My Relationship With Nature

By Khaled Fawal

There is an essential relationship between man and land, one that maintains the equilibrium in nature. The turn of the millennium is now not only defined by the emergence of technology, but by the millions of people around the world fighting for our planet’s sustainability as well. Our ongoing pursuit of industrial excellence has resulted in the dangerous depletion of Earth’s natural resources. My family and I have always been avid supporters of this movement, especially when it comes to food. However, like most people, some of our daily practices also have a negative impact on the environment. This essay will elaborate on how my family contributes to the planet’s sustainability through a local community garden, and how our frequent visits to fast food restaurants do the complete opposite.

For almost a decade, my mother has been a passionate gardener, mainly due to the environmental and emotional benefits such a practice can provide. Two years ago, she moved away from the stereotypical polished gardens to tackle sustainable gardening. According to Oregon State University, a sustainable garden is “one that requires only slightly more planning than conventional gardening. A sustainable garden is one that thrives with minimal inputs of labor, water, fertilizer and pesticides”. Several conversations with enthusiastic local activists led to an extensive refinement of her perception of the perfect garden. She no longer longed for the lush green lawn, or the faultless vegetable garden that harbors fruits and vegetables immune to any sort of imperfection. It was a leap forward in t her environmental ambitions, and the reduction of artificial input became a priority. In addition, she began using plants that are accommodated by the local environment; such plants are much less wedded to the inevitable use of chemical fertilizers, insecticides or other products that are detrimental to the environment. Another essential component of sustainable gardening my mother abides by is composting. Garden and kitchen waste are all turned into valuable nutrients for her garden. In the end, these various procedures have produced a much healthier garden, and a breakthrough in her environmental aspirations.

Being a single mother, fast food restaurants have always been an option, despite the obvious health risks. According to the Food Empowerment Project, tremendously energy intensive to create the food, ridiculous packaging waste in the wrappers, bags and containers, and CO2 emissions at drive-throughs all have a direct impact on our environment. The whole chain of production is harmful to our planet’s well-being. Practically all the meat that is provided to fast food restaurants is produced at factory farms, which epitomize global warming. Fast food restaurants are also renowned for their overuse of packaging. Not only do they contaminate our water, but their production is also accountable for deforestation and pollution.

In conclusion, my family and I do the best we can to maintain the balance between man and nature. However, several difficult circumstances sometimes force us to do things that are only detrimental to our environmental aspirations. If everyone tried to do their part, the future would only be brighter.



No for Keystone XL Pipelines

The debate between whether Barak Obama should or should not approve the XL Pipeline is a very prominent topic of this year. As it seems, many people do not want for Barak Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline that will be carrying Tar Sands oil through a pipeline that would be connected between Canada and the United States. Therefore, Barak Obama should not approve the project of the Keystone XL Pipeline on the basis that this project is harmful to our environment and is harmful to our health as mentioned by Susan Casey-Lefkowitz and Meagan Fitzpatrick .

The problems that might arise from the extraction of the tar sands oil could result into devastating environmental consequences. The tar sands oil is very heavy as a substance. So due to its heaviness, it will require some serious extracting methods. These extracting methods can be very harmful to the environment.  As the process of extracting the oil from the Tar Sands can leak around the pit, its toxicity could get released in the air and therefore could increase the carbon dioxide in our environment. In fact, Susan Casey-Lefkowitz points out in her article “Passion Remains High Because Keystone XL Marks a Turning Point on Climate” that the extraction of the Tar Sands oil can “[add] pollution to our air equal to carbon emissions from 5.7 million cars”. She explains that if the XL pipeline project will be approved, our carbon emissions will increase at a generous rate. As well, it is also a lot of carbon emission that we are talking about. Taking into account, that we already have 5.7 million other cars emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, we do not need more of it.

 What Susan Casey-Lefkowitz is also suggesting above, is that if Barak Obama will approve the XL pipeline project, we will have more cars on our roads. And having more cars on our roads thanks to natural resources that is already being overexploited seems ironic. As we will extract a natural resource under dangerous conditions, we will then use this natural resource to produce even more hazardous toxins into the environment. We should also know that eventually, these resources will no longer be accessible. If Barak Obama does approve the XL Pipeline project, he will also approve to put our environment into jeopardy. As well, problems that might arise from this project are not worth the long term unknown devastating consequences.  

