The greatest concern is what happens if this development is allowed to continue.

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James Hansen, the former director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and one of the first scientists to sound the alarm about climate change in the 1980s, estimates that the remaining reserves of tar sands contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the entire global oil industry—in all of human history.

Hansen has been unequivocal about the consequences if such resources are exploited.

It requires grand-scale removal just to make the narrow profit margins work.

More than 250 square miles of former boreal forest have already been stripped away, and by 2030 the industry hopes to extract all the mineable tar sands from the 1,853 square miles of deposits, an area larger than Rhode Island.

In the 50 years that followed, Boucher saw his people’s access to hunting grounds and traplines fenced off as logging interests moved in.

And in 1946, after suffering through wartime shortages of oil and gas, Alberta’s provincial government unveiled a joint project with an Edmonton-based company called Oil Sands, Ltd.

Adam Boucher was an elder of the Fort Mc Kay First Nation, descended directly from the hereditary leaders of the Chipewyan people, who in the 19th century had intermarried with French and Scottish voyageurs as they established traplines for the North West Company and Hudson’s Bay Company.

Boucher was a child when his uncle, as headman of the Chipewyan band, added his X to Treaty 8 with Queen Victoria, surrendering their ancestral land around Moose Lake to Canada and Great Britain in return for a reserve along the Athabasca.

“If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing,” he wrote in a All of which might have escaped the attention of the American public if not for the Keystone XL pipeline.

The proposed billion project, intended to carry bitumen and a soup of chemical diluents from northern Alberta to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast—for further processing and shipment around the world—has turned into a six-year battle between environmentalists and industry supporters.

By the time of the ice breakup that year, the site had been cleared and crew quarters erected, and a power plant was swiftly being built. Traveling from Mc Murray to Mc Kay doesn’t take long—it’s less than 40 miles—but the transformation you see in that short distance is astounding.