Editor’s Note: The Quackers are three awesome ducks — Rusty, Richard and Sydney — from the canals of Venice who are on a mission to educate the community about the dangers of global warming and the importance of practicing sustainability, all while surfing the most gnarly waves possible.

The water is foul and full of oil rainbows that swirl and widen with the current. Determined, I keep struggling toward shore. The water turns darker and thicker with each lapping wave.

I cringe as another wave showers me with more sticky, rust colored oil. Already I am exhausted.

Worried, I talk to myself, “Sidney! Quit swimming and fly before it is too late.” I raise my wings to prepare for flight but they are heavy, saturated with oil. It is already too late.

The oil oozes and drips down my head clouding my vision. It slides into my nostrils hampering my breathing. I clamp my mouth tightly shut but the noxious taste still seeps into my mouth. The smell and taste of the oil makes me sick and dizzy.

The oil weighs me down causing me to sink lower and lower in the water. I can no longer fight the waves as they push and tumble me farther from shore.

I shiver, miserable and cold. The oil has ruined the insulation of my feathers. A crashing wave sends me swirling away in the wet, oily darkness.

Startled, I force my eyes open. Richard and Rusty are shaking me awake. My nightmare about the Gulf oil spill had come again.

Like the rest of the world, we watched in horror as the disastrous BP Gulf oil spill unfolded in front of our eyes. We felt powerless to help. That robbed us of our spirit. Later, the terrible photos of helpless birds blanketed with thick, gooey oil sickened us and robbed us of our will.

Today I decided we had been feeling hopeless and downhearted long enough. The time had come to get our mojo working again. We needed to get back to being men; I mean ducks, of action.

As we ate breakfast a news report came over the radio saying, “Tar Sands threaten ducks.”

That lit Rusty’s fuse. He jumped up shouting, “Where does Tarzan get off threatening ducks? I will never watch a Tarzan movie again, never!”

“Geez, Rusty. Calm yourself,” Richard said. “He said Tar Sands, not Tarzan.”

From the report, we learned that Canadian energy companies are trying to build a tar sands oil pipeline from Alberta, Canada through the American heartland and all the way down to the Gulf Coast! The proposal is actually in the hands of our State Department now and is quickly moving forward.

“Are they crazy?” Now I was the one shouting.

“We have oil spewing uncontrollably in the gulf with no end in sight and our state department is considering this? Someone really missed the wake up call,” Richard said shaking his head.

He knew about tar sands oil because mining it had already threatened 3 billion land, water and shore birds that use the Canadian boreal forest for breeding.

“Tar sand mining is bad news,” Richard said. “Not only does it use massive amounts of energy it also requires large amounts of water, something the world really can’t afford to waste. It takes 2 to 4 1/2 barrels of water to make one barrel of oil from tar sands. The process also releases tons of dangerous carbon pollution into the atmosphere.

“You guys don’t want to see what tar sand mining does to the land. It is like strip mining, only for oil. Huge areas of Canadian boreal forest have already been destroyed and more than 50 square miles of polluted water called ‘tailing ponds’ has been created and left behind.”

Richard continued, “Beautiful, pristine forest has been replaced by a toxic moonscape of earthworks, tailing ponds and 80 foot piles of sulphur. It is one of the most environmentally destructive fossil fuel resources to extract and refine.”

The mention of toxic tailing ponds triggered something in my memory. I told my brothers I was sure I read that two years ago 1600 ducks lost their lives when they got stuck in toxic tar sand sludge. They weren’t the only ones. Black bears, deer, red fox, moose beavers, wolves and bats also became victims because of the toxic sludge and tailing ponds left behind.

That really fired Rusty up. He jumped on the computer for more information. He learned that the National Wildlife Federation had mounted a campaign to stop the proposed pipeline before it has a chance to get underway. Rusty pumped his fist and yelled, “Yes! We can help!”

Suddenly we were energized and feeling hopeful again. Maybe we couldn’t stop the spill in the Gulf but we sure could work on other ways to protect our environment and wildlife.

Letter writing, e-mails and talking with everyone about stopping the tar sands proposal in its tracks would start today.

Smiles returned to our faces as we worked and planned. We felt better than we had in a very long time. Being ducks of action again sure felt good.

Phyllis and the Quackers can be reached at phyllis@phyllischavez.com. The Quackers have a new, amazing Web site! Stories, pictures and a blog at www.thequackers.com.

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