I just came back from an inspiring couple of days in Brussels with Friends of the Earth communicators from across Europe. Top of the agenda shared by everyone was how to campaign on tar sands. Not too sure what tar sands are and what impact they have on the planet? Then read on! And make sure you come along to our ‘Alternative RBS AGM’ this Wednesday 28 April to listen to an inspiring tar sands campaigner from Canada – find out more.

If you thought that conventional oil was bad for the planet, the extraction of tar sands produces up to 300% more emissions that contribute to climate change. Tar sands are made from oil rich bitumen that lies underneath the forests of Alberta, Canada. Until recently, oil companies weren’t exploiting tar sands as there was plenty of more accessible oil to be found from other sources. But with oil supplies diminishing this is fast becoming a new source of oil – and money for the corporations.

The extraction of tar sands is hugely energy

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intensive and uses up gallons of fresh water, which is affecting the local eco-system and taking away supplies of fresh drinking water from the local communities. The process leaves behind toxic chemicals which are left in large ‘toxic lakes” with a risk of contaminating the local water supply. Deforestation is occurring in the places where tar sands are being mined and there are large scars on the landscape where roads and pipe lines have been constructed.

There’s also a big impact on human rights, which is why groups like Amnesty International and Survival International are also involved in campaigning against tar sands. Despite a treaty protecting the rights of indigenous people to follow their vocations of hunting, trapping and fishing this has been dramatically reduced due to fear of toxic contamination. In the affected areas rates of cancer and immune related illnesses have increased due to the high level of toxins in the water.

So it all sounds pretty awful – and there’s a link to Scotland too. The Royal Bank of Scotland, known as RBS, is providing large amounts of finance to companies involved in tar sands extraction. During the banking crisis in 2008, the UK government injected public funds to save the banks – so RBS is now using our money to fund tar sands extraction. Outraged? So you should be! Want to do something about it?

We have an ideal opportunity this week to target RBS as their AGM is taking place on Wednesday at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. We have stunts planned and an Alternative AGM which is open for all to attend. Do come along – you can find details on our website.

Please also spend two minutes completing our RBS cyberaction.