STOP: Stop Tar Sands Operations Permanently

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Love over Money

Posted by mhudema on September 9, 2008

September 7, 2008

For Hudema, love over money is ‘eco’ logical

Greenpeace’s man says defending Alberta wilderness trumps legal career



It’s been just over a year since Greenpeace set up an office in Edmonton.

Compared to its presence in Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal, this is, relatively speaking, enemy territory.

It’s especially so because this is not just a regular office of the direct-action environmental group. This office was set up specifically to try to shut down oilsands operations in Alberta.

Sitting inside the humble digs that appear to have once been an auto repair shop on 64 Avenue near 104 Street, Greenpeace spokesman Mike Hudema is reflecting on a year that has seen its activists fined for high profile stunts and wind up slapped with a $120,000 lawsuit for trespassing on Syncrude property near Fort McMurray.

Hudema’s dressed in a black anti-tarsands T-shirt that shows a map of Alberta and bloodstain-like splotches to indicate northern oilsands operations.

He has modest tattoos in Tibetan script on both his arms. One reads, “Resist the darkness,” the other, “Create the light.”

That pretty well sums up the philosophy of the Alberta-born activist, who holds a degree in education and one in law.

Had he chosen either of those fields, he could have made far more money than he’s paid to run the Edmonton Greenpeace office, but that doesn’t matter to him.

Money just can’t compete with his belief in the cause.

“I’ve always loved Alberta and want to save it for future generations,” says the 31-year-old who was born in Medicine Hat and educated at the University of Alberta.

Despite that oil is king in the province, Hudema insists he and other Greenpeace activists don’t get much of a rough ride for their views or publicity stunts.

“Most people think we need a better conversation about the tarsands,” he says, noting a recent poll by the Pembina Institute found that 71% of Albertans want oilsands development to slow down for a variety of reasons, including concerns over environmental degradation.

Hudema, naturally, can spin off all of the figures on that front.

“When you look at the land that’s impacted it’s incredible. There are 149,000 sq. km available for leasing by interested parties.

“Right now, the tarsands takes up an area about the size of Vancouver Island but it could grow to an area the size of the state of Florida.”

Hudema says the whole extraction process makes the tarsands deserving of the title of the world’s dirtiest oil.

“By 2020 the tarsands will emit roughly twice as many greenhouse gases annually than all the cars and light trucks in Canada produce today. That’s 141 million tons of greenhouse gases.

“It is three to five times as intensive to get a barrel of oil from tarsands as other places.”

Hudema truly believes the Alberta government is not responding to people’s desires about the oilsands.

While working for another environmental group in San Francisco, he says he learned a valuable lesson about not tackling a festering problem.

He and others from Global Exchange were meeting with Ford officials discussing more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Those officials, says Hudema, admitted they were behind the 8-ball at the time because the market had gone flat for many of the gas-hungry vehicles the firm was producing.

“They said, ‘We should have listened to you five years ago because we now don’t have the resources to immediately build those fuel efficient vehicles.’ He figures the Alberta government might one day be singing the same tune unless it backs off on tarsands development.

But what about concerns from people who believe getting out of the oilsands would devastate the economy?

The activist argues that two thirds of the jobs created are merely construction-related and will dry up in any case.

Besides, in Hudema’s view, global warming unchecked will create far more environmental and economic problems than shutting down the tarsands.

He feels more and more people are gradually coming around to that view — even here, in enemy territory.


One Response to “Love over Money”

  1. […] Good job. I’ll put a link to it from my blog. All the best. […]

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