Water

I don’t even know where to begin with this…

I’m not certain how wide the coverage globally is of the flooding here in Calgary, and Southern Alberta, although I just saw it on Sports Center so I assume you guys have heard. Still, its hitting home and authorities are warning it is not over yet, with more rain to come. Three people are confirmed dead in the High River community, with another still missing. Entire homes have been washed away in Canmore. Calgary has evacuated 25 neighbourhoods, displacing approximately 75,000 people. My former neighbourhood, Mission, (which I wanted to move back to) is underwater. The zoo animals are headed to the jail cells if the Bow River continues to rise. 17th Avenue, and Kensington, my favourite shopping spots are also flooded. Two weeks to Stampede opening day, the Saddeldome is full of water up to the luxury boxes, and the grounds are an ocean. It’s certainly the top story nationally, if you are reading from outside of Canada, check out links for the stories at NATIONAL POST, CTV, and CBC.

Calgary Police Car in flood

All the reports compare this to the flood of 2005, which I also experienced first hand, although in Rosebud, not Calgary. You can see that flood for yourself as well, in the CBC documentary that follows my mother and our family, Burning Water. This is the second time I have experienced a flash flood, and there is nothing like it; and this is NOTHING like the first time. The photos hardly do it justice, the murky water only shows the spread, not the depth. If you aren’t familiar with the landmarks you might not know quite how extensive it is. You might not realize how much has been effected. If you have been watching any news coverage you may have seen helicopter footage, its unbelievable, to view it click HERE.

This video gives a pretty good idea of how severe it really is. The flooding is widespread; shallow in some places but extremely deep and fast moving in others, and full of debris. Calgary at this point, is not nearly as hard-hit as Canmore and High River, where 3 are confirmed to be dead. Hundred’s of soldiers have been deployed as Southern Alberta is in a state of emergency. As much as I go on about my displeasure at living in Calgary, I do love the people here, at a time like this its really clear how strong of a community we have. Watching all these videos, seeing my running trail and an entire community under water is heartbreaking. Its fortunate that in Calgary we have no deaths and minimal injuries.

The overwhelming sentiment seems to be one of complete disbelief; no one imagined anything like this could happen here. My mom and I felt the same in 2005, when our farm in Rosebud flooded. I can’t explain to you the feeling when you are in the middle of the storm like that. I’ve always loved being in the middle of the storm, I love the rain, in 2005 when the flash flood hit our home, I was outside walking in the rain when instead of just pouring rain, suddenly, there was water everywhere. The footage in Burning Water (its only a few minutes in if you click HERE) shows flooding in my yard, was shot by me at the time and cut into the film later. When a flash flood comes, you really don’t realize how quickly it hits, and when it hits a city of a million people, the 4th largest in Canada, it’s devastating.

The footage is unbelievable, nothing like this has ever been seen here, and in times like this my inner environmentalist is begging for people to see the larger picture. More and more in the news all over the world we hear of natural disasters, each seemingly the “worst in history.”

In 1895, Nobel Prize winning Swedish chemist Svante August Arrhenius predicted that the excessive burning of fossil fuels would eventually alter the earth’s climate. In just 118 years, we have burned though an unbelievable amount of those fossil fuels, almost certainly faster than anyone, even Mr. Arrhenius, could have ever predicted.

Downtown Calgary was built on the money of the oil and gas boom, and is set between two rivers- the Bow and Elbow. “The Bow”, Encana’s landmark building- the tallest in Canada West of Toronto, just opened to the public a few weeks ago, and is now completely shutdown due to massive flooding. It almost seems biblical, though I do not consider myself a religious person. If there is one thing I do believe in, as I have posted before, it is the balance of nature.

Like I said, there is nothing like being in the middle of a storm, there is nothing like seeing it for yourself. The massive, awe inspiring power of nature. What forces does man have at his disposal when nature strikes? You realize then how powerless we really are. What does man expect from nature, that it will not strike back? That it will not find a way to create balance?

It is tremendously difficult for me to write this post because I do not want it to be misunderstood. I have compassion for every single individual affected here, for every individual affected in every tragedy around the world right now. I cannot imagine having my entire home swept away, its devastating.

