Carmen Mills: With B.C. building Gateway to climate chaos, it's time for direct action

By Carmen Mills

Here in Vancouver on December 7—the first day of the Copenhagen conference—a diverse group of 50 Vancouver-area residents decided to face the climate-change profiteers head on by stopping highway expansion dead in its tracks. Together with award-winning urban planner and UBC professor Patrick Condon, faith leaders, parents, and students, we risked arrest in crisp -7 C weather. We gathered to block the expansion of B.C.’s primary source of climate-changing emissions—automobile dependency, as embodied by the Gateway Program.

The insidious Gateway highway-expansion plan would increase automobile use in our immediate region, lead to more sprawl, and ultimately increase our emissions by an estimated 30 percent. But that’s just the tip of the melting iceberg. This gateway to global warming is, in fact, a key component of an international trade plan based on expanding ports, highways, coal mines, and the internationally criticized Alberta tar sands.

The tar sands are already the world’s largest industrial project and the fastest-growing source of greenhouse-gas emissions on the planet. British Columbia is being marketed as the “gateway” between the tar sands and the fast-growing markets of China, India, and the whole Asia-Pacific region. The Asia-Pacific Gateway Strategy is ultimately about expanding our “trade capacity”, and the highway expansion in our backyard is only one small—but key—piece of it. Locally, Gateway would wipe out Burns Bog, precious wetlands, salmon streams, riverside communities, and farmland—with absolutely no long-term benefits for the people of the region. Not only would we see more and more diesel trucks, super tankers, and open-pit mines in and around our province, but we would increasingly become the enablers or a dangerous global addiction to fossil fuels.

The Gateway project is a clear ticket to environmental and economic suicide. All the evidence is in. Yet, regardless of enormous opposition from municipal leaders, scientists, organizations, and citizens, our “leaders” appear hellbent on construction and damn the consequences. We stand behind the principle of democracy. When our elected officials will not act responsibly, then the people will, and the politicians will have no choice but to follow us.

As our leaders gather in Copenhagen in an attempt to chart a course out of global climate crisis, the worldwide movement toward direct action is gaining momentum fast. We must send a clear message that it is morally unacceptable for anyone to profit from climate change. And, as important as emission-reduction targets and international agreements are, it is equally important to focus on what is simple and within our reach. Here in B.C., our job in the fight against climate change is to stop Gateway here and now.

It is hard to say where we would be now, had citizen action not stopped highway expansion in Vancouver in the ’70s, or had the World Trade Organization uprising in Seattle not focused the eyes of the world on the specter of global trade expansion. We may not have stopped this project yet, but we can. The twin forces of global awareness and the climate crisis are growing exponentially, and there is every possibility that five years from now, the Gateway project may seem like the worst idea that almost happened.

Please join us. It feels great to get active and to realize you are far from alone. And you may gain some stories that your children and grandchildren will be very proud to hear.

Carmen Mills is the founder of Gatewaysucks.org.

Comments (27) Add New Comment
mel lehan
Thank you Carmen. You said so well what we all think. I appreciate your point that we must be active on both the iternational front as well as right here in our own backyard.
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Neale
Thanks Carmen. Keep on truckin' so they DON'T keep on trucking!
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shepsil
Good work Carmen, thanks for doing what others only pretend to do. Green is not a color, but a state of mind!
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avandoc
Everyone needs to understand how this ugly "project" is going to ruin our region and contribute to climate chaos. And we're stuck paying the whopping bill! The BC Liberals are a criminal cabal.
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Lost your collective minds
"absolutely no long-term benefits for the people of the region"

Are you KIDDING me?? In the next 5 years the American dollar is headed for a guaranteed collapse under the inflationary pressure of printing TWO TRILLION a year. This is going to devastate their economy, which we rely on for 70% of our own trade. China has had robust growth for the last 10 years and shows no signs of slowing down, and you are trying to PREVENT an increase in trade with them??

Your warm fuzzy feeling won't feed millions of unemployed Canadians when their best customer can no longer afford to buy anything from them. If you have a 'greener' way to bring tens of billions into the Canadian economy, we are aallllllll ears.

