Reflection on the Alberta Oil Sands


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Settled in northeastern Alberta, the Athabasca oil sands are the largest deposits of oil in Canada. The Alberta tar sands currently supply more oil to the United States than any other different sources. It is fair to say that the Alberta oil industry contributes considerably to Canada’s economic and political development. Undeniably, Canada cannot bear to lose this business of oil supply because it brings $20 billion every year into the Canadian economy and provides 450000 people with jobs. Ordinarily speaking, we as Canadians should be extremely proud of this industry. However, apart from the benefits that it brings about, it causes even more detrimental environmental concerns. The Alberta tar sands lie under forests by the Athabasca River. When the river empties into the lake, it forms one of the world’s most important freshwater ecosystems. But, the Alberta oil field is a sea of sand immersed with a chemical called bitumen, usually carried within pipelines. Nevertheless, bitumen can easily leak and spill, getting into the water and therefore entering our ecosystem.

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As a result, creatures reside in that area are severely affected. In 2008, thousands of migrating ducks landed on this area of toxic chemicals and died consequently. Moreover, cancer and brain tumour are taking more and more people’s lives away due to the water pollution. As the public attention arises, the companies operating the oil sands are asked to investigate the water quality and make amendments to save lives and environment. Surprisingly, the companies lied about the issue of faulty water and progressed to endanger the citizens and the environment. Generally speaking, the behaviours and viewpoints of companies that own the oil sands are entirely contradictory to three of the Catholic social teaching pillars: life and dignity of the human person, rights and responsibility, and care for God’s creation, so we are called to criticize and condemn their actions and try our best to make improvements.

First and foremost, the behaviours of the companies that own the tar sands are firmly opposed to the Catholic social teaching pillar of life and dignity of the human person. In Catholic beliefs, human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the indispensable foundation of a moral society. This belief is the basis of all the principles of our social teaching. As Catholics, we hold that every person is precious and should be cherished equally. As the bishops’ conference said, “The measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.” Unquestionably, the oil companies are the kinds that endanger the life and dignity of the human person harshly. Initially, the water was suspected to have a problem.

The companies can have some excuse since they might be careless about the operating processes, causing the leak and spill of toxic chemicals. Then the local residents and scientists were suspicious about the water quality as the unusually large amount of people were getting sick all of a sudden. People all expected the companies to pause the business for a short while to thoroughly investigate the issue to make sure the water is safe. However, the companies did not do that. They insisted that the water was clean and continued their business as if nothing happened. They neglected the fact that people were extremely sick and dying because of polluted water-related health issues. In the eyes of the companies, only their profit and reputation matter. Their reckless disregard of the human lives and dignity significantly violates the Catholic social teaching theme of the life and dignity of the human person. In my opinion, the Catholic Church would solemnly condemn their actions and would call a stop to the companies’ business.

Furthermore, the viewpoints of the companies that own the tar sands are substantially different from the Catholic social teaching pillar of rights and responsibilities. In Catholic traditions, every person has an essential right to life and liberty. Correspondingly, we also have duties and responsibilities to our families, to our neighbours, and to the larger society. As human beings, we ought to fulfill our obligations in the way that is moral and aligns with our conscience. Conscience is a person’s moral sense of right and wrong, which guides to one’s behaviours. Unquestionably, the conscience of the companies was severely corrupt. After the companies refused to examine the water quality and take any measure to help local citizens, ethical scientists and environmentalists embarked on their journey to find out the truth.

The doctors studied the patients’ disease, discovering that there were a lot of weird medical cases that should not be happening so frequently in such a small scaled village. They highly suspected that there was something wrong with the water. Subsequently, environmentalists and biologists carefully analyzed the pH and other statistics of the water. To make sure the data was accurate, the scientists spent months calibrating the measurements and used certified labs so that the evidence can go to court. Experts specializing in different areas came together and proved that the water was severely polluted by toxic chemicals, and can cause incurable and fatal diseases, such as leukemia and cancer.

At this point in time, the companies of the Alberta oil sands, who are responsible for the whole issue, should stand out and take efficient approaches to resolve the problem. Surprisingly and sadly, they exclusively denied the results and refused to cease their business. They even stated that the coal-fired electricity in the United States is 40 times the pollution than their oil sands. Others are doing the wrongful deed does not mean you can follow them. The companies logic and viewpoints are disappointing and shameful. Needless to say, the companies’ perspective entirely opposes the Catholic social teaching theme of rights and responsibilities. Thus, the Catholic Church criticizes the sense of responsibility of the companies, calling us to take it as a warning and be moral individuals ourselves.

Last but not least, the actions of the companies that own the oil sands are massively contradictory to the Catholic social teaching pillar of care for God’s creation. God has two main marvellous creations: the environment and the humans. God has a fabulous plan for his creations. As His children, we need to show respect to Him by taking good care of his creations. Apart from loving our brothers and sisters, we are also called to care for our fellow environment. We need to raise our ecological awareness as the earth is incredibly amazing but brittle.

As mentioned above, the companies mercilessly neglected the life and dignity of the human person. Despite that, they also failed to accomplish the other task. Sadly, the companies that own the Alberta oil sands did not take good care of our environment at all. They tolerated and condoned the water pollution for their benefits. They became morally blind as they crazily pursue material gains. Their mischief would let the unsafe water get into our global water system sooner or later. If that day indeed comes, they would have to eat the evil fruit they planted themselves since they themselves would have to consume the poisoned water. What is more, water is useful in other essential areas, such as cleansing food, performing medical procedures. Water is vital for our survival. Additionally, the companies industrial developments are so vast that the disruption of the landscape is so extensive.

Consequently, the habitats of numerous animals are being destroyed right in front of our eyes. Even worse, the massive extinction of one species can lead to a chain reaction that endangers all the other species in the food chain as well. The ultimate consequence of the companies’ actions is unimaginable and unbearable. It is remarkably significant to take care of the environment and ecosystem as it is what every one of us depends on. Undoubtedly, the companies’ actions are fully against the Catholic social teaching theme of care for God’s creation. The Catholic Church condemns the companies that own the tar sands and desires us to care for God’s creation.

Therefore, as proven above, the behaviours and viewpoints of the companies that own the Alberta oil sands are firmly contradictory to the three Catholic social teaching pillars: life and dignity of the human person, rights and responsibility, and care for God’s creation. The Catholic social teaching themes do not apply to their actions at all because the companies are morally blinded by their greediness to pursue material gains. They did not want to lose profits and reputation.

So, their neglected the safety of the citizens, their duties to the others, and the threat to our ecosystem. Their heartless disregard of the human lives and dignity dramatically violates the Catholic social teaching theme of the life and dignity of the human person. Moreover, the companies’ corrupt conscience and feeble sense of responsibility failed to meet the Catholic social teaching theme of rights and responsibilities. Additionally, companies’ tremendous damage to our ecosystem goes against the Catholic social teaching theme of care for God’s creation. Overall, the Catholic Church condemns the various actions and perspectives of the companies that control the Alberta oil sands and calls them to take prompt measures to cease their business so that the issue can stop expanding and the people and environment can keep healthy.

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