At the same time, nature does not care for the whim’s of man. Man is a vile beast; a greedy creature with the tools to do more damage than any other animal on this planet, but mother nature will not accept mistreatment at the hands of her children.

When EnCana/Cenovus Corporation came to the the Rosebud valley with its experimental drilling techniques circa 2005, our water started lighting on fire out of the taps. The CBC passionate eye documentary, Burning Water, follows my mother’s fight with corporate Alberta, and the Alberta government for her water rights, after Encana used an experimental method of hydraulic fracturing in the Rosebud River Valley. In the midst of this political storm, 3 successive rainstorms flood Southern Alberta. In 2005 it wasn’t even CLOSE to this bad; in just 8 years, it is at least 3 times worse than the last “worst flood in history”. Just a few weeks ago EnCana opened the doors to “The Bow”, its premiere head office- they mention its construction in Burning Water.  Just a few weeks ago I was joking in a post that I would dance on its ruin and explaining that it is symbolic with all that is wrong with our culture.  I had no idea it would be evacuated and shutdown due to flooding, who would have? Who could possibly have ever imagined flooding so widespread, in the middle of the Alberta prairies?  After 118 years of relentlessly burning fossil fuels, and 8 years since our last water disaster, we have still learned nothing.

This isn’t a Calgary problem, its a global cultural problem. Our society is fatally flawed and if we carry on our current path we will destroy ourselves. As individuals we put ourselves first, because no one else will. In this age of luxury and technological advancement we are led down the rabbit hole of capitalistic greed. We get caught up in the nine-to-five, comparing our cars and our clothes and our houses and we forget that nature can take it all away in a heartbeat when it’s time to pay your debt.

It’s why I keep talking about the water issues, even though I know most people are content to justify their apathy. I understand entirely the temptation of pretty things, I battle with my materialistic, consumer side every day. I understand wanting to make some money to put yourself through school, or support your family. Temptation is always there but we must not gorge ourselves, lest our swollen bellies burst. Some of the most expensive real estate in the oil capital of Canada is now underwater.  Regular home insurance won’t cover it, millions of dollars of damage has been done. You might not realize it’s karma coming when she gets you, but it is. Everything will balance in the end.  This disaster has galvanized an already strong community and Calgary will rebuild, rebound and be reinvigorated.  Mayor Nenshi even says we can do it in time for Stampede!

Will Calgary really change? Not anytime soon. Sure it will rebuild and get back to business, but real change?   No.  It’s not just Calgary that needs to change, though certainly we have dug in our heels determinedly pushing for “economic value ” of the oil sands. Environmentalist friends (friend?) lets not delude ourselves. Prime Minister Harper “knows this is not what the rivers are supposed to look like” because he used to live here, and he took a helicopter tour so he could REALLY TELL. Premier Redford said something so dull I couldn’t even quote her, in the meantime her ex-husband represents the Defendants in Jessica Ernst’s million dollar lawsuit [Ernst v. EnCana, Energy Resource Conservation Board, Her Magistey the Queen in Right of Alberta] which has just been delayed again, because back in February Mr. Harper called the Justice hearing the matter up to a higher court. Quite convenient. Jessica goes back to phase ONE of her litigation- an application to rule whether an Albertan citizen even has the right to sue her government for failing to uphold its own regulatory standards when a corporations experimental CBM exploration destroyed the her Aquifer and contaminated drinking water in the vallye. Despite the fact she’s been dealing with this for a decade Encana hasn’t even so much as had to put forward their Statement of Defence, thanks to the legal gymnastics of a team of government lawyers. What did she expect suing the government and the corporation that pays the government’s salaries? I Nothing less, but that’s the point.  It seems an unattainable goal, to change the landscape of our intertwined government and corporate world, which is all the more reason why we must fight so hard.  I love it, Jessica is an absolute champion, she know’s what she’s up against here, the dynasty of conservative Alberta politics and the oil empire. The most important thing at this point is to spread awareness, add your voice on Alberta Voices and check out Jessica Ernst’s website.