People love to trash all over 'business' and 'trade' until they get smart enough to look at the numbers and see where their bread actually comes from.
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Jim Ervin
Shame on the previous writer for advocating a greater dependency on trade with China while our own Canadian manufacturing industry withers. If we are to become nothing but a country which supplies raw materials for China then this is not only damaging to national pride but to our whole Canadian culture.
Where is the Canadian government support for industries such as the manufacture of electric vehicles? Heavy handed Transport Canada regulations are driving or have driven them out of the country.
The previous writer isn't really speaking up for more business and trade. He's defending government profiteering on the land zoning changes for the Gateway Project and environmental pollution for the sake of short term construction jobs.
If we can't see the words Made In Canada on products instead of Made In China, as the Gateway Project would facilitate, then God help us as a culture.
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ml johnstone
If half the drivers in the US quit driving for one year, and pooled the savings they would have $1.4 TRILLION that could be used for public transit, light rail,
or other sustainable uses of energy.
I grew up on the prairies. We used the trains for transporting everything.
The automobile corporations, and the gas/ oil industries have brainwashed nearly everyone into supporting their gigs.
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Carmen Mills
There ain't no jobs on a dead planet my friend!

btw thanks all for the kudos but i was mostly just the communications wing for this action - i had help writing the op-ed above, others were main organizers for the action, and thousands have been working hard on this for years, numbers growing daily. everyone does their little bit, just what is within their reach. many small actions have huge results.
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femmefatiguee
My bread comes from the land.
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RodSmelser
According to studies done for the Gateway project, it will not add materially to GHG emissions from a base case of no such project.

The opposition to the PMH1 project in Vancouver and Burnaby is primarily about protecting real estate values and tax bases.

Rod Smelser
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Eric Doherty
'Lost your collective' wrote: "China has had robust growth for the last 10 years and shows no signs of slowing down, and you are trying to PREVENT an increase in trade with them??"

Um, 'Lost', you should perhaps read the Globe and Mail or Guardian business section some time. Many analysts believe that the Chinese economy has shrunk over the last 18 months and is only being propped up with massive government spending and wildly stupid sub-prime loans to useless projects. The China bubble is likely to burst within the next five years.

Switching from over-dependence on trade with the US to over-dependence on trade with China would be most foolish given the circumstances. It is time to rebuild the Canadian manufacturing sector, but this time with a view to the future not the past. That means electric trains, light rail and buses, and wind turbines to power them; not the 1950s model of freeways and oil guzzling cars.

But as far as port facilities go, we have tons of excess capacity as it it. Blowing billions to create an even bigger glut is about the stupidest 'investment' possible.
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rob_
"According to studies done for the Gateway project, it will not add materially to GHG emissions from a base case of no such project...."

Did you read the studies?

The province's own assessment admits the project will increase ghg emissions by over 160,000 tonnes per year.
See: http://a100.gov.bc.ca/appsdata/epic/documents/p247/d24666/1189031210771_...

But even this number appears to be to low. see: http://www.livableregion.ca/pdf/Cooking_the_Books_Report_Final_05-02-07.pdf

And using independent models (http://www.sightline.org/research/energy/res_pubs/analysis-ghg-roads) the annual amount would be more like 300,000 - 600,000 tonnes per year.
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RodSmelser
rob_

I didn't read the studies in full, no. Did you?

They have not been challenged by anyone in the universities or other private research institutes. The differences might be made to sound large in absolute terms, but weren't meaningful in relative terms.

Rod Smelser
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RodSmelser
rob_

From your first source:

9.6.1.2 Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Traffic-related GHG emissions were estimated (Table 9-17) for the entire Canadian LFV, with and without
PMH1, other Gateway Program projects and other planned transportation projects. Other planned
transportation projects contribute 218 kt/y of GHG emissions to both cumulative effects scenarios.
Compared to the Projected 2021 Without Gateway scenario, the relative contribution of traffic-related
GHG emissions is 0.5% higher in the Projected 2021 Cumulative Effects With PMH1 scenario and 0.6%
higher in the Projected 2021 Cumulative Effects With All Gateway Projects scenario.

See also Table 9-17 on page 9-55.
Rod Smelser
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rob_
"...They have not been challenged by anyone in the universities..."

Here are what some people from Universities say about the Gateway Program:

Larry Frank, currently the UBC chair of sustainable urban transportation systems:

"Building these highways in the absence of strict growth controls will only result in more congestion and auto dependency.....You cannot build your way out of congestion."

quoted from: http://www.straight.com/article/plan-to-build-city-for-fitness-not-fatness

Bill Rees, UBC professor:

“In our province, we have the ludicrous Gateway project, ...There’ll be more cars, and in about three months, we’ll be jammed up and more cars will be idling than now.”

quoted from Vancouver Sun May, 2007 and http://stephenrees.wordpress.com/2007/05/07/pushing-the-planet-to-its-li...

Gordon Price, director of SFU’s City Program:
"[the Gateway emissions projection] just doesn't pass the smell test."
http://www.sfu.ca/sfunews/Stories/sfunews09280701.shtml

John Robinson, a professor at UBC's Institute of Resources, Environment and Sustainability,
said the controversial Gateway Program could undermine the premier's climate change goals by creating more car-dependent sprawl rather than more compact communities. He said there has been no serious analysis of the long-term implications of Gateway on climate change.
http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/story.html?id=7833cf0a-b519-4b51-9a59...

Patrick Condon Professor, UBC Design Centre for Sustainability:
"The Port Mann project is propelled forward by assumptions that are 20 years out of date."
http://thetyee.ca/News/2009/03/25/LightRail/

Mark Jaccard,Simon Fraser University professor
is also critical of the Gateway project
http:www.sierraclub.bc.ca/quick-links/publications/cool_b-c.pdf

Christopher Barrington-Leigh, PhD, Department of Economics, UBC
"These deep problems with the Gateway rationale, its published documents, and its public accountability must be addressed ...."

"We need to redesign Gateway...[if we continue with the current design]...we will have wasted that money...we will have sunk it into a design that was inappropriate."
- Anthony Perl, Professor and SFU Director, Urban Studies Program
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RodSmelser
rob_

Your latest link contains news clippings.

None of these tenured academics has authored an anlysis challenging the work done for Gateway. Instead, they have left that to others.

If its popular news/entertainment appearances that you're interested in, I heard Prof Perle on a radio talk show a few months ago. According to him, PMH1 if built would be a white elephant. He specifically likened it to Montreal's Mirabel Airport. He claimed that because of higher fuel prices it would be grossly underutlized, a waste of capacity. Yet less than five minutes later he stated it would be swamped in no time by induced demand!

Perhaps you can tell me which page Prof Perle is on today?

You will recall that Vancouver City in its resolution on this subject was ONLY opposed to PMH1. Councillor Cadman himself stated that he had no issue at all with either the NFPR or the SFPR, despite the fact that the latter consumes agricultural land and encroaches on Burns Bog.

There's a clue in that stance, mainly, that these asphalt jungle politicians are not the least bit concerned about the environment. The reality is that they are only concerned about urban real estate values and Ind/Comm tax bases.


Rod Smelser
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rob_
Rod, I am not sure what you are getting at. There are plenty of examples of academics publicly opposing Gateway. Even to the point of risking arrest (which is the story of the original article). What are you looking for? Maybe publication in a peer review journal? Of course, this hasn't happened because there have been plenty of studies that show that highway expansion just induces more congestion and that it increases pollution. A journal wouldn't bother publishing yet another article that states something that has been so well established.

As to the example you brought up about Perle I think most people would understand that in the short term the PM1 project will quickly become congested but in the long term will be recognized as a white elephant. Not sure how you missed the different time frames on these issues.

Do you really think that all these academics are wrong? Where are the academics speaking in support of the project? Can you find any experts (that aren't being paid by Gateway) that seriously think that this project will reduce ghg emissions?
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eddy
to Femmefatigue__ you walk to alberta for the wheat, grind it it with a stone, and pack it on your back , back to the west coast. Of course you can always farm in your back yard if you live in Vancouver, and maybe even grow enough and pack the surplus to market. For many sound reasons we must change and adapt our life style, but the line of protests going on about almost everything is getting beyond stupid. Look around the world, and if you want to protest and make change be brave go out to the starving nations and put up your signs, stomp out their industry and even their cooking fire when they have one and tell them you are saving the planet for their kids, a lot of whom will not make to adulthood.
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RodSmelser
rob_
... There are plenty of examples of academics publicly opposing Gateway. Even to the point of risking arrest (which is the story of the original article). What are you looking for? Maybe publication in a peer review journal?
=======================================

Yes, that is the missing element. None of these academics will risk shredding their professional reputations by publishing, or even just authoring without formal publication, an analytical paper challenging any of the work done by Gateway. They aren't prepared to go to an academic conference and get ridiculed by their colleagues. I find that very telling, since normally one would expect the project proponent's experts to tilt things in favour of the project, possibly making arguable or refutable assumptions.

