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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fort McToxic

So we are in the news again, for more environmental issues. Surprise, surprise.

There is nothing new being said: Fort McMurray has toxic oil sands.

K... got it.

We want to sell crude and people want to buy it. That's the nature of the business. Oil sands production is hard on the environment, to say the least. There is a huge demand for oil.

And we have the oil  sands. 

So do we sit on them? Do we sit by, idly, and wait for time to pass, while the nation's economy plummets? Money should not dictate how we treat our surroundings, i.e., the environment, but let's face it, we have to live. We have to provide for our families and pay bills. There is a shortage of work across the country, but there is work in Fort McMurray.

There are also social and environmental issues, just like any other city.

But we get targeted. And we get targeted hard.

So, why is that?

Yes, production of the oil sands has done damage to the environment but companies are working on ways to make that better. There is no way to gloss that over.

There are proposals for project extensions, like the Keystone XL pipeline, that will affect so much more than just oil sands production. When people hear the phrase "Keystone XL" tossed around, they don't think about the repercussions of the project on the environment or about the feelings of the people affected by the situation.

Apparently, we Canadians do not consider the repercussions of that pipeline, of the oil sands production, or any of the people affected by any of it.

Well, that goes both ways.

The same can be said about the oil sands, themselves, really. The term, 'oil sands' is spit out of people's mouths as if it were a deadly poison. I think that many people don't think at all about how some of us are affected when we hear negativity and untruths about our city.

So, every time we in Fort McMurray hear our city referred to as 'that bad place' (insert your negative comment of choice here), we have to wonder whether those referring to it as Fort McMoney or Fort McToxic ever think about those of us living here and how we feel about that.

Some of us live here because we like it here. We have chosen to make it our home. We make our careers here, we raise families here, we volunteer in our community and we ensure that our lives are full and stable.

We are not the dissatisfied, transient, crackhead zombies that seemingly pervade Fort McToxic, as some would have others believe.

Someone visiting and purposefully searching out places for fantastic, sensational stories, and finding them, portrays only one side of the coin. Why aren't more writers coming here to interview people who visit the pool with their children, or read books in the library, or go with friends to the movie on the weekend, or various other non-sensational activities? Oh, right, those stories would not sell whatever media that author is trying to hock. No one wants to read boring stories.

People usually want to read about the downfall of others. Rarely does anyone want to read about how well someone else is doing. But then again, not everyone fits into that category, of course.

But if people want to read about downfalls, that is exactly why writers search out those stories and tell them. Is it also why that particular person searches out those stories in the first place - do they have a need to see for themselves the fantastic, unbelievable aspect of what really goes on in this crazy world up here in the bitter cold north?

When I read (mostly exaggerated) stories about this city, the one thing I can guarantee will arise within the first three paragraphs, if not the first three sentences, is the wages of workers in this town. I'm a teacher, and I do not make anywhere near the top wage in this town, so I am not being defensive in any way about this. This is just observation.

Why does the issue of wage arise in every article, and arise so quickly?

People move north, to a secluded, rural area to work. Sometimes they do hazardous work, just like many other people with hazardous jobs. I know people who work other jobs in other areas who get paid more money to do so. But by coming to Fort McMurray, you are somehow supposed to feel guilty for earning this pay rate. Why the negativity about pay grades here?

Is it because it is assocociated with the oil sands? And if so, why? There is plenty of work here, usually. One only has to move here and apply. So jealousy should not be a factor. Fear, maybe? 

There is a huge service industry here. Not everyone earns the wages that Fort McMoney is supposedly known for. Fort McMurray has steep housing prices, but so does Calgary, as well as other cities. We have crime, as do other cities. We are really no different.

Except for the work we do... (disclaimer: except in other parts of the world where they do the same work)...

... and the 'toys' we have. If you call vehicles 'toys'.

Do you really care what someone is earning or driving? And if so, is it from an environmental standpoint or jealousy? Environmentally, I can understand, but make your point and be done with it. Stop attacking the city in an immature way. And if it's jealousy, stop being immature, pull on your big girl panties and get a job like the rest of us adults. Maybe you might be able to find a job here in Fort McMoney and you can get some big girl toys, too.

The condition of our highway? That's a governmental issue - discuss that with the government, but please do not use it as a way to sensationalize visits to our city.

And so, again, nothing new has been said.

"Make the oil sands more environmentally friendly and make this place better for people to live in." I believe scientists are working on that. We can do our part by recycling, reusing, etc., but the people who know what they are doing (i.e., scientists, engineers) are the ones who have to come up with those plans. We can suggest ideas and put into place the actions, but to make something viable, we need to have science and long-term goals. We even have celebrities trying to help.

Lower wages. Would you want to come to a secluded, rural, northern city to work without monetary benefits? Oh, wait... even with that offer, you're not here.

We work. We work in the oil sands. That is what we do. You don't have to like it, or agree with it. But if you're going to dislike it or disagree with it, try to do so on a logical basis. Help be part of the solution.

I'm not being fatalistic when I say, 'the oil companies are bigger than us.' I'm being realistic. Oil drives our economy.

We rely on oil and petroleum products every day. Go ahead, stop using petroleum products, and I mean everything (research everything you use), and see how far you get. Good luck to you.

That being said, since we will use this product and people need jobs, then as an entire group, an entire country, an entire continent, we should probably just figure out a way to work together to make it a cleaner fuel source, rather than fight each other about using it.

But nothing new has been said. And I won't hold my breath.

Imagine all the people 
Living life in peace 
You may say that I'm a dreamer 
But I'm not the only one 
I hope someday you'll join us 
And the world will be as one