Transcripts for Closed Captioning



The End of Oil



Time code 10:01:00;10


(Sigourney Weaver)

For Chief Alan Adam

and generations of his people,

the land is life. 

Then one day,

the land changed.

The world’s largest corporations

came looking for oil.


This Canadian wilderness

sits atop what many think

is the biggest deposit

of oil on the planet. 

A sea of sand

soaked with bitumen.

The tar sands.


For decades,

mining the sands

was an unprofitable experiment. 

Now, in a world running out

of conventional oil,

this is what’s left,

and there’s a fortune to be made.


Time code 10:02:25;22


(Sigourney Weaver continues)

The tar sands now supply more

oil to the United States than

any other foreign source.

A century of secure energy.


Time code 10:02:49;24


When I entered into politics,

I thought we were going to cash in on

the economic development

in the region and be part

of the whole atmosphere

and work on it from there.

But then as we got into it,

seven, eight, nine people

were diagnosed with cancer

in the last two years

that have passed on.

And that's an alarming number

that we have to deal with.

We live by the lake shore

of Lake Athabasca.

The river flows down from the    

Athabasca river.

You can put 2 and 2 together.

It's our turn now

to say "enough is enough!"


Time code 10:03:45;24


(Sigourney Weaver)

The Alberta oil sands

lie under boreal forests 

drained by the Athabasca River

as it flows northward. 


Where the river empties into the lake,

it forms one of the world’s

great freshwater delta ecosystems.


On the shores of Lake Athabasca

sits tiny Fort Chipewyan. 

Population: 1,027

As the river feeds the lake,

it brings the riches of the land.

But 120 kilometers upstream,

the river also feeds the tar sands

and carries away a toxic burden. 


Time code 10:04:35;26


There's my Uncle Raymond.

He had died with a brain tumor.

And my Granny, she died of cancer.

And my Auntie Alvina Du Quion,

her too with cancer.


And my Uncle Naton this side up here,

he too died with a brain tumor.

So it's brain tumors and cancer

that they mostly died of.


I moved down here nine years ago

from Edmonton, and Lac La Biche,

to come raise my kids down here

because I grew up here.

This community is supposed

to be a good community to raise your family.

Both my sisters have got cancer,

and I'm just worried my kids

will end up getting it, or I'll end up getting it...

my parents.

We all cope.

Everybody grieves.


Time code 10:05:29;20


Arsenic is a very clear-cut carcinogen.

It's a cancer maker, and it is associated

with bitumen production.

The more you process those deposits,

the more your going to bring arsenic and lead

and other heavy metals to the surface.

And if you're not careful, over time you will see

larger and larger pulses of arsenic and other

cancer-makers enter waterways.



Time code 10:06:00;17


When my grandpa came out here

to this part of the country,

he fell in love with the delta

because everything was so plentiful-

birds, muskrat, you name it.

He was 86 years old when

he quit trapping, the old guy.

I don’t know if I’ll ever reach that.

You know, there's quite

a few people that have had cancer,

I'll always believe it's something

to do with the water,

and plus the fish that we eat from

Lake Athabasca.

There's supposed to be

two or three different types of cancer.

Young people died from it.


Time code 10:06:55;29


The community relies heavily

on traditional foods here.

If the water's effected,

then the animals are drawn

to the water to survive,

and it could be within

the traditional foods itself.


Time code 10:07:09;00


Well I don't think anybody

eats fish any more.

We don't, anyway.

They're deformed or bend over,

some of them have humped

backs or are crooked.

Some of them, their cheeks

are just eaten right off, like acid ate them.


Time code 10:07:27;15


I began to notice patients

had lupus, rheumatoid arthritis

and bile duct cancers.

Statistically, I'm not supposed

to see more than 1 in a 100,000.

It is certainly one that

can be can be connected

directly with toxins

in the environment.

I felt a base line health study

should be undertaken.

And that didn’t happen.

The very first visit by the group

of physicians from Health Canada,

this physician went into the kitchen

grabbed a mug, filled it

with water from the sink (tap),

took a swig, put it down

and basically turned and said

"There's nothing wrong with

the water here in Fort Chipewyan."

I thought that was a real shocker,

and the community reacted

predictably to that.

They were very angry

that this had happened

and it was kind of a kick

in the face, I guess.



Time code 10:08:16;12


It hurts big time.


No increase in dose or anything?


Some increase in morphine,

30 pills a day I think.


Two or three at 2:00 pm

and again at 4:00pm

and at night time-



Time code 10:08:30;08


(Sigourney Weaver)

But instead of a cancer study,

Dr. O'Connor found himself

the target of an investigation.

The list of accusations against

the doctor was long.

He was charged with “raising undue alarm”

in Fort Chipewyan.


His reputation under fire,

O'Connor had no choice

but to leave his practice.



Time code 10:08:56;04


They caused undue alarm

to us by doing what they did to our doctor,

that the whole community respected.

It wasn't right what they did.

They never consulted with us at all,

so they were in the wrong.

The governments were in the wrong.



Time code 10:09:13;08


Wherever the leadership

of the Health Board is,

they're the ones causing

all this chaos over here,

not telling us the truth.

There's got to be something wrong

to cause that much pain

on our end over here, you know?




See, this is the fish I’m talking about.


Oh my god!


Time code 10:09:47;15


We've been catching quite a few of these fish,

but the fishermen got frustrated

and they just keep on throwing them overboard.

We’ve been finding these

fish for a number of years now.

Deformities on the Northern Pike too.


If they’re exposed to these chemicals,

the studies that have been done

indicate that 80% to 90% of them die

before they even hatch.

But the ones that do (live)

probably end up like that.


It’s very scary.

In time I think this lake

will be totally destroyed,

if we don't try to do

something about it, you know?



Time code 10:10:30;22


I've been a commercial fisherman for 53 years.

In the whole of Lake Athabasca,

I never, ever saw deformed

fish in my younger days.

And I have lost at least

eight members of my family to cancer.

Sometimes when I think about it

I get pretty upset with what

they have done to our lake and our waters

and whatever we have over there to survive on.

It's sad to say this, but it's true.

We need help.


Time code 10:11:11;00


(Sigourney Weaver)

In the 1970’s, David Schindler’s research

led to banning harmful

phosphates in detergent. 

He was pivotal in

the global fight to curb acid rain. 

Now he's turning his

attention to the tar sands.


Over the years,

Schindler has watched governments 

turn water monitoring

in the Athabasca River over

to industry-funded consultants.


The Alberta Government claims

the tar sands leave

the Athabasca River unpolluted,

but Schindler is not convinced.


Time code 10:11:47;06


These pollutants are emerging pollutants.

The first time it was really shown that at

low concentrations they could have

long term impacts was at the Exxon Valdez.

Sea otters and some of the water fowl

are still being effected 18 years after the spill.

A lot of these same compounds

are in high concentrations in the tar sands.

They're toxic at parts per trillion.


(David Schindler continues)

We hired Erin Kelly to do this.

Her specialty is in mercury.

And Jeff Short, who worked around the Exxon Valdez for 20 years and had developed

some really state of the art techniques for monitoring polycyclic aromatics.


Time code 10:12:39;17


We're sampling for metals and pH,

and we're looking at different media

including fish, water and vegetation.

In the winter time we did snow sampling.


Is that a pike?

Yeah, it's a nice pike.


I became a part of this project

because of the controversy

surrounding it and because

I think that this river

and the people that live on it

deserve some good science

to answer some questions

that a lot of people are asking.


Time code 10:12:39;17


(Sigourney Weaver)

Knowing their findings

could be controversial,

Schindler’s researchers

are extremely careful in their methods.


Time code 10:13:14;14


We spent months

inter-calibrating our measurements

with those by the National Oceanic

and Atmospheric Association.

Our other analyses were all

done by certified laboratories

because they're the only kind

of evidence that will stand up in court.

We've covered our bases

in a lot of ways that most

University research wouldn't.


Time code 10:13:43;17


(speaking in Dene)


Nice to see you.


Time code 10:13:48;10


How high did the water

used to come here?


Oh, high!




Up to here.

See the shoreline here?


Uh huh.


Water's gone down quite a bit.


That's for sure.


Time code 10:14:01;20


Though we're over 100 miles

from Fort McMurray, we are effected.

Definitely effected.

This river here, as we know it,

it's not the same anymore.

Not the same.

When I travel on the river,

I've got to bring fresh drinking water.

You just about nearly

have to have a UN envoy,

someone from the UN

monitoring what's happening,

like they're monitoring Afghanistan.

Who is monitoring the river here?

It's our survival.

It's the survival of our people.

If you kill the river,

then where are we going to turn to?



Time code 10:14:01;20


(Sigourney Weaver)

In 1899, Francois Paulette’s grandfather signed

a treaty with the British Crown. 

As a 22-year old Chief in the 1970s,

Paulette went to the Supreme Court

to argue Canada had let down

its side of the bargain.

He won the case. 

His victory changed Canadian law,

and launched the era of Native land claims.

Francois brings Chief Alan Adam

to a meeting of the Dene Nation,

whose chiefs come from settlements

stretching to the Arctic Ocean. 

Like Fort Chipewyan,

they’re all downstream of the tar sands.



Time code 10:15:18;26


A lot of Chiefs have differences when it comes to issues relating to the community.

The only one common goal that they could relate to is land and water.

The land that ties the people together

and the water that makes you

survive off the land.

For 40 years, development

has been going on in the region

and we're feeling the impacts of it here today.

Another 40 years of development

in the region and you're going

to feel the impact of it tomorrow.

So you have to start intervening.

Start raising your voices.

