Submitted by Derek Leahy

I read an article today called The Dirty Trail of the Black Gold in an Austrian newspaper. It was about the Albertan tar sands and other extreme sources of oil. It made me think about the first time I talked about the tar sands with an Austrian. He had never heard of them before. 

VIENNA, AUSTRIA - I have come full circle. Today, after sleeping very little on a 10 hour night train I arrived in the very first city I travelled to to spread the word about the Tar Sands Demonstrations Europe Project - Vienna.

Most people and environmental organizations are somewhat baffled why I chose Vienna as one of the five cities for our "stop the tar sands!" demonstrations on July 17th, 2010. It is a fair question. I have not been able to find an Austrian oil company with a tar sands project in Alberta nor an Austrian bank that has money directly invested in a tar sands project, although I am sure there is at least one that is invested through a subsidiary (the world's largest energy project needs a lot of capital!). I can only claim Austrians support the tar sands "at the pump" every time they fill up their cars at BP, Shell, Exxon (Esso), etc.

So why Vienna? Plain and simple, I have never done anything like organizing five demonstrations in five cities in five different countries in my entire life! If I was going to do something on such a large scale, I had to work with the connections I had. My mom's side of the family lives in Vienna so I figured that was a good start.

I had made the mistake of not emailing Vienna based environmental groups before arriving here last April.  I think I come across very poorly when I speak German on the phone (can't shake that accent!), so I had no choice but to go to the offices of various groups unannounced and introduce myself and my project. Man, was I nervous. Here I was, some guy who decided one day he wanted to do something about the tar sands just showing up on the doorsteps of environmental groups like Greenpeace or Climate Alliance who had been in the environmental game for over 20 years. To this day, I am still nervous when I do these house calls. I was able to persevere only because I felt I was doing something I had to do and something I deep down inside wanted to do (even if it did not feel that way at that very moment).

I was surprised how each and every one of these organizations took the time to have a chat with me. Each and every one of these organizations gave me encouragement and advice. Even though tiny little Austria (smaller than the area of tar sands development) is quite far removed from the tar sands of Alberta these groups had the vision and understanding to recognize the tar sands do effect them as well. 

I guess it does not matter who you are as long as you have a good idea and the cause is just people will listen.

International "Stop the Tar Sands!" Day: