Since moving to British Columbia I have developed an addiction. An addiction to the wonder and beauty of the wildlife and natural beauty that is present wherever I go. When I head back to the UK for a few weeks in May, I fear I may start randomly hugging trees in Manchester in order to feel ‘at home’. British Columbia’s coastal waters are stunning in their beauty and richness. Pods of orca whales ride the tidal currents, salmon make their spawning journey from the sea up hundreds of rivers, and seabirds dart over the water. The mountains of Washington are visible across the water ten minutes from where I live.
I feel very strongly about protecting British Columbia’s environment and am determined to stop anything or anyone who wants to destroy it. That is why I am opposing the energy company Enbridge’s plans to build a pipeline (called the Northern Gateway Pipeline) from the Alberta tar sands, (the most environmentally destructive form of energy on the planet) to BC’s coast (1) If built, this pipeline would cross over 1000 salmon bearing streams and rivers carrying 200,000 barrels of petroleum products a day using massive oil tankers. The simple fact is, BC, Canada or the world doesn’t need this pipeline; we don’t need to expand the tar sands, in fact it would be very immoral to do so for a number of reasons. Firstly, climate change. The tar sands are one of the largest remaining deposits of oil in the world. Areas of wilderness the size of small countries are chewed up and replaced by a landscape of toxic lakes, open pit mines and pipe lines. If we are going to kick our addiction to fossil fuels, we need to stop building the infrastructure that facilitates the expansion of their use. (2)
Secondly, the pipeline would compromise the lifestyles of First Nations who depend on the region’s lands and waters for their livelihoods, culture and health. That is why First Nations groups from all over the west coast from Alaska to Washington have formed a historic unbroken ‘Wall of opposition’ to oil exports through their lands. Below is an excerpt from the Fraser Declaration:
“In upholding our ancestral Laws, Title, Rights and Responsibilities, we declare: We will not allow the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, or similar tar sands projects to cross our lands, territories and watersheds, or the ocean migration routes of Fraser River Salmon.” (3)
As part of its million dollar ad campaign to launch support for the project, Enbridge’s adverts mix shots of natural beauty with talk of ‘creating jobs’ and the ‘economic benefits’. They don’t mention that the plan would only create around 600 jobs whereas in the event of an oil spill, 45,000 jobs would be at risk. If this pipeline gets approved, the only people that would enjoy economic benefits would be the oil companies and their executives. Millions of dollars in their pockets, whilst British Columbia takes the risk of an oil spill. (4)
The bitumen in the oil is not the same as conventional oil; it is more likely to cause corrosion in the pipelines through which it flows, further increasing the risk of an oil spill. One of Canada’s top oil experts says some oil sands blends are likely to sink in the case of a spill, complicating clean up efforts. (5)
Enbridge has experienced 800 oil spills since 1999 (6) and the pipeline has to travel through the Great Bear Rainforest, known as ‘Canada’s Amazon’. This is the largest intact coastal temperate rainforest on the planet. (7) One single spill from just one of the supertankers could release up to one half of the oil spilled in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico. (8) An oil spill here would devastate the fishing and tourism industry, as well as several endangered species, such as the The Kermode (“spirit”) bear. An accident, caused by weather, mechanical malfunction or human error, would only be a matter of time. The critical habitat of four iconic species, Pacific Humpback Whale, Marbled Murrelet, Mechako Sturgeon, and Southern Mountain Caribou has been left unprotected and vulnerable to pollution, fragmentation and destruction by projects such as the Northern Gateway Pipeline. (9)
No wonder Enbridge deliberately removed 1000 sq km of islands off their route safety video and map to make the oil tanker route look less treachorous than it actually is. (10)
British Columbia has an abundance of natural beauty and wildlife that needs to be protected from profit hungry oil corporations like Enbridge who think of nothing but profits. I’m not prepared to see my new home destroyed, the first nations’ concerns ignored, or the threat of increased global warming all in the name of increased profits for any oil company.
It’s in everyone’s interests to protect the environment and stop this pipeline. So whether you are against the pipeline because of the increase in global warming, the oppression of First Nations, or the fact you don’t much like looking at a sea bird drenched in oil, or perhaps like me, all three, please add your name to tell the Canadian Prime Minister that you are opposed to the Enbridge Pipeline. Together we can stop it: