In Pictures – Over 25,000 march in Quebec City for Climate Action


On Saturday, April 4, 2015, over 25,000 citizens marched in Quebec City calling on Canadian Premiers and the Federal Government to Act on Climate. I was contracted by Greenpeace to cover this huge moment. Those images have been shared and used widely on the net the last few days, including over 15,000 times here on ThinkProgress. I believe that this march is a sign that the climate movement has hit a tipping point.


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A portrait, CBC and copyright


Every photographer at some point deals with copyright infringement. It is an unpleasant reality of putting your images on the web. That said, it will never cease to surprise me as I scan through Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn to find one of my images staring back at me with no clue how it got there.

It happened today.  Scanning my social media I came across this image of Lionel Lepine, an amazing AFCN activist and friend, headlining an article on Neil Young’s upcoming benefit tour on the CBC News site. The CBC is a respected outlet in Canada and I was especially surprised to see that they had credited the image to one ‘Richard van Waarden’.

After allowing myself sufficient time to process the annoyance, it was a question of finding a solution. This time it was easy. I called another photographer credited in the article and got the email of the producer. I sent an email highlighting my concerns and my fee and within minutes, yes minutes, the producer was on the phone. They apologized, admitted they had screwed up, changed the credit immediately and asked for an invoice.

It is never pleasant to have to deal with copyright infringement, either from a photographer side or from a producer side. However in my experience if dealt with intelligently a solution can usually be found that is acceptable to both parties. See the updated article here. 



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Little Black Lies in Calgary – a Tar Sands Talk by Jeff Gailus

I little black lieshave teamed up with Canadian author Jeff Gailus for his Tar Sands talk, Little Black Lies, tomorrow night in Calgary, Canada. During Jeff’s talk my photographs from the Tar Sands will be playing in the background.

If you are in Calgary tomorrow, join Jeff Gailus as he explores the intersection of two of the most salient features of the early twenty-first century: the explosion of tar sands development and the ubiquity of hogwash. The two, he posits, are companions of sorts, each engaged in a symbiotic dance that allows them both to thrive—to the detriment of our moral and social well being.

Jeff is the author of the Grizzly Manifesto and a Fellow of the International League of Conservation Writers. I am very happy to join forces with him as he exposes the ridiculous ‘ethical oil’ argument put forward by the government. Join him tomorrow at the Calgary Chapter of The Council of Canadians, 7:30 – 9:30 p.m.  Doors open at 7, Unitarian Church – 1703 1st St. N.W.

Tar Sands, Water and the First Nations of Alberta

“I don’t know what’s happening to this place, it won’t last 10 -15 years if we lose our water.”

Gabe Burke, Fort Chipewyan

Water in Anzac Alberta, Tar Sands Story

Simon Reece from Anzac, Alberta, stands on the pier on Gregoire Lake. Without the huge amount of fresh water resources in Northern Alberta, the Tar Sands would not be able to operate. Oil companies don't pay anything for the water removed from the Athabaska river, which they subsequently pollute, requiring residents downstream to buy bottled water to drink.

Syncrude Oil Processing Plant

The Syncrude oil processing plant. Average greenhouse gas emissions for oil sands extraction and upgrading are estimated to be 3.2 to 4.5 times as intensive per barrel as for conventional crude oil produced in Canada or the United States.

cemetary fort chipewyan

The cemetary in Fort Chipewyan. Since the arrival of the Tar Sands, more cancer is appearing in Fort Chipewyan then in a regular community this size.

The Athabaskan River delta is one of the largest water systems in Canada and a key component of the livelihood of the Dineh, Cree and Metis that live along its’ banks. However, upstream from communities like Fort McKay and Fort Chipewyan the out of control Tar Sands Industry is polluting the system and rendering it unusable. I was recently in Alberta, photographing and interviewing the First Nations  to help publicize their story.

Despite cozy government and industry relations claiming that industry is not affecting the water quality, the evidence is mounting and exposing their flawed science and PR campaign. A recent report by several authors including acclaimed scientist Dr. David Schindler has the government of Alberta scrambling to cover up and increase their PR. “Contrary to claims made by industry and government in the popular press, the oil sands industry substantially increases loadings of toxic PPE (priority pollutants) to the AR (Athabasca River) and its tributaries via air and water pathways.” David Schindler.

Athabaska river

Residents of Fort Chipewyan sail down the Athabaska River. Many residents of Fort Chipewyan have cabins on the land. They try to maintain some of their attachment to Mother Earth, which is exceedingly difficult with the dangers of eating the fish and disappearance of wildlife due to industrial development upstream.

When I was in the region, I heard again and again that people don’t trust the water. The water is suspected to be part of the cause of a drastic increase in cancer cases in Fort Chipewyan and is widely cited as the reason why the fish are appearing with tumours. For a community that used to rely on fish as a food source, now when a fish appears at the table, the first question asked is, ‘Where did it come from?”.

“The Athabaska river is like a main artery of the world, it’s the blood going down, if your blood is polluted, you aren’t going to last damn long and that is what is happening to our country and earth. All the rivers are getting polluted so bad. I pity young people now, there are rough times ahead. Water could be about 10bucks a liter in ten years, how are you going to survive. ” Gabe Burke

It is shocking that the Canadian and Alberta governments continue to put industry profits above the health of people and the environment. However, the drive and energy of the young people and leaders within the communities are succeeding in securing support from a wide range of groups and individuals including James Cameron, director of Avatar. The tide is shifting.

Eriel Deranger

Eriel Deranger works and lives in Edmonton. She is originally from Fort Chipewyan and is one of many young indigenous people that have dedicated their lives to healing Mother Earth.

It is time that the truth be told about the water situation in this beautiful part of Canada and I join the call for a comprehensive study on the water system, free of industry input and a moratorium on further Tar Sands development until responsible ways of developing are found.

This post is part of the Blog Action Day #10 focusing on water.

Tar Sands and the First Nations – Selects

The crux of any environmental industrial development is the relationship between people on the land and the newly manufactured landscape. Rarely has the coverage of the Tar Sands in Northern Alberta gone beyond environmental impact and touched on the story of the impact on First Nations culture. Yet, this development is having a profound affect on the lifestyle of the indigenous peoples of the region.

Fort Chipewyan is experiencing elevated levels of cancer believed to be caused by toxins in the Athabasca from major industrial developments upstream. On the other hand, communities have gained employment. What does the boom mean for quality of life, how does it relate to cultural heritage of the indigenous, and what cost or benefit is this project having on the indigenous cultures of Northern Alberta?

The following images are the initial selects from an Audio/Visual project that attempts to answer some of these questions.

Tar Sands – Selects from Indigenous Project in Northern Alberta – Images by Robert vanWaarden