It’s not their sky simply because they’ve leased the land below it, stolen from indigenous peoples by an imperialist government. It’s not our sky. Possessives have no place when talking about something so vast and all-encompassing. Yet US Oil Sands’ lights have gone up—streetlights, on the ridgeline of the Book Cliffs wilderness. Streetlights lying dormant, threatening every night to awaken and consume that which should never be claimed.
In the Book Cliffs—the land the state of Utah has leased as a tar sands sacrifice zone—you’ll find a place with skies darker, stars brighter, than almost anywhere else you may ever go. There is nothing, for many miles, to impede that view at all. The constellation pop out of this expanse as you search for the ones you know and muse upon what other societies, like the Uintah Utes, see when they look up at night.
On the full moon, you can hike across the ridgelines where sagebrush glow silver and ghosts roam the edges of imagination. You start to see bears everywhere—in the rocky canyonside, in the shining aspen groves in the shadowy ravines below. With the return of the new moon, you stay close to the campfire, the world shrouded in a dark cloak of possibilities—cougar or coyote slinking along forest’s edge, swarms of bats sweeping out of their caves, hiding in the thick stands of trees.
Now they want to take away even that.
US Oil Sands has installed lightposts around their 23-acre ridgeline worksite where they are setting up tar sands processing equipment. Every day, we wonder: Will tonight be the night they take the sky away?