In the Field

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To uncover the truth, it’s often best to land “on the ground.” But sometimes obstacles—physical or bureaucratic or even mental—obscure our view. Then, it’s sometimes better to take to the sky and get perspective.

Photographer Alex MacLean has been doing just that—snapping photos from the air—for nearly 40 years. His photos reveal the overlooked scale of American car culture. They peek over the fences of military bases. They connect the dots between digging coal and generating electricity.

Alex will ride the skies above Alberta’s oil sands for a week beginning April 4th. We know the ground beneath Alberta’s boreal forest—saturated with an estimated 150 billion barrels of oil—rivals all other troves of oil apart from those of Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. We know Alberta’s rich deposits underlie a territory of 54,000 square miles, as large as Iowa. But we can barely comprehend numbers this big.

Alex will help us. He’ll show us waste ponds nearly the size of Manhattan and dump trucks that could swallow a McMansion whole.  

We’ll report from the ground as well. We’ll talk to regulators, mining companies, the miners themselves and many others. Stay tuned.

Images by Alex MacLean with text by Dan Grossman.

Follow Dan and Alex reporting from Alberta @GrossmanMedia.

Alberta’s sands are the world’s third largest oil reserve and one of Earth’s largest industrial projects. The Big Picture: Alberta’s Oil Sands shows the preliminary photos and writing. 

To learn more and help support the work, visit Tar Sands Truth Indiegogo Campaign.

Grossman’s TED Book Deep Water is available to download.