Home MB Herald Encountering the oil sands

Encountering the oil sands

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Flying over northern Alberta and seeing the oil sand development below was a sobering reminder of humanity’s willingness to exploit creation for energy needs, say two MCC leaders. For MCC Alberta executive director Abe Janzen, the sight was both “dazzling and frightening”: a testament to modern, technological accomplishment, but also a stark example of what humans can do to the land.

In late May, Janzen, along with MCC Canada executive director Don Peters, attended a learning tour of the oil sands at Fort McMurray, Alta. The tour was organized by KAIROS Canada, an ecumenical justice group of which MCC Canada is a member.

“We as human beings are supposed to work together with the earth,” says Janzen. “I have no quarrel with mining, but I worry that we are not being as accountable and careful as we can and need to be.”

The Kairos group met with Aboriginal groups, oil industry representatives, and government, local churches, and community groups who are affected by northern Alberta oil sands development. After Saudi Arabia, Canada holds the largest proven crude oil reserves in the world. But that oil is trapped in sand beneath 140,000 square-kilometres of boreal forest.

For Peters, the role of the church goes beyond being caretakers of God’s creation and trying to think more ecologically. However, no one Peters and Janzen met demanded that oil sands development stop. Instead, everyone from oil companies to local Aboriginal groups stressed the need for improved government regulation.

—Amanda Thorsteinsson, MCC
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