Athabasca River Pilgrimage from source to the Tar Sands

Maureen Wild

Submitted Article

Monday, October 21 2013

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel through the majesty of the Alberta Rockies, along the beauty of the Athabasca River where it begins from the melt of the Columbia Icefields, then courses north through boreal and prairie farmlands? And intentionally go the extra yard to where the Athabasca River meets the industry of the Alberta Tar Sands?  Yes, this is the same water used in bitumen extraction - millions of litres per day becomes the chemical soup of the tailings ponds.  

This was no ordinary voyage but rather an inner journey to witness the depths of the outer reality of a wild and wonderful, and recently acclaimed “Heritage River” in Alberta’s Jasper National Park; a pilgrimage to witness the stunning majesty of this river, the life that depends on it. To witness also the disquieting reality that, as it leaves the protection of the National Park, mega amounts are sucked up into industry for hydraulic fracturing; witness that it is the carrier of effluent from pulp mills; further north, witness that its waters are trapped and stilled in toxic reservoirs as big as lakes, the chemical soup from bitumen extraction, dispersing its toxicity in vapour and leakage; then also to “be with,” and listen to, First Nation women elders who live surrounded by tar sands industry.  

The great diminishment of a river of life, the excessive cost of our energy-intensive lifestyles can bring all manner of inner angst to a “pilgrim,” and at the same time bring a deepening resolve to find alternative ways to protect life and engage in creative resistance to the forces that destroy. No doubt a Herculean effort in this time - for life!

Through slides and commentary, Gabriolan Maureen Wild will share her recent two-week experience of an Athabasca River Pilgrimage from source to tar sands and back again. To be held at The Rollo Centre, Friday, November 1at 7:00 p.m.