Do you know where the USA gets most of its oil from – It’s not Saudi Arabia, it’s not South America, not Nigeria – no, its Alberta, Canada, and Dirty Oil is a thoroughly depressing documentary that looks at the devastating environmental and social impacts of tar sands extraction from a region the size of the state of Florida.
Probably the most depressing scene focusses on Fort Chipewyn, a native community who have lived for thousands of years on the Athabasca river, which, according community Elders, had never experienced cancer deaths until, that is, the arrival of tar sands extraction companies such as BP into the vincinity. The community doctor noted a 30% higher incidence in Cancer rates in this community compared to similar communities.
As any scientifically minded person would do, this Doctor started asking questions about why there was such a sudden and dramatic increase in the Cancer rate, and, without even mentioning oil, the provincial government warned him off publisicing the cancer deaths because he risked causing a ‘panic’ over public health, and he was also threatened with having his medical license revoked, so he backed off.
Suspecting the cancer deaths were linked to pollution due to Tar sands extraction, the community then paid for an independent consultant to measure pollution in the river, and he verified that levels were consistent with an increase cancer risk.
The oil companies response was, in addition to the obvious strategy of criticising his researhc methodology, to point out that because the pollution levels in the river had never been measured before Tar sands extraction took place, it was actually not possible to prove that extraction pollution had caused increases in cancer levels – it could just be natural seepage.
The problem with this arguement is, of course, that the Elders testimony that there were no cancer deaths before tar sands extraction, strongly suggests (unless there was some massive environmental shift in the last ten years) that the oil extraction industry is causing pollution that is literally killing people in Fort Chip.
So here we have a nice example of how a company is legally allowed to murder people – basically all you have to do is to not make it a requirement for a company to do environmental measurements on an area before they pollute it – that way they can get away with murder.
So at the end of the day this is a depressing example of how oil companies can manipulate the political agenda and how crime is socially constructed by the elite – not only does oil money (the local government is set to receive $40 billion in coming years in taxes) shape environmental law (the company doesn’t have to monitor pollution effectively) it also at the end of the day enables companies to kill people in the process of maximising their profit.