Moreover, the approval of the XL Pipeline can result into serious health issues. As the oil is very dirty, people who will get to extract it might suffer from serious health problems and especially those who live around the extracting area. Because the Tar Sands could be found not far from cohabited area, its pollutants could affect people that live in these areas. In fact, Meagan Fitzpatrick states in her article “Keystone XL would endanger health of Americans, U.S. senator say” that “carcinogens get into the food chain, water and air in communities downstream from the oil sands and that those toxins are linked to cancers”.  Meagan Fitzpatrick addresses an important health consequence that might be caused by the XL pipeline. People’s lives could be endangered through such a project. And we’re not talking about a few people that could get infected, we’re talking about a whole populated area where more than just a few people live. It will be selfish to produce an energy source that could cost many people’s lives. If Barak Obama will approve the XL Pipeline, Canadian and American citizens’ health could be highly endangered. Thus, due to carcinogenic consequences that might not be recovered later on, Barak Obama shouldn’t approve the XL Pipeline project.

Therefore, due to environmental devastations and health issues that might arise because of the Tar Sands, Barak Obama should not approve the project of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Our environment can strongly be altered and harmed through this kind of project. The installation of The Keystone Pipeline is not worth the irreversible environmental consequences that might arise. As well, it is not fair to put people’s life at stake for an overexploited resource. If we’re ought to exploit our resources, such activities should be done in full safety and with no major impacts that might cause great danger. However, if the XL Pipeline will be approved, our environment and people’s health will be left in jeopardy. Do you, Barak Obama, as a president would sacrifice your citizen’s lives and environment so that more dirty energy could be produced?






Meagan Fritzpatrick. February 26, 2014. Keystone XL would endanger health of Americans, U.S. senators say. Cbcnews. URL:

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz. February 21, 2014. Passion Remains High Because Keystone XL Marks a Turning Point on Climate. SwitchBoard. URL:

  Karina Vakhroucheva 

Do The Right Thing

Dear Mr. Obama,

The Keystone XL pipeline is an idea that may be a smart move for the North American economy, although is us buying ourselves coffins in terms of the amount of carbon emissions we will be making because of it. President Obama, I believe it is a bad idea because it means us going in the opposite direction of what our goals for cutting carbon emissions are, it is going to end up costing us a lot in environmental costs, and it is going to bring on negative health consequences.

Firstly, the Keystone XL pipeline is going to increase our carbon emissions significantly. The extraction of oil from the ground is a huge use of energy. Then, once we get this oil out and to distributors, our carbon emissions are going to explode. As is mentioned in The Huffington Post’s article “Why The Keystone XL Pipeline Matters For Climate” a extra 1.4 billion metric tons is going to have been released into the atmosphere by the time the 50 year Keystone plan is finished. In what way can 1.4 billion extra tons of carbon coexist with our goal to reduce our overall carbon emissions by 2020? The simple answer is that it cannot. The Canadian government is pushing the Keystone XL pipeline, and then states its past successes when faced with people who oppose the pipeline. The Canadian government says that they are more on track in terms of environmental management than the United States. They make this statement to the people who can see how the pipeline will obviously ruin the environment. The government stating this is just complete nonsense because of course they won’t be able to continue their trend when the pipeline is created. Just because a boxer wins one fight it doesn’t mean he’ll be the world champion forever. Like I said before, 1.4 billion tons is what we are looking at. There is no way we can lower overall emissions with that type of excretion. Who knows though, maybe Canada will start pushing for recycling again when the pipeline is created.

Second, the overall environmental costs this is going to have. We are talking about oil spills along the pipeline, the destruction of animal habitats, and the emissions from the tar sands extraction. And if you believe the pipeline can be made to avoid oil spills, according to attorney Anthony Swift, the last pipeline Keystone created has spilled 12 times. Its last spill dropped 21 000 gallons of oil onto the surrounding area. There is going to be oil spills along the pipeline, and this will damage the area around the spill. Small animals can be covered by the toxic oil and die, as well as larger animals that may eat this small toxic prey and get sick as well. These spills will destroy the areas they occur on and make the grasslands around them unsuitable for life. According to the “National Wildlife Federation”, these pipes will also be passing through farmers properties and can spill unto their produce. Does that not sound delicious? Farmers and ranchers have also been protesting against the pipeline because of this. Also, just getting this oil out of the ground wastes a huge amount of fuel; energy we could be using for something more efficient and beneficial to mankind. Not to mention, tar sand oil is one of the dirtiest oil sources available, and is 17% more polluting than other sources. With the huge amount of energy we will have to use to extract this oil, along with the oil itself being more polluting than other types of oil, it is easy to see why you should not pass this pipeline Mr. Obama.