For everyone who has suffered at the hands of nature; whether you have lost your home, your family, your friends, your pets or your life, know that the strength of an entire country is behind you.  For everyone standing on the edge of the storm waters, asking yourself, “how could this possibly have happened?”, do not forget that question when the flood waters recede.  This is a warning, a wake-up, a call to arms.  How could this possibly have happened?  In 118 years, just 18 years longer than the world famous Calgary Stampede has run, we have burned though more than half of the world’s oil reserves, the half that was easy to get to.  Now we use techniques more dangerous than ever before to extract oil, or natural gas, and the price we will pay if we continue to do so is honestly unimaginable.  How can we be so arrogant as to think what we do to one part of the earth will not have an effect elsewhere?

Take a rock.

Now smash it with a hammer.

Will the rock ever mend itself?

Will the cracks meld together and reform?

Of course not.

Once broken, the rock breaks down more.

It does not heal.

Imagine giving a company the power to drill hundreds of thousands of wells, to allow them to send seismic explosions though underground rock formations to release gas.  Imagine trucking in thousands of gallons of water to wash down the hole, mixed with trade-protected chemical “frac fluids”, to pump up a minuscule amount of natural gas in comparison.  Though I believe the only way forward is to end reliance on fossil fuels, I recognize that it will be a lengthy endeavor to get there.  It is absolute madness, however, to contaminate thousands of gallons of water and pump it into the ground, for only a minimal return.  The amount of gas wasted on tanker trucks bringing in the water to each CBM sight probably negates the “gain” even further.  Imagine a government that streamlines this process, so that companies never have to release the composition of those frac-fluids, and so the company can never be found guilty based on the lack of evidence.  Imagine a government giving the power to review cases like Jessica Ernst’s, or my family’s, to a SINGLE regulator with absolute power, appointed by whom? Harper? Redford?  Imagine for a moment that this goes too far, that companies like Encana are allowed to continue their assault on the water system.  Safeway was selling flats of water for $60 because of a weekend of flooding.  Imagine what will happen if our water supply is truly compromised?

Calgary pride’s itself on a sense of community and western spirit.  Coming home to the yyc airport compared to Amsterdam, I welcomed the sight of white hats and friendly faces eager to help.. because really, that’s what Calgary is all about, helping one another.  We see that now more than ever as the community bands together in this state of emergency, but we must take care to see the larger picture.  To live contextually and understand that we must actively plan for future generations, rather than blindly barrel forward with dollar signs in our eyes.

Money means nothing when the water comes and goes.

Responsibility for the Land

I posted back in November about how busy I was working with my mom, well this is  what we were up to! I would love it if you would take the time to check it out and learn a thing or two. My mother was invited as a speaker for a Conversation on Fracking at Augustana University in Camrose, Alberta.

“With an assembly of experts, landowners and industry representatives, our aim is to foster constructive dialogue that will enable Albertans to manage our resources wisely.”

Full list of Presenters and other presentations from November 2-3, 2012

The youtube video of Fiona’s presentation goes with a PowerPoint, available for download here. Alternately  for your convenience, I have included the slides in the correct order below the embeded video- important slides have noted the time they are referenced. You don’t get to see the fancy animation I put in, but it is a little simpler to click through while watching the presentation.

Be sure to check out Dr. Karlis Muehlenbachs who also spoke over the weekend and  is referenced in Fiona Lauridsen’s presentation. His expertise was crucial in helping unravel the questionable science of Dr. Alec Bylth from the Alberta Research Council, who’s report was the basis for Alberta Environment’s decision to absolve Encana of any responsibility for the contamination in our water well, as there was NO EVIDENCE OF GROUND WATER CONTAMINATION.

My mom also references Jessica Ernst in her presentation, its really because of Jessica that we were able to find out so much information about Hydraulic Fracturing and the dangers; she and my mother worked side by side for years to figure out what happened to the aquifer in Rosebud. Another affected neighbour, Mrs. Signer, who’s well is referenced in the presentation, reports and slides; moved away from the area, selling her B&B because she no longer had safe water.

