"The world's dirtiest oil"



Lots of media coverage over the last year has focused on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would run from Alberta's tar sands, south through Montana, and all the way to the Gulf Coast. We hear about the vigorous protests against a giant pipeline, the political implications of its approval or rejection, the promised jobs along the route, and so on, but very rarely does anyone take a step back and focus on the root of the issue: the tar sands themselves.

Canadian photographer Garth Lenz is currently touring an exhibit titled "The True Cost of Oil: Canada's Tar Sands and the The Last Great Forest."The collection of images offers a striking look at the tar sands, as well as the immediate surrounding area it's affecting. For instance, the tailings ponds alone are visible from space and comprise the largest toxic impoundments on the planet; Lenz's aerial shot shows just a portion of them. They're part of the reason Alberta's oil is known as "the world's dirtiest."

You can view Lenz's images on his website, or see his emotional speech at a recent TEDx conference in Victoria. The speech lasts 17 minutes but explains the scale of what's happening in Alberta, and why Lenz is so invested.

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