I recently read a somewhat puzzling article written by Dylan Jones, president and CEO of the Canada West Foundation (B.C. needs other provinces, Tri-Cities NOW, Aug. 30).
He has taken a number of half-truths, blithely spun them to the right and created an emotional plea for the people of British Columbia to play nice with their Albertan neighbours with respect to Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline project.
Untangling the innuendos and intricacies within this article could well be the substance of a master’s thesis. I will therefore limit the scope of my equally passionate response to two points which I find particularly troubling.
1. In his argument, Mr. Jones attempts to find common ground between the two provinces by noting, “It’s stunning how many values British Columbians share with many of their Prairie neighbours. A deep love of the land.”
Really? I find this statement rather stunning. Alberta is currently home to the most environmentally devastating process on the face of the Earth; scars so deep they are visible from outer space. Great swathes of Canada’s boreal forest, home to vast herds of woodland caribou and countless birds, are being mowed down as the first step in tar-sands extraction.
The next step often involves excavating the fertile layers of soil, in order to reach the gluey bitumen. Toxic waste-water is dumped into leaky tailing ponds spanning 50 square km, thus threatening the world’s third-largest watershed.
Rates of rare types of cancers are soaring in First Nations communities living in proximity to the tar-sands extraction sites. If Alberta has its way, 149,000 square km (an area the size of the State of Florida) will face “end to end degradation.” The Albertan government, goaded on by the Harper government, is hell-bent on completely dismantling and transforming an entire ecosystem into a grotesque and inhospitable Mordor-like wasteland. I’m just not feeling the love here …
In contrast, increasing numbers of British Columbians are raising the alarm and rallying to stop pipelines carrying this toxic tar-sands sludge from crossing two rugged and remote mountain ranges and hundreds of sparkling, pristine salmon-bearing waterways. Non-native peoples are standing in solidarity with First Nations peoples to defend B.C.’s spectacular, world-renowned terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Anyone who has journeyed into the majestic Great Bear Rainforest in search of the elusive Spirit Bear or kayaked alongside fabled humpbacks, orcas and grey whales through the magic and mists of the wild West Coast waters can attest to the fact that we possess treasures far beyond anything that could ever be squeezed out of Alberta’s tarry bitumen. British Columbians are as passionate about their environment as the Albertan and Harper governments are about their tar sands. Perhaps British Columbians and Albertans have a deep love of their respective lands for vastly different reasons.
2. Mr. Jones goes on to say that British Columbians and Albertans also share a “willingness to take risks.” In my book, friends do not ask friends to accept risks which far outweigh benefits. When objective analyses based on fact and scientific evidence conclude that risks far outweigh benefits — it’s time to put down the shovel and back away from the pipeline.
In the world according to Enbridge, there are no islands in the placid waters of Douglas Channel, bitumen floats and environmental safety is paramount — therefore the risk is minimal.
In reality, supertankers laden with toxic sludge will be expected to navigate treacherous waters, take sharp turns through reef- and rock-strewn channels, and endure sudden, extreme weather conditions, dense fog and notorious rogue waves. Human error cannot be discounted either (remember the Exxon Valdez and the Queen of the North).
By Enbridge’s own admission, between 1999 and 2010 they were responsible for at least 800 spills releasing close to seven million gallons of heavy crude into the environment. Oh, and by the way, independent studies confirm that bitumen sinks, thereby making effective cleanup impossible.
Are we really willing to disregard the facts and put our environment, our regional economies, our heritage, our children’s future and our very identity at risk for the sake of shipping cheap bitumen to Asia?
Nancy H. Furness
© Copyright 2013