Should we set aside half for nature?
Written by: Ian Brown
Published by: The Globe and Mail, Oct. 14 2013
No one can say Alberta’s oil sands have been an easy child. The bitumen pits fuel a third of Canada’s economy. They also produce some of the world’s most emission-intensive oil, and are responsible for more climate change and environmental stress than conventional oil.
That standoff – is today’s revenue worth future ecological disaster? – has been bitter and lasting. The Keystone XL pipeline may be cancelled by environmental protest; ditto Northern Gateway. Conservationists demonize the oil industry, and vice versa. Meanwhile Canada begs the U.S. to buy our dilbit.
And over the entire fracas hang the tatters of Canada’s reputation. We’ve devolved from the world’s most visible patch of wilderness to its dirtiest Harry.
Into this thicket an Alberta conservationist has thrown a ground-clearing idea. Harvey Locke is a fourth-generation Albertan, a mainstay of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, and the Liberal who almost won Calgary Centre in the last federal election. Mr. Locke was a keynote speaker last week at the 10th World Wilderness Congress in Salamanca, Spain, where he declared that Canada should permanently freeze development on half the Mackenzie River Basin. He also proposed we pay for it with a 1-per-cent levy on every barrel coming out of the oil sands.