Yet no one who is actually an "authority", or at least a professor or research chair, has published or authored anything contradicting their work. That job has been left to others who do not have substantial personal career and income interests to protect.

The bit about risking arrest is nothing but a bloody joke.


rob_:
As to the example you brought up about Perle I think most people would understand that in the short term the PM1 project will quickly become congested but in the long term will be recognized as a white elephant. Not sure how you missed the different time frames on these issues.
=====================================

Perle was appearing on the Sean Leslie show on CKNW. Perhaps you should ask him what his time frames were, because I don't recall him stating any. The point for me is that Perle said that the project would be mostly empty yet fully congested, and wasn't even aware that he was contradicting himself.

rob_
Do you really think that all these academics are wrong? Where are the academics speaking in support of the project? Can you find any experts (that aren't being paid by Gateway) that seriously think that this project will reduce ghg emissions?
===================================

As you well know, rob, the point is NOT that Gateway will reduce GHGs, but that it will not significantly add to them.

I have recently read an excellent book by Prof Anthony Downs, titled Stuck in Traffic. It's a bit dated, being written in the early 1990s. Nonetheless, his book does point out the futility of many of the Metro Vancouver "strategies" for dealing with transportation issues. The best method overall is road pricing, which PMH1 and the Golden Ears Bridge are re-introducing in this region after a forty year absence through tolls on the new crossings. And note that Downs does not rule out some additions to highway and freeway capacity as part of the package, despite his committment to a "triple convergence" problem, which I think he over-emphasizes.

If you and other supposed "environmentalists" want to do something useful, why not support recommendations that tolls be re-introduced on other major crossings? Perhaps you're afraid that if you did that the big donors to various ENGOs who live in Vancouver, Richmond and the North Shore would be very, VERY unhappy with you?

You ask "where are the academics speaking in support of the project?" The answer is simple. There are NONE at any university in the Vancouver region, where real estate interests and an entrenched political doctrine would make it impossible for any professor to say publicly that they supported the project.

I will say it again. Opposition to the PMH1 project is predicated solely on protecting real estate values and the share that inner municipalities have of the industrial and commercial tax base. That's certainly the quality of thinking at the Burnaby and Vancouver City Halls. The greenwashing of the opposition to this project is clever politics, nothing more, but unfortunately for you David Cadman gave the game away years ago when he endorsed the SFPR.

Rod Smelser
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rob_
"..an analytical paper challenging any of the work done by Gateway. ..."

As I pointed out the main reason that there haven't been a lot of academic paper published on Gateway is that they wouldn't cover any new ground.

Never the less, academics have certainly written papers on the subject. For example:
http://www.livableregion.ca/pdf/gateway-critique.pdf
And here is one from a professional journal:
http://www.livableregion.ca/pdf/2005-09-ITE-Journal-Ramsey-OfMiceandElep...

"...why not support recommendations that tolls be re-introduced on other major crossings..."

I support tolls. Everyone I know working on this issue supports tolls and/or congestion pricing.

And yes academics do too:
http://www.livableregion.ca/pdf/Washbrook-VancouverRoadandparkingcharges...

"...Opposition to the PMH1 project is predicated solely on protecting real estate values..."

That is an interesting conspiracy theory. But most of the people I know who is opposed to the project have investment in real estate.

"...NOT that Gateway will reduce GHGs, but that it will not significantly add to them...."

The Gateway project is the largest project in the sector that already the largest source of ghg emissions. It may not seem significant to you but there is not other project in the region that will do as much to damage our emission reduction plans.

The science it pretty clear that we need to make dramatic cuts in emissions. Why would spend millions of dollars on a project that will increase emissions when we should be reducing them?
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