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Oil sands exploitation in Fort MacKay, Albertra
Oil sands exploitation in Fort MacKay, Albertra
Manon Rescan

FORT MACKAY — Figuring out which way the winds are blowing is a piece of cake in the hamlet of Fort MacKay, Canada. Just follow the direction of the fumes. On this cold February morning, with temperatures below -20 °C (-4 ºF) in the northern part of Alberta, the columns rising from the chimneys of the oil sands exploitation sites are pushed to the south. But sometimes, they choose to head north, following the Athabasca River and settling on this small Indian reserve, a village of 700 inhabitants, surrounded by the oil industry.

Fort MacKay's natives were here long before Alberta began harvesting the black gold from its soil in the 1960s. The province is home to the world's third-largest unconventional oil reserve (168 billion barrels), a dense and sticky bitumen mixed with sand, clay and water. Extracting these oil sands has made the region prosper in many ways, and few foresee its decline, despite falling oil prices.

The province continues to look for outlets for the more than two million barrels it's capable of producing daily. Even though President Barack Obama vetoed legislative approval of the Keystone XL project — a pipeline that would transport part of the oil sands to the Gulf of Mexico — the industry shows no signs of slowing down. And this despite the many alarming reports of the environmental toll for which the industry is responsible.

Oil sands extraction produces three to four times more greenhouse gases than conventional oil harvesting, and is already responsible for 800 square kilometers of boreal forests being razed. It threatens to kill off the caribou as it requires the pumping of vast quantities of water from a river whose level is dropping every year.

On the bank of the Athabasca River, Roddy Boucher points with naked hands, despite the biting cold, in the direction of fumes rising from at least three industrial sites on the horizon. "The view used to be nicer," he says with nostalgia.

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Geopolitics

Our 'Emotional' Divide: How The Ukraine War Reveals A World Broken In Two

Russia's invasion has created a stark global divide: them and us. On one side are the countries refusing to condemn Moscow, with the West on the other. It's a dangerous split that could have repercussions far into the future.

Protesters against the war in Ukraine demonstrate in front of the Russian embassy in London

Dominique Moïsi

-Analysis-

PARIS — "The West and the Rest of Us." That's the title of a 1975 essay written by Nigerian essayist and critic Chinweizu Ibekwe. I've been thinking about his words as the war in Ukraine both reveals and accelerates divisions of the world that I believe are ultimately "emotional" in nature.

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With war returning to Europe and the risk of escalation, there is a gap between the Western view and that of the "others," a distinct "us and them." This gap cannot be explained in strictly geographical, political, and economic terms.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

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