Sunday, January 25, 2015

Speaker discusses ‘the true cost of oil’

From page A1 | January 04, 2013 |

Garth Lenz, a fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers, took many of his photos of the Tar Sands mines from the air. He will present his photos and discuss the environmental impacts in two talks this month in Davis and one in Sacramento. Courtesy photo

Learn more

What: Garth Lenz, photojournalist, presenting a slide show and talk

When: 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14

Where: United Methodist Church of Davis, 1620 Anderson Road

Donation: $15-$20; students free; pre-register at

“The True Cost of Oil: Images of Beauty and Devastation” is the title of a slideshow talk to be given in Davis this month by environmental photojournalist Garth Lenz.

“Canada’s Tar Sands are perhaps the most visually compelling example of all that is wrong with our addiction to fossil fuels and why we must change or face dire consequences for all life on Earth,” Lenz says.

Hosted by Cool Davis, Lenz’s talk begins at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14, at the United Methodist Church of Davis, 1620 Anderson Road. The suggested donation is $15 to $20; students are free. Space is limited; pre-register at

A silent auction for his 16-by-20-inch print of Canada’s boreal region will be held.

In addition, UC Davis students and others of the campus community are invited to a second talk at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15, in 2 Wellman Hall on campus. A Sacramento community presentation is planned at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17, at St. John’s Lutheran Church’s Goethe Hall, 1701 L St. Donations will be accepted at the door.

Lenz’s photographs highlight the plight of the Canadian boreal region and the impact of the Alberta Tar Sands mining on the surrounding area and on climate stability.

Lenz is an internationally recognized photojournalist and a fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers. He is best known for his photographic work presenting environmental and social justice issues throughout Canada, Chile, Ecuador, Borneo and China.

A resident of British Colombia, he has traveled and photographed extensively throughout Canada’s temperate rainforest and boreal forest, gathering and updating photos since 2005 to show what happens when a pristine landscape is confronted by a vast industrial project.

Lenz has devoted most of his photographic career to activism on behalf of the wilderness.

“From the outset, a central theme of my work has been the contrasts between the industrialized and natural landscape,” he says. “The primary focus of my early work was forests and the impacts of industrial logging. As my understanding of ecological issues has grown, so has the range of my photographic subjects.

“My recent work has been largely focused on the world of modern fossil fuel production and its associated impacts on the landscape — including mountaintop removal coal mining, shale gas production and most recently the Alberta Tar Sands.”

“The True Cost of Oil” is a visual journey across the largest and most intact forest ecosystem into the heart of what many believe is the largest and most ecologically devastating industrial project the world has ever known. As the third largest and most carbon-intensive oil reserves on the planet, and the single largest source of imported oil in the United States, the Alberta Tar Sands are a global threat to climate stability and a sustainable, clean energy future, many environmentalists believe.

Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, has referred to the Tar Sands development as “an enterprise of epic proportions, akin to the building of the pyramids or China’s Great Wall, only bigger.”

The project is undeniably vast, with 20 of the world’s largest toxic tailing ponds and more proposed. Just 70 miles downstream lies the intact Peace Athabasca Delta, the world’s largest freshwater delta, and the convergence of all four of North America’s major migratory bird flyways. Water consumption by the Tar Sands mining and leaching tailings ponds endanger the ecological integrity of this significant wetland, environmentalists say.

The destruction of the carbon-rich boreal forest and the resulting exploitation of oil reserves could trigger a global crisis, says NASA climate scientist James Hansen. If the Tar Sands continue to be tapped, it is “essentially game over” for any hope of achieving a stable climate, he added.

Climate change writer Bill KcKibben has referred to the Tar Sands as “the biggest carbon bomb on the planet.”

Lenz was drawn to the extreme contrasts of the Tar Sands situation, saying, “This extraordinarily relevant issue of introducing a vast, previously not very accessible oil resource into a planet that is already in the throes of climate change and global warming — a lot of interesting aspects to explore.”

With his program, Lenz aims to stimulate discussion.

“There’s no scapegoating,” he says. “There’s no ‘us and them’ in this issue of global warming and climate change. … The issue is more a societal one: Our energy consumption is, ultimately, not sustainable.”

Lenz has completed assignments and images for many nongovernmental organizations. These include Greenpeace Germany, U.K., USA, Canada and Greenpeace International; as well as The Sierra Club; Rainforest Action Network; Natural Resources Defense Council; and the Public Media Centre. He was one of the lead photographers of the book “Clearcut, The Tragedy of Industrial Forestry,” and a sequel dealing with Chile’s forests.

His environmental work has led to publication in numerous books, newspapers and magazines. These include The Nature Conservancy Magazine, Canadian Geographic, The Manchester Guardian, The New York Times Sunday Edition, International Wildlife, B.B.C. Wildlife Magazine, The Tokyo Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The Globe and Mail and Time Magazine.

The Sierra Club helped fund his current traveling art gallery show of “The True Cost of Oil: Images of Beauty and Devastation.”

For more information, email

— Lynne Nittler is a Davis resident and an active member of the Cool Davis Initiative.



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