Last Thursday and Friday we posted the first two parts of our interview with Branden Barber, Development Director of the Rainforest Action Network. They have four major campaigns running at the moment, and another one in the making. Today we’re posting Branden’s synopsis of their Freedom from Oil campaign, as well as the programs they have for kids and teens.
L&W- Tell us about your Freedom from Oil campaign and what areas are particularly at risk as a result of unsafe oil practices.
BB- We turned our attention to the Tar Sands in Alberta, Canada. It’s about the size of Florida. There are acres and acres of old-growth forests, and underneath that there are hundreds of feet of dirt, and underneath that dirt there’s this gooey, vituminous sandy mixture. And the bitchimin gets heated up, extracted with big pumps and run through a cleaning facility. And then run through a refinery that turns it into a kind of crude oil. It’s very high carbon. The amount of carbon that you get out of it is about three times the amount of the sweet crude that you get from, say, Saudi Arabia. And it’s also very expensive to bring to market. Just to get it out of the ground before it gets to the Chevron here in Richmond, CA, it takes three barrels of water and half a barrel of oil for heating just to get one barrel of high-carbon dirty oil. It’s a massive, massive operation that you can see from space and set the expand. It has large human impacts, such as forever toxifying the water supply and the habitat of these areas. We are working very hard with groups to stop investments in the Tar Sands, and we’re putting political pressure through on-the-ground groups on the Alberta government and the Federal Government of Canada. Unfortunately, Canada has very much bought into the amount of money they’re making from this practice and the foreign investment that goes along with it. But when their Prime Minister recently came down to visit with President Obama, RAN activists dropped a massive banner over Niagra Falls with an arrow pointing toward Canada basically saying Tar Sands, wrong way; United States alternative fuels, right way. That got a lot of media attention. And we’re going to keep up the pressure on that one. We’re working with groups around the world to create change with this campaign. To keep the Tar Sands in the ground and leave the trees alone, because they can’t sustain the torture they’re going through now. It’s reaching into water supplies, destroying people’s habitats. Young people from small, boon-town communities are dropping out of high school to go make money fast in the Tar Sands, and the corporations are taking full advantage of that. That’s one reason it’s continuing to thrive, regardless of the fact that the land can’t support it. We’re working to stop investments in the Tar Sands.
L&W- This is really fascinating- speaking of high school students, what are some of the programs that you offer to educate young people about your cause?
BB- Well, we actually have a great little micro-site called rainforestheroes.org that’s got some great stuff for educators and for kids. It has curriculum information, so if you want to teach a module on the rainforest, download this. It has presentations, it has a great movie that we made that stars the voice of Ed Azner and lovingly-crafted rainforest trees talking to each other about the kind of troubles they’re facing and how they wish it were different and how they want it to change. We also have youth groups, or Rise Groups, which is RAN youths sustaining the earth, and there are dozens of chapters that young people can be involved in. You can find them in high schools and college campuses across the country.
L&W- And how many RAN offices do you have?
BB- We have one main office here in San Francisco, but we have various groups that have formed around the world that work with us to support our efforts. We have RAN chapters in other countries- there’s RAN Italy, RAN Ghana, RAN Bengal- one of my favorite pictures I’ve received is of a street in India that was blocked off and they had around 100 folding chairs in front of a stage surrounded by hanging light bulbs on a string so it looked like a carnival, and on the stage were five or six guys and a big RAN banner behind them. These are ways we’re able to support forest projects around the world. There are only 37 of us here in the RAN office, but many people who ban together to give us support worldwide.
Check back tomorrow for more about their worldwide campaigns…