A Line in the Tar Sands: A Publishers Weekly Review

A Line in the Tar Sands: Struggles for Environmental Justice

Publishers Weekly
February 2015

Academics, environmental scientists, and climate-change activists from across North America rail against the extraction of tar sands in Alberta, Canada, and controversial developments such as the Keystone XL pipeline, in this collection of pointed essays. It’s a fight that Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben here call one of “the epic environmental and social justice battles of our time,” and the variety of perspectives gives the collection comprehensive insight and broad appeal. The book’s tone is intense and emphatic. Extracting tar sands from the Athabasca River Basin in western Canada, the authors say, destroys the environment, affecting huge portions of boreal forest and numerous animal habitats. The essays also make clear how extraction practices have the potential to create an ecological wasteland reminiscent of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Mordor, threatening “the homelands of Cree, Dene, and Metis peoples.” Similarly, transporting crude oil to faraway refineries through a network of pipelines also poses significant health risks: local communities see elevated rates of cancers and respiratory illnesses due to air-quality issues and water contamination. Though these sorts of projections seem stark, apocalyptic, and stomach-turning, the worries are legitimate and give this volume substance and urgency.

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