Thursday, September 23, 2010

Oil Sands Tailing Ponds Increase Bird Mortalities

Breanna Linn
ENVS 1020

Bird mortality due to oil sands tailing ponds has been a growing issue for the environment as industry continues to expand. Two different sources, a primary and secondary, have been recently documented discussing the many impacts of these sticky death traps.

The secondary source, an article found within The Globe and Mail, based its facts on a recent study titled “Annual Bird Mortality in the Bitumen Tailings ponds in Northeastern Alberta, Canada”. The newspaper article, “Birds dying from oil sands byproduct 30 times more than estimated: study”, briefly discusses the main points of the primary source, allowing the reader to gain a quick insight of the issue at hand. Though the article is very general in comparison to the study, it still enforces the main point. The central claim being made in the article confers that industry’s estimates of bird mortalities are far less than results found from scientific data that has been collected. In order to reduce these large numbers of deaths, it is said that constant monitoring of the tailing ponds must be enforced by industry (The Globe and Mail, 2010). However, this is a very difficult task to put into place, leading to minimal improvements to the environment.

Alternatively, the actual study discusses the impacts much more thoroughly, presenting multiple amounts of facts, findings, and solutions. The points being made are displayed in a more scientific manor, giving a detailed background of the many factors that are contributing to the main issue. Data is also offered throughout to back up the information that was founded, which shows a higher level of research and provides a more detailed explanation. Thus, as a reader we are able to grasp a clearer image of how this is affecting different aspects of the environment and the various species of birds that are being harmed.

It is evident to see that when comparing the two different works, the limitations within each vary. Though the main message is the same between the two, the amount of detail discussed greatly differs. As stated before, the main message presented in the newspaper article is how industry’s claims about bird deaths vary from scientific observation (The Globe and Mail, 2010). Though this issue is clear in the study, the greater focus is on the environment and the impacts that these tailing ponds have had on bird species. The newspaper article is limited to a single claim, whereas the study presents multiple claims that revolve around the issue. From the study we can better understand the problem, as we are presented with answers to the facts about this occurrence. It does not only generalize the issue, as the article does, but explains why birds are landing in tailing ponds, how the number of deaths can be determined, implications on the environment, and how to resolve the problem (Timoney and Ronconi, 2010) . From this multitude of information, it is clearer that the limitations are not as restricted, presenting a greater deal of information. In comparison, the newspaper article minimizes the range of the topic, presenting one main statement. We are able to comprehend the issue from this, but as a result are deprived from further insight revolving around the problem, giving us a lesser understanding. Therefore, it can be said that the study provides us with a better knowledge of this environmental problem when compared to the article.

Though both resources do indeed discuss the negative impacts of tailing ponds, the context of the issue differs in both. For example, in the newspaper article the focus revolves more around the faults that industry had made and how they should implicate improvements. Whereas, the study focuses on the detrimental effects that are being caused to birds and the consequence this places on the environment. Since it is being discusses in two different ways, it allows us to see both sides. The first side being the fact that industry is responsible for the high number of deaths by not increasing the amount of monitoring on tailing ponds (The Globe and Mail, 2010). As well, the second side, which explains the harmful effects to the environment that result from the outcome of the first side. Though the two sides give a unique spin on the issue, when both are read we can acquire different perspectives on the matter.

Throughout the two works, there are varying claims made about the issue at hand. The statements in each differ with respect to variety and detail. The single claim presented in the article is not as strong as the various ones being made within the study. The multiple amounts of facts and details presented within the study strengthen the readers understanding, whereas the article briefly describes what is being presented. Due to this fact, it can be said that the study is a more effective when it comes to grasping the full problem that has been created. Though the article does get its point across, the lack of scientific information to back it up, results in a weaker description of why this matter is occurring. Thus, the claims being postulated in the study create more of an impact on the readers.

As we grasp the message that is being stated, it is evident that the information presented within a primary and secondary source does contrast. This is clear in the context the issue is being presented in, the strength of claims that are made, and the limitations that each work contains. From these, we are able to understand how these two sources can differ and which one may present the better interpretation.


Birds dying from oil sands byproduct 30 times more than estimated: study. (2010, September 07). Retrieved from

Timoney, K.P, & Ronconi, R.A. (2010, September 07). Birds dying from oil sands byproduct 30 times more than estimated: study. Retrieved from

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