Stephanie Goodwin: Unlike Gulf of Mexico, B.C. can choose to avoid massive oil spill

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      By Stephanie Goodwin

      Imagine kayaking through peanut butter. Except the peanut butter is toxic crude oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

      Paddling through the marshes of the Mississippi delta with a fellow Greenpeace activist, tar balls float by and our hull is instantly coated in oil. There is an oil boom beached up on the marshy reeds, but what is capturing the oil is nature’s boom—the marshy reeds—and they are choking in oil. Each reed is covered in thick, brown oil. Quickly, we too are covered.

      Our safety suits and gloves are not for show—they are separating us from the polluted bayou and globs of oil. Unfortunately, the animals that make up the lush ecosystem don’t have safety suits and gloves on. A crab walks by me using a dirty oil boom as a sidewalk. The future doesn’t look bright for these marshes.

      We’ve been in the Gulf of Mexico for nine days. The tar balls that cover popular but empty white-sand beaches look like human waste and stick to our boots like glue. The thick oil in the marshes is like a bad dream, it sticks to everything.

      That’s not the whole story though.

      As I prepare to return home to Vancouver tomorrow (July 6), I’m still thinking about the people of this area. Now that the oil well has been spilling for 10 weeks with no end in sight—how are they coping?

      Our hotel receptionist said to me last night, “The impact of the spill to me personally? Well, it’s our food. We have less food choices. It’s our fishing. It’s our whole way of life really.”

      The hotel at a popular beach resort in Alabama was only 10-percent occupied at a time when it should be bursting at the seams with sun- and surf-seeking tourists. The only work for shrimpers these days is using their shrimp boats to move oil booms around. The selection of seafood, once a dominant item on restaurant menus, has shrunk and become more expensive because of its scarcity.

      It’s clear people here want to go back to their normal lives, before the spill. It seems though that this is the new normal and communities did not get a choice in the matter.

      I feel lucky. In B.C., we still have a choice. We haven’t yet seen the “big one”. The closest we’ve come to a massive oil spill is the Exxon Valdez in Alaska 21 years ago. As Canadians, we need to act quickly if we are to avoid the same fate for our Pacific coast.

      Vancouver city council, scientists, oil-tanker experts, and NGOs meet today (July 5