But if I am left to fight this battle alone,

without the support of others,

it’s sad to say that I have no other

option but to make an agreement

with industry and government.



Time code 10:16:52;20


(Sigourney Weaver)

Once upon a time,

nobody noticed the tar sands.

But this is now the biggest

construction project in the world.

It’s hard to miss.

An article in National Geographic describes tar sands refineries as “dark satanic mills”.

Canadian politicians strike back.


Time code 10:17:13;15


Carbon emissions from coal fired

electricity in the United States

are forty times the emissions of the oil sands.


Time code 10:17:19;03


Am I proud of this industry?

You bet. It's a world leader.

We just need to make it better.

But I don't take lessons

from the National Geographic.



Time code 10:17:31;05


(Sigourney Weaver)

In 2008, thousands of migrating ducks

land on a lake of toxic waste.

The disaster makes headlines around the world.

As the label “dirty oil” begins to stick,

the industry shoots back with a reminder –

the world needs energy,

and Canada needs the tar sands.


Time code 10:18: 05;14


Even in the heart of the recession,

for the death of a race of people.


I foresee the apology for the death of the community of Fort Chipewyan.


Time code 11:24:21;00


Canada has long enjoyed a reputation of being a peaceful, constructive nation which has played an active role in global treaty making and creating a community of nations.

But there’s a huge gulf between that national image and what actually goes on the country.

It strikes me that Canada

is suffering from the oil curse.

And the oil curse is what happens

when a nation comes to rely

to a large extent on an important

primary  resource which can

be monopolized by few people.

That’s what happens with oil everywhere.

And politically the nation becomes

brutalized by that resource and

by the politics that surround it.


Time code 11:25:06;24


(protestors chanting)

Get off our street!

Get off our street!

Get off our street!

Get off our street!

Get off our street!


Fuck you!




Holy shit!


(riot police)



Grounds for arrest exist and

we are enforcing it for your safety.

You are asked to leave this area.


bang, bang, bang,





I am peaceful!

I am peaceful!

Where do I go?



Get back!






Get back!






I’m surrounded!

Where can we go?



Time code 11:26:07;03


You should be ashamed of yourselves!


(protestor chanting)





Time code 11:26:21;08



Get back!


Yes sir!


(protestor chanting)






You should have taken this somewhere else,

Not in our neighborhood!

How would you like it if your kids

were to wake up and come out to see this?!


Time code 11:26:28;10


(Sigourney Weaver)

It’s a world of peak oil.

Every year, demand grows by 2%.

Global oil reserves are shrinking

by 7% ever year.

We just can’t find enough

to replace what we burn.


Time code 11:26:58;27


We're either going to be dependent

on dirty oil from the Gulf,

or dependent on dirty oil from Canada.


Of course the U.S. is equally

complicit in the whole thing.

We're the junkie that's buying

the drugs that Canada's pedaling.


Time code 11:26:28;10


(Sigourney Weaver)

The oil sands are impossible to ignore. 

Pressure is mounting to build a huge new pipeline from Alberta to refineries in Texas. 

It will cement the hold of Canada’s dirty oil

on the US market for a generation.


Time code 11:27:57;05


Ever since we got hooked on oil,

we became committed to this idea

of exponential growth

because oil permitted it.

Oil allowed us to globalize,

allowed us to change agriculture.

Massive population growth,

massive concentration of people in cities.

That's all been a function of oil.


Time code 11:28:34;29


It is making us dependent

on short term thinking, short term gains,

and ignoring the long term downside.

We are beggaring the future.

Not only destroying other cultures,

and other species but we are beggaring

our own descendents by indulging in this

oil fuel binge and just burning up

the planets deposit of liquid hydrocarbon

in a matter of a hundred years or so.


Time code 11:29:11;06


If the development of the tars sands

has one good thing about it,

it might be that it wakes us up.

Business as usual is over.

We've run out of time.

It is the tipping point.

It's telling us that everything about

fossil fuel economies have changed

in terms of cost, in terms of scale,

in terms of environmental footprint.

Everything has changed.

Now if as a society,

we can respond to that and say

"You know what, we need to get

off this within 30 years",

then that would be great.

If we don't respond to it,

then as a society, we will likely collapse

because you cannot sustain a civilization

on a resource as dirty as bitumen.


Time code 11:30:07;25


There's been this prophecy

where vehicles, brand new vehicles,

are just abandoned on the highway.

On the roads everywhere.

They're all over the place, just left.

People just walking away from them.


There are many a prophecies

that tell of this era that

man has made is going to come to a close.
























In this area where

the tar sands are operating,

this is an area where

the indigenous people

were never farmers.

It's not really suitable

for farming up there.

They were hunter-gatherers,

and hunter-gatherers have 

a very intimate relationship

with natural systems and effectively,

they have to trim their sails,

or adjust their load on nature

to whatever nature can provide.

And so, a hunter-gatherer society

is really always planning for eternity.










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