Quitter! Tar Sand Employee Quits Over Damage


Canada’s internationally condemned tar sand oil extraction is one of the most environmentally damaging operations on Earth. We’ve covered that before, of course, and even noted some Canadians’ resentment of emerging technologies (like electric cars) that might reduce consumer demand for Canadian oil in North America and, therefor, reduce their income. That realization, that there are people out there willing to work against technologies that could improve the quality of life of their children and children’s children in exchange for a bigger TV and a flashier pickup, was pretty disappointing.

A few weeks ago, however, a Reddit user claiming to work for a tar sand oil extraction company says he quit his job over moral objections to the destruction his work was causing. He even posted the following video, below, to illustrate the point.

This video is over a year old, but none of the facts presented therein have changed. The tar sands are still an environmental disaster of epic proportions, but the oil industry and the conservative political establishment are working to push regulation (like the controversial but under-publicized Yukon XL pipeline) that will allow companies to squeeze even more oil out of the tar. This looter cash-grab is resulting in the wholesale destruction of Canada’s Boreal forests, which represent the last and largest swaths of pristine forest in the western hemisphere.

Because of the oil companies’ resistance towards outside regulation and monitoring, it’s still unclear how much damage tar sand oil extraction is doing to the public health, and officials and investigators can’t yet be sure of how much toxic waste is leeching out of the slurry pits and contaminating nearby waterways.

It’s a bad scene, in other words – one that’s been called a “carbon bomb” by one of the nation’s top climate scientists, NASA’s Dr. James Hansen, who adds that continuing extraction of oil from the region would be “game over for the climate”.

Back to our new favorite person: Quitty McQuitterton. Under a post entitled “I just quit my [very well paying] job in Northern Alberta, Canada because I didn’t want to be a part of this: (video)”, Quitty (Reddit user Johnnypondwater) added some commentary. He wrote that “My job is probably already filled. The oil sands will probably continue to expand and be extracted for the next 30+ years. It is that sort of ignorant ‘oh well it’s going to happen anyway’ attitude that is sending the environmental state in a downward spiral. Me quitting my job was a personal/moral decision I made because I didn’t want to be a part of the wide destruction and contamination of the environment in that area. But hey, maybe I’m just naive. People need to think differently I reckon.”

Indeed they do, Johhny. Indeed they do.

For what it’s worth, the community at Reddit rallied to support the user’s decision when the original post came up (on Valentine’s Day), applauding him for making the right call. I think everyone here at Important Media is 100% behind Johnny, as well.

What about you, dear readers? Are you behind Johnny, or are you applying for his job? Let us know, in the comments.

Source: Reddit, via Treehugger

About the Author

I’ve been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.

  • This is worth looking through: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2009/03/canadian-oil-sands/essick-photography. And so is this: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=k&om=0&ll=57,-111.45&spn=0.415856,1.257935 Be sure to look at the scale at the bottom to get an idea of how immense this area is. And why aren’t we looking intio thorium/nuclear?

  • Brad Arnold

    Oil-sands is soon going to be obsolete, because there is a new clean energy technology that is one tenth the cost of coal. LENR using nickel. Incredibly: Ni+H(heated under pressure)=Cu+lots of heat.

    This phenomenon (LENR) has been confirmed in hundreds of published scientific papers: http://lenr-canr.org/acrobat/RothwellJtallyofcol.pdf

    “Over 2 decades with over 100 experiments worldwide indicate LENR is real, much greater than chemical…” –Dennis M. Bushnell, Chief Scientist, NASA Langley Research Center

    “Energy density many orders of magnitude over chemical.” Michael A. Nelson, NASA

    “Total replacement of fossil fuels for everything but synthetic organic chemistry.” –Dr. Joseph M. Zawodny, NASA

    By the way, here is a survey of all the companies that are bringing LENR to commercialization: http://www.cleantechblog.com/2011/08/the-new-breed-of-energy-catalyzers-ready-for-commercialization.html

    • I’m not sure any of that translates to “soon”, especially considering how many politicians worldwide are heavily invested in keeping oil companies happy.

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  • Rob B

    I sympathize with this person’s reasons for quitting, and people have all kinds of respectable reasons to quit any job even if they’re just personal reasons. But I think that if we’re judging the political efficacy of a decision to quit, environmentally-concerned people who work in the tar sands really need to NOT quit — if they can at all stomach it.

    The reason for this is that people with concerns or disgust are more likely to do a wildcat strike action over an environmental, labour or other social justice issue — which is going to be the only thing that can slow or stop tarsands operations in the next decade. It won’t be legislated out of existence. It will be workers who organize to stop it from within.

    I don’t have the cynicism that the tarsands will last forever, but I really dislike how “setting a moral example” has seemingly become the only recognized form of activism, rather than actual organizing of collective job action. After all, most people aren’t in the financial position to just quit their jobs.

    If one really thinks there are no opportunities or possibility for organizing in any industry involved in the tarsands, then by all means, quit. But if the job is going to be done “anyway,” then your shoes will just as likely be filled by someone who doesn’t care or even approves of the tar sands. Which will make tarsands development harder to stop or slow down. It’s not like we can avoid using oil for many things — so being in the belly of the beast, so to speak, may be the best place for someone who wants to act against tarsands development.

    • You’re not wrong, but I think that anyone who “can at all stomach it” has some serious problems. Good for him for quitting.

  • I’ve changed my mind, Rob. You’re 100% wrong. Imagine how many evil companies there would be if no one would work for them. Imagine how many wars there would be if no one was willing to fight in them. Etc. The guy sweeping the floors is as guilty as the guys in the boardroom, is what I’m saying. F*** ’em all.

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  • wolftimber

    The root of all of these problems is not what each person uses, recycles or doesn’t, it’s TOO MANY PEOPLE! we stand at 316 MILLION now in the USA, as recently as 1950 it was less than half that- 150 million, just 50 years before it was half of that (less than 1/4 what it is today) at 75 million, this is simply an inevitable train-wreck with the train heading down the tracks at 100 mph and picking up speed as it barrels towards the point where the tracks abruptly END!
    Time for some ONE child per couple laws, removing of all tax credits, free day care, free busing, free shools and advantages given to breeders per child that encourages them to have 2,3,4 and 5 kids while over 250,000 sit in FOSTER CARE for lack of homes!

    Turning your thermostat down to 65 from 68 or replacing that bathroom bulb with another that uses 15 watts less, or recycling that 2 grams worth of plastic in a plastic grocery bag aint gonna cut it when we keep adding MORE mouths to feed, and every new mouth means one new home has to be built, another car on the road, several more tractor trailer loads worth of food has to be grown, transported, one more connection to already overstrained electrical and utility grids, one more set of faucets using that much more fresh water etc etc.

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