this kind of C02 causes have arguably already begun.
Though we at the TSES are highly disturbed by this ever elevating number, what is perhaps more upsetting is the fact that it seems although we are simply giving up.