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

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      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



      mel lehan

      Dec 11, 2009 at 1:51pm

      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.


      Dec 11, 2009 at 4:04pm

      Thanks Carmen. Keep on truckin' so they DON'T keep on trucking!


      Dec 11, 2009 at 6:55pm

      Good work Carmen, thanks for doing what others only pretend to do. Green is not a color, but a state of mind!


      Dec 11, 2009 at 11:26pm

      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.

      Lost your collective minds

      Dec 12, 2009 at 4:03am

      "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.

      Jim Ervin

      Dec 12, 2009 at 11:07am

      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.

      ml johnstone

      Dec 12, 2009 at 11:14am

      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.

      Carmen Mills

      Dec 12, 2009 at 11:24am

      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.


      Dec 12, 2009 at 11:57am

      My bread comes from the land.


      Dec 12, 2009 at 8:53pm

      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