Keystone XL

Rising against Big Oil & cynical PR firms, people behind the victories – part two

By guest contributor Sarah Hay
Last month, in part one of this interview with Suzanne Dhaliwal co-founder UK Tar Sands Network, she described what it was like to visit the tar sands industrial site in Canada, and outlined its effects on surrounding lands, air and water.
Conversely, as the day progressed, more redactions of the document leaked to Greenpeace, from PR giant Edelman addressed to its client TransCanada, appeared online via Motherboard, the New York Times, Huffington Post, and the investigative Desmogblog.
In this document we learned that Edelman PR advocated a list of sneaky and highly cynical tactics on how to manipulate and track supporters and opponents alike. This gathers more weight when we realise that the lines between Big Oil companies and the Canadian government are blurred, with government extending its surveillance freedoms in Oct 2014 which journalists have long been reporting are being used to watch environmentalists.
Seeing as the biggest PR firm, and one of the biggest oil companies in the world are so worried about these protestors, and are ready to employ all means necessary to defend against them, it seems right to learn a bit more about these people. Just who are these pernickety citizens taking umbrage that their land, water and air are all being polluted? Are they winning any victories? Why does their story affect us in Europe? Or anywhere in the world? I asked Suzanne here in part two –
Can you tell us a little bit about people you’ve met through this? Many of the people leading the resistance against the tar sands are young indigenous women, often juggling other jobs and childcare whilst simultaneously fighting against the largest corporate development in history.
Crystal Lameman has been leading the Beaver Lake Cree, in challenging tar sands development on her land. She is also an incredible speaker who has travelled extensively to raise awareness of what is taking place in her community.

Eriel Deranger works with her community the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation to challenge the expansion of the Shell operations in tar sands as well as other developments. She’s been leading an international campaign which has seen support coming from people such as Leonardo Dicaprio, Neil Young, Mark Ruffalo and Darryl Hannah.

Melina Lubicon Massimo has been leading her community to respond to development taking place in Lubicon Cree territory (where there are 2,600 oil and gas wells -editors note) responding to the spills that have taken place and also to make the connection between the violence committed against aboriginal women and the violence taking place on the land, as well as being an advocate for renewable energy.

Can you name some of the victories the movement has celebrated? There are also incredible alliances forming between social movements, such as land owners, the greens, labour, social justice and the arts communities, in what is becoming one of the most inspiring social movements of our generation. We are seeing pipelines such as the Keystone XL and the Enbridge pipeline being delayed. This will see the tar sands landlocked, which is already having an impact on investor confidence in the project. For example, Rockerfeller recently pulled out huge investments from tar sands.
How does this affect us in Europe? Shipments of tar sands oil are now beginning to make their way to Europe and large amounts of investment coming from UK banks and corporations. Shell, already heavily involved, is planning to double expansion, and BP is also invested in operations. Under the direction of BP, Shell and the Canadian government, the UK government has currently stalled climate legislation -the Fuel Quality Directive – which would discourage the import of tar sands oil to the EU.
In Europe we need to continue to make sure that we expose the impacts that UK based corporations are having on human rights and to also to continue to expose how corporations are undermining any climate action on the table in order to keep pushing filthy fuels down our throats.
In the past few years we have seen that international action on the tar sands has had a huge effect in amplifying the voices of communities resisting tar sands expansion. The legal challenges and blockades that are taking place are having a huge impact on the industry, and as a result the Canadian government has increased surveillance of activists in Canada. Over the next few years, keeping an international spotlight on what is taking place will be key. While Canada may still have an image as an environmentally friendly nation, the tar sands have really seen the current government acting like a ‘petro-tyranny.’
What does the UK Tar Sands Network facilitate? The UK Tar Sands Network acts as a hub to keep communication flowing between those people working on tar sands activism in Europe and those on the front lines. We need to make sure that at forefront of our campaigns and struggles we listen to the people who, day in day out, are leading the battle to keep fossil fuels in the ground. There are so many incredible minds thinking about how to transition away from fossil fuels, divestment, etc. It’s important that we also create spaces where we can come together to build communities of resistance, and to make sure that we are hearing from multiple voices.
Name one big thing we can do to help? I think we really need to see how we can continue to expand the way that we think about climate action to include social justice and to build a broader movement in the UK that includes people who may not have been involved in activism before. We need to be creative about how we take action and think about forms of activism that are inclusive as well as achieving campaign aims.
Name one small thing we can all do to help? Social media has played a key role in amplifying internationally the concerns of people on the ground in Canada. Follow us at @notarsands and on Facebook to keep up-to-date with the latest things happening in the movement and campaigns. We also have a mailing list so you can get alerts about actions taking place and also keep you up to speed on developments in the world of tar sands campaigning.
UK Tar Sands Network:
Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation:
Idle No More:
(Photo above: from HuffPo article where Leonardo DiCaprio, chiefs from different First Nation tribes and the president of Sierra Club each challenged Canadian prime minister and oil executives to the ice-bucket challenge earlier this year)

Fashion journalist turned climate hawk, Sarah Hay has swapped the runways of Paris where she reported for i-D magazine, Wallpaper & the Financial Times, for completely fresh horizons. “Absolutely fascinated” by this juncture in time where she believes humanity’s on the brink of the 2nd Industrial Revolution – from fossil fuels to clean energy – she’s set out to explore and report, via her blog, how we as a planet, “one interconnected organism”, are making the change.  

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