Alberta Tar Sands To Be Turned Into New Lakes District

TurnerJMW Turner: Buttermere Lake/Public Domain

I am so proud to be a Canadian today, to know that my fellow environmentalists in the tar sands industry in Alberta have such glorious plans for Mordor. They plan to turn the area into a new Lakes District, like the one Turner paints in England. Nathan Vanderklippe of the Globe and Mail says it might be "a recreational haven complete with campgrounds, boating, fishing – even swimming." Who knows, maybe a new generation of artists like Turner or Canada's Group of Seven might be painting the scene a few decades from now. After all, the Lakes District in England wasn't always so beautiful and bucolic; when Daniel Defoe visited in 1724 he described it as "the wildest, most barren and frightful of any that I have passed over in England, or even Wales itself." And look what happened there in 200 years.

Alternatively, the new Alberta Lakes District might turn out to be " a landscape of ponds sullied by toxins and oil, a malingering presence left by an industrial experiment gone wrong."

Tom ThomsonThe West Wind; Tom Thomson/Public Domain

Just imagine a future Tom Thomson sitting by the side of a lake that used to be a giant toxic pit full of " hydrocarbons, salts and naphthenic acids sufficiently toxic that they cannot be released into the environment." Instead the tailings will be left at the bottom of the hole, capped with something non-permeable, and then filled with water, because Vanderklippe notes that "it’s less costly to fill a mine with water than dirt." It's all in a new report coming out this week from CEMA, The Cumulative Environmental Management Association, an industry group. Nobody knows if it will work; as one person told the Globe reporter,

This is a total crapshoot, in the sense that no one has ever done this before. But really, what are your options?

Lawren HarrisAfternoon Sun, Lake Superior, 1924 Lawren Harris/Public Domain

It isn't going to be a quick process either;

The lakes are a project that will engage several generations. Each stands to take a century of work to plan, mine out and establish into a functioning ecological feature. From the moment workers end mining and begin filling the lakes, it could take fully 40 years before governments begin certifying them as environmentally sustainable, the 436-page CEMA report estimates.

LismerSombre Isle of Pic, Lake Superior, 1927, Arthur Lismer/Public Domain

But the lakes of Canada have been an inspiration to artists for several generations, we can wait. I look forward to my grandchildren seeing visions of Lismer and Thomson and Harris by the shores of Lake Syncrude some day. More in the Globe and Mail

Alberta Tar Sands To Be Turned Into New Lakes District
Fishing and swimming and boating, it all sounds so bucolic and wonderful. Can't wait!

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