Jessica Ernst is taking legal action a multi-million dollar lawsuit accuses EnCana, Alberta Environment and Energy Resources Conservation Board of negligence and unlawful activities. For her stand against fracking, Jessica was honored by the UN with the International Women of Courage Award in October of last year.

UNANIMA International Woman of Courage Award

NEW YORK, NY (October 1, 2011) UNANIMA International, UN Economic and Social Council accredited NGO working for international justice at the United Nations celebrates 10th Anniversary Saturday icts by presenting icts WOMAN OF COURAGE annual award to Jessica Ernst of Rosebud, Alberta , Internationally known for her efforts to hold companies accountable for environmental harm done by “fracking”.

Ernst, a 54 year old scientist with 30 years petroleum industry experience, is Suing the Alberta government, Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) and EnCana for negligence and unlawful activities.

Nearly a decade ago EnCana, one of the world’s largest natural gas producteurs, Began a risky and experimental drilling program hydraulic fracturing That Applied intense coalbed methane for shallow THROUGHOUT central Alberta. Ms. Ernst’s statement of claim EnCana broke multiple lighters That provincial laws and règlements and contaminated shallow aquifer That a Supplied drinking water to the community with natural gas Rosebud and toxic industry-related chemicals. The claim methodically reports how Alberta’s two key groundwater regulators, Alberta Environment and the ERCB, “failed to follow the investigation and enforcement processes That They HAD, established and publicized.” Have The allegations yet to be proven in court.

Hydraulic fracturing uses “brute force” to blast open oil, gas and coal formations with highly pressurized chemical fluids or gases. It is the subject of serious government investigations THROUGHOUT North America. In 2002, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment HELD Linking Water Science to Policy Workshop. The workshop report Concluded That unconventional natural gas drilling Posed a real threat to groundwater quality and quantity, and que la nation needs “baseline hydrogeological investigations … to be ble to Recognize and track groundwater contaminants.” Not Until nine years later on September 21, 2011 the Canadian government did announce That It Would initiate two studies hydraulic fracturing to determined Whether is harming the environment.

International UNANIMA thing Ms. Ernst was emperor awardee this year as a share of international icts “Water = Life” campaign. “Access to life-giving water is an essential right for all life forms,” ​​stated the UNANIMA coordinator, Catherine Ferguson. “Our members have year Have Experienced fracking safe to Their enormous fresh water supply Wherever it is Carried out. We applaud Ms. Ernst’s bravery in standing up for her rights. “

The award and a lecture by Ms. Ernst will be Given at the 10th Anniversary reception for UNANIMA International in New York at the Church Center of the United Nations, 777 UN Plaza, just across from the United Nations building on East 44th Street. The event begins at 11:00 am.

UNANIMA International 
211 East 43rd Street, Room 1207 
New York, NY 10017 
Tel :/ Fax 212-370-0075 (Office) 
http://www.unanima-international.org

As for my mom?

she pursued the matter by allowing documentary film makers to follow her on journey to uncover the truth, as told in Burning Water, featured on CBC’s The Passionate Eye. She has spoken in communities, Colleges and Universities in Southern Alberta and British Columbia. The farm featured in Burning Water was sold, but the Lauridsen family still live in the Rosebud valley, farming land just 9 miles East of the previous property. The complaint that Encana contaminated ground water was dismissed outright by the government and the community and has not been revisited. The matter for us, is closed.

The matter however is only just beginning to open up, and the truth of the matter is MORE people need to speak up when government refuses to reign in industry because of their own capitalistic motivations. At the end of the presentation my mom mentions that they are streamlining regulations to allow industry even LESS ACCOUNTABILITY. This is happening in Alberta right now!

Rachel Notley, the MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona and a long-standing labour and environment advocate, spoke at the conference and urged Albertan’s to stand up and vote against the conservative government who continue to allow the Oil and Gas companies to drill unchecked and self-regulated.

The damage from fracking has ALREADY been done, there is no longer a question about it. The question remains, how are we going to fix the damage we have done, and how can we prevent such harm in the future?

The answer is simple, and yet, we are told economically impossible; end reliance on fossil fuels.

your interest in this matter is of the utmost importance, and i thank you. xo, aiyana.