Walking the Tar Sands: Poetry and the Fossil Economy

Neal Alexander*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Most literary representations of climate change focus upon its tangible effects: destructive storms and floods; melting glaciers and rising sea levels; wildfires, droughts and species extinctions. It is much less common, however, for writers to confront the primary causes of climate change and global warming: the mining and burning of fossil fuels over the course of more than two centuries, from the dawn of industrial capitalism to the present. This essay will examine some notable exceptions to this general rule, focusing upon the work of two Canadian poet-activists, Stephen Collis and Rita Wong. In particular, I argue that their representations of the Alberta Tar Sands are illuminating not only for the ways in which they integrate the effects of climate change with their sources in what Andreas Malm calls ‘the fossil economy’ but also because they foreground the politics of walking in a polluted and brutalised landscape.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-240
Number of pages10
JournalGreen Letters: Studies in Ecocriticism
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jul 2022


  • Canada
  • Climate change
  • ecopoetry
  • environmental justice
  • fossil fuels
  • social ecology


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