Friday, August 5, 2011

Catholic perspectives on ethical oil versus Canada's oil sands

Church says to protect the Earth but not at the expense of human life
The national debate over the Alberta Oil Sands has heated up again, this time for ethical reasons. Several Canadian media outlets are following the work of Alykhan Velshi and his organization's website Ethical Velshi, a lawyer and a former communications director for Canadian Immigration, is leading the charge defending Canada's oil sands for ethical practices versus those of foreign oil providers.

It has been common public knowledge that the majority of the world's oil comes from places like Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. Countries not known for winning the Nobel Peace Prize, often the subject of violations of human rights. Much of the profits those countries make from their oil supply go to repress its own people, and find its way into the pockets of a select few. All this while having no regard for the physical environment.
In contrast to the obvious human rights issues of these conflict oil countries is the environmentalists trying to shut down and demonize Canada's oil industry. While these groups are justified by the mass amounts of destruction oil can have on the surrounding environment, the alternative does that as well. Also allowing consumers to be blind directors of genocide.

But what about the Catholic say on this issue? Does God not condemn the possible destruction of his earth? Would Jesus want us using a substance that is not only bad for the environment but people's health? But most importantly, would Jesus be on board with the Western World's oil consumption through the means of conflict oil?

"Our wasteful consumerist lifestyle, combined with political and industrial short-sightedness and neglect, are damaging our air, land, and water," said Bishop Luc Bouchard of St. Paul in Alberta, in a 2009 letter addressing the Alberta Oil Sands posted on the website Bishop Bouchard didn't exactly mince his words about the environmental destruction. Comforting words to those who want to keep the Earth green for generations to come.
However the bishop went on to say "the oil sands plants have a deserved good reputation for fostering team work and innovation, promoting safety awareness, encouraging positive race relations, supporting the involvement of aboriginal entrepreneurs, advancing the role of women in the work place, and financing research and development in the environmental sciences."

Encompassing the bishop's address was the view to protect God's created environment. Overall the bishop was quick to talk about how proud he was of the Fort McMurray community, and the work of two of its biggest employers Syncrude and Suncor. But he was skeptical of the industries commitment to environmental care. However since his address was written, oil companies have taken steps to follow the desired environmental regulations.

Even James Cameron, director of Avatar and a prominent oil sands critic, told Peter Mansbridge during an interview in late 2010, that he thought both options (oil sands vs conflict oil) were "bad choices." However he was impressed with the amount of work and the open discussion going on with the oil sands companies about the environmental impact.

Catholic Social Teaching (CST) says we as human beings must be wise to the actions of the World Leaders. Making sure to uphold economic justice while also maintain a preferential option for the poor and marginalised.

The solution from all parties on this debate between the merits of the environment impact versus the treatment of human beings is not easy. However well off countries like Canada, the US, and Britain need to understand the obligation and privilege of defending the exploited living in these conflict oil nations.

As Pope John Paul II the Great said in regards to the CST, “political leaders and citizens of rich countries, especially if they are Christians, have the moral obligation to take into consideration in personal decisions and decisions of government, the interdependence which exists between their conduct and the poverty and underdevelopment of so many millions of people."

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