Lastly, but probably most important, are the health consequences associated to building the pipeline. If you do not care about the environment or the wildlife, know that you too will be affected by the pipeline. Dr. John O’Connor, a physician, has said that carcinogens will be getting into the air, food chain, and water of the communities downstream from the oil sands, and that can have extremely negative effects on their health, such as the development of tumors and cancer. Like I mentioned earlier, there will be spillage along the length of the pipeline. There are also many farmers’ and ranchers’ properties along the length of the pipeline. The toxic gunk that will be spilling out of this pipeline causes cancer, and there is a good chance it will be spilling around the produce that ends up at your supermarket and that you will consume. This thought makes me feel very uncomfortable, and if I live on a continent that puts economy over the well-being and health of their population, I really feel disappointed my parents decided to immigrate here from Europe. The health of our bodies and the health of our planet are so critically important to our well-being, that if you sign this deal you are essentially signing that you do not care about the lives of your people Mr. Obama.

The Keystone pipeline is a bad idea from start to finish. The economy is slowly healing on its own, and it does not need the help of a concept that could slowly kill off the human race. The Keystone XL pipeline will make it impossible to reach our carbon reduction goals, turning the North American governments into a bunch of liars and hypocrites, our environment is going to be devastated, and the health of North Americans will decline. Even though everyone in the government is at the age where death is already at their footsteps, I am not. I do not want to start getting sick until I am in my late 70’s, and I feel like I have lived a complete and happy life, in a country strong enough to make good decisions for its people, and at the same time smart enough to make sure those decisions do not bring negative effects later on. This is my final statement to you, President Obama. Do the right thing.

– Stamatis D.



Anthony Swift, Natural Resources Defense Council Staff Blog.

Anthony Swift, The Huffington Post.

Dr. John O’Connor, CBC News.

National Wildlife Federation.

Dear Mr. President,

The United States of America and Canada are recognized as two of the most enlightened societies around the globe. Our formidable alliance has only benefited the advancement of knowledge and the widespread of logical reasoning. At first glance, the Keystone XL pipeline may seem like a business masterstroke, but, with the urging need to address the energy crisis, one must consider the severe repercussions such an ambitious project can generate. I am against the introduction of the pipeline, simply because it would expose people to health threatening conditions, it would put our environment at risk, and citizens would benefit the least.

Of the numerous negative effects the pipeline would have, exposing ordinary people to hazardous conditions must be the most significant. Indeed, according to Meagan Fitzpatrick’s article, Dr. O’Connor told several US senators that “carcinogens get into the food chain, water and air in communities downstream from the oil sands and that those toxins are linked to cancers occurring in those areas”. Mr. Obama, this is no longer a question of economy versus environment, greed versus compassion, or short-term versus long-term. When human lives are put at risk for the sake of money, it is a question of moral boundaries. These people have the right to remain where they are without being exposed to increased cancer chances. Even the very food they work for and put on the table might eventually be the cause of their death. In other words, the citizens are forced to bleed in order to quench the thirst of a few corporations. Do these words resemble a society founded on justice and transparency? I believe not, sir.

Secondly, as we all know, the grand majority of the issues surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline are primarily focused on our environment. Evidently, the highly controversial pipeline would only bring harm to what remains of the environment that surrounds us. Just like in the not too distant past, there will inevitably be oil spills. According to the National Wildlife Federation, a “massive 2,000 mile, five-state proposed pipeline would use safety shortcuts, substandard materials and unsafe practices, creating a high risk of ruptures that would endanger rare species, water supplies, and rancher livelihoods.” Many of us fear the contamination of our necessary water supply and the destruction of ecosystems. Just like oil, our environment is limited. It cannot continue to endure the repetitive ignorance and negligence of political leaders. It can only withstand so much.

Despite popular belief, Americans would benefit the least from the controversial project. Many in support of the pipeline would quickly point to the immediate creation of jobs. Evidently, the construction of the pipeline would enable thousands of Americans to get rid of their unemployed status, and it would generate a decent amount of profit. One would also imagine that the continual rise of oil prices would finally be brought to a halt. However, according to James Conca of Forbes, “the Keystone XL is designed to promote exports of Canadian tar sands oil and its refined products to non-U.S. markets, especially China and Latin America”. That means the price of the gasoline so many crave will only continue to rise. In the end, it seems as though Americans will benefit the least from this “revolutionary” project, while coping with the majority of the risk. Economical supremacy would, yet again, still be far from our reach.

Mr. President, I understand that the alluring prospect of returning the American economy to its former glory can be difficult to resist, but I need you to also consider the fate of future generations. I need you to think carefully about what an injustice it would be for Mamadou of Senegal, for Felipe of Brazil, or for Natasha and Malia Ann of the USA. No money or political power can spare us from the unruly forces of nature. Once you make that call Mr. President, there is no turning back.

Yours sincerely,
Khaled Fawal



Keystone XL would endanger health of Americans, U.S. senators say, Meagan Fitzpatrick, CBC News:

Staying Hooked on a Dirty Fuel: Why Canadian Tar Sands Pipelines Are a Bad Bet for the United States, National Wildlife Federation:

What Is Wrong With The Keystone XL Pipeline?, James Conca, Forbes:

Decline The Pipeline

By Monique Ruiz


Dear President Obama, 


            My concern for the Keystone XL pipeline rose from the moment I discovered that the project caused a threat to our society. The other day, I watched a documentary and read several articles about the Keystone pipeline. It surprised me when I learned of all the possible changes that it would create. I am asking on your behalf, President Obama, to refuse the project and prevent the consequences that it will bring. Some of my main concerns were the risk of an oil spill and the effects it could have on people’s health and on the environment.

            One of the three major problems of the pipeline is the risk of oil spills. It is a big concern for people’s well-being, especially in those states that the pipeline will pass through. In the article, “Proposed Tar Sands Pipeline a Deadly Idea,’’ Ahna Kruzic mentioned that a “smaller pipeline […] has leaked 12 times in its first year of operation’’ (p.2). The Keystone pipeline will be twice the size and it will contain twice the amount of oil than the small pipeline. The project involves building a 1,700 mile pipeline that would start in Alberta and end in Texas. That is to say that there is no guarantee that the Keystone pipeline would not leak during and or after the operation. In Heather Hansen’s article “ Mega Myths of the Keystone XL Pipeline,’’ she states that “the existing Keystone pipeline has failed 14 times since it began operation’’ (Mega Myths…). For this reason, more than 20 000 gallons of oil has leaked in lakes and on shores. Therefore, because it is heavier and longer than the smaller pipelines, the risk of an oil spill is higher. For this reason, I suggest that you do not approve the project for the sake of people’s safety.

            Moreover, approving the Keystone project will raise health issues. People who lived in the local community near the tar sands, mentioned that they have been having “constant headaches, nausea and dizziness’’ (Public Hearings…). Some people thought that these health problems were a coincidence; however, their conditions got worse. For example, people were losing weight, got the flu and muscle aches. They left the local homes and lived someplace far away from the tar sands. After a while, people started to feel better. Few came back to get the rest of their belongings. Those who did come back got sick. In the lake shore of Athabasca, “7-8 people were diagnosed with cancer ’’ (Witness: To the Last Drop). Later, biologist discovered that the fish they had been eating contained chemicals that were related to developing cancer and brain tumors. People avoided eating fish, which was their primarily source of food. Habitants from the Athabasca were left with the choice of death, hunger or fighting for their survival. Before accepting the proposal for the Keystone pipeline, I’d like you to take a moment and think of how it would raise numerous health problems to individuals.

            Not to mention, if you approve the Keystone pipeline project, it would destroy what is left of our nature. In his article, Kruzic states that it would “devastate and ruin an area of land the size of the entire country of England’’ (p.1). The pipeline will be built underneath beautiful rivers and shores. This includes one of the “massive Miswestern underground water source called the Ogallala Aquifer’’ (Mega Myths…). Because of its shallow water, it could easily be contaminated if oil spills from the pipeline. In addition, this groundwater is used in farmlands located near the Ogallala Aquifer. If the water is contaminated, it would destroy lands as well. As you can see President Obama, if the project is approved, beautiful coastlines and fresh sources of water would be damaged forever.

             I highly recommend taking a look on what is at stake. The rise of the Keystone pipeline project risks of oil spills, of the development of health problems and of harm to the environment. The project will not benefit our society at all. It would only cause harm to us and our planet. As a father of two children, you would want the best for them and for their future. That being said, the decisions you will make today, will determine the future of your children and the future generation.


Works Cited

Kruzic, A. (2011, September). Kruzic: Proposed Tar Sands Pipeline a Deadly Idea.   Retrieved March 14, 2014, from

Hansen, H. (2011, September). Mega Myths of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Retrieved      March 14, 2014, from

Off, C. & Douglas, J. (2014, January). Public Hearings Begin In Peace River, Alberta Over           Concerns About Oilsands Operations. Retrieved March 14, 2014, from

Radford, T. (2011, June 24).  Witness: To the Last Drop – Part 1. Retrieved from

The Real Energy Crisis

By Khaled Fawal

Within all wealthy nations around the globe, governments and social activists are focused more than ever on what is perceived to be an ever-growing energy crisis. The glaring depletion of resources, the rise of oil prices on a global scale and the pressing need to address rapid climate change have suddenly made energy the central dilemma of our generation. The real energy crisis, however, lies well beyond the skyscrapers and the eternal traffic congestions.

Billions of men, women and children around the world are condemned to live in poverty with virtually no access to modern energy services. With the simple flip of a switch, an American or Frenchman can dazzle the mind of a young boy in Kenya. Indeed, around 1.6 billion of those in third world countries live without the grace of electricity. That means nights in complete darkness, very limited access to modern communications, inefficient educational institutions, and substandard health facilities. These are, in our eyes, perceived as essential to social and economic growth. Yet, all these things we take for granted are well and truly absent from their everyday lives.

These men and women are also forced to rely on polluted and harmful substances to meet the most basic of their needs. They cook food for themselves and for their children with biomass. Let that sink in for a minute. Institutions, foundations and governments around the world recognize the numerous basic rights of a human being. From the right to water to the right to gain a living, they are all essential. In 2014, that basic standard of living is still not provided to these people, simply because they are not equipped with energy.

As we all know, most African countries were colonized by European heavyweights in the not too distant past. It seems as though, however, that armies were simply replaced with corporations. Because the majority of the population has no capital or influence, private energy companies refuse to lend a hand.  If poverty is to be eradicated, foundations and governments must implement an efficient system that would facilitate access to energy for these people.

With the rise of capitalism, energy is now not only a privilege, but a necessity.  Access to it must become a right in itself.

Windmills are chill.

We recently watched a video in-class which was shot in documentary style, and was about the city in Denmark, Copenhagen. In this city they were able to reduce their carbon emissions significantly. They did this through several methods, although the two I want to discuss are making the restrictions of no-car areas, and windmill energy, and how we can incorporate them in a North American setting.

They started no-car areas in Copenhagen. Basically, big areas of the city are prohibited to have any vehicles on them, with the exception of bikes which are emission-free. Banning the use of cars in a busy area can seem unreasonable, but it has worked very well for people in Copenhagen. They all ride their bikes around, and there is always something happening on the streets covered with people now that there are no cars.No cars in a certain area means that you’re cutting carbon emissions, but that’s not the only benefit. People are getting the chance to socialize with each other again and interviews from people on the street show that they are quite happy with the changes. Now imagine if Montreal did this. The amount of cars we have on the streets is outrageous, and by cutting cars’ access to certain areas downtown for example, we could cut our emissions and become more social while doing so. Not to mention, obesity is one of the biggest health issues in North America right now, and the extra calorie burn from walking to that art museum you want to see downtown can help fight obesity and let you shed the pounds. Lower emissions, a better social life, and a better body, all brought to you by no-car zones.

Second, a step Copenhagen has taken is to make farms that run purely on windmill energy. This saves a lot of energy, and it works just as well as oil powered mechanisms. We could easily do the same with the farms around Montreal as they almost all have ridiculous amounts of land, and surely have enough room for a few windmills. Farms use a ton of energy, and if we could get them to run on windmill energy, it wouldn’t solve our problem, but it would be a firm step forward. Even though I don’t believe a city as large as Montreal could run purely on windmill energy, i think we can make a significant reduction in our emissions by incorporating it in our city. It doesn’t pollute, it doesn’t make much noise and it gives free energy. There is no reason for the Canadian government not to push the windmill idea forward. Besides the millions of dollars oil companies are paying them to keep their mouths quiet that is.

In conclusion, the benefits we could reap from no-car areas and windmills are great and many. They can both be easily incorporated into North American society, and can help us lower our carbon footprint. The problem is that the big oil companies don’t want this to happen, and will pay off all the right people to make sure it doesn’t. Also, the difficult part of doing something like this is the first steps. Using windmills and getting no-car areas would be difficult for people at first, but can be adapted to quite easily, and can make a healthier and happier population if incorporated.