Monday, 15 March 2010

Monday 15th March 10

One of the most sedentary days I've had for ages.

I spent nearly all of the morning doing some e-paperwork... basically trying to compose an email to try to sort out something... and then, after lunch, I finally got down to editing the new website that my Canadian friend and I are developing. Jim and colleagues had provided a user guide, how to edit Wordpress, and I understood enough and remembered enough from my short workshop to be able to add some Googlemap web links to the site, but the first one took over an hour, and needed adding to two places in the site, and the second one was a lot easier, and also needed adding to two places. It was very frustrating and difficult, but I was pleased with the outcome. However, when I reported my 'success' to Jim, he replied saying he'd thought that it ought to be done differently and he'd invite me back into the office to show me how to do it properly!!! Well, learning anything completely new at my age is bound to be a bit slow...

I was due to go and see the Premiere of Dirty Oil at 6.30, and had got two free tickets as I'm a Co-op member. So I cycled down to City Screen and met up with Lynn, who is also a Co-op member and is just as concerned as I am about climate change, health and democracy.

I met several people I know and had a good chat with Chris, fellow Rotter, and an old friend Ginny whom I haven't seen for ages. Lynn arrived and we went to Screen 1. Before the film there was a live link to The Barbican, London, with a chap from the Co-op with a good presenting style and sense of humour introducing the film, the film-maker Leslie Iwerks, and the narrator, Neve Campbell.

The film is a documentary about the extraction of oil from the deep soils in large parts of Canada. These sediments are sand, clay and water mixed with oil. The first oil humans found and extracted in any quantity was under high pressure and when the rock above was punctured, it just squirted out. These wells were capped and the oil piped away. Then came the oil which had to be pumped out. Now the price of oil is high enough for it to be economic to extract the 'difficult' oil, such as that in the tar sands and oil shales. With the tar sands, the sandy oily stuff needs to be mixed with hot water, the sand and clay separates from the oil and water, and then the oil has to be separated from the water. So, this oil takes a lot more energy to extract than 'normal' oil. And obviously, this input of energy creates a lot more carbon dioxide.

Secondly, these tar sands are extracted by open-cast mining... so all the vegetation is removed (trees, forests) and the layers of oily sand dug out and transported to the plant which uses natural gas to heat water to extract the oil. The waste sand and clays, mixed with water and some oil which wasn't removed, is pumped out to vast 'tailing ponds' where the solids slowly settle out and the dirty water seeps into local rivers. There is the obvious impact on wildlife, and the indigenous people,and as their drinking water is polluted, and they are breathing particulates and chemicals from the refineries. So in one community, levels of rare cancers have increased enormously. These Canadian tar sand deposits are providing most of the oil that the USA uses, for cars, planes and chemical feedstocks, for pesticides, fertiliser, lipstick, plastic and fireworks. An area the size of Florida has been destroyed to provide this oil, and the Canadian government has given permits to increase production hugely.

The effects aren't just local. If the allowed extraction is allowed to take place, and the oil is extracted and burned for its energy, this will release enough carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to increase the global temperature by over 2 degrees Celsius, which will push our little planet into runaway climate chaos and make the future of human life more than difficult, as well as increasing the rates of extinction of other life forms.

This is an excellent film. The aim is to inform, and to persuade viewers to take action on the companies responsible for the planned expansion. Information about this campaign can be found at Toxic Fuels, and more info about the film found at Dirty Oil and Babelgum. If you have a pension, you should ask your pension provider to back the tar sands resolutions, as you will probably be a shareholder of BP and Royal Dutch Shell plc, through your pension.

One of the main backers of this film is The Cooperative, who do not invest in fossil fuel extraction companies. So if you don't want your money to be used to fund the tar sands development, switch your bank account to the Co-op.

I had a coffee with Lynn after the film, and had a brief chat with Graham Martin, then cycled home via a place where a load of huge willow trunks have been felled and left in a ditch. This is my renewable fuel for next winter. I cycled home with two large logs in my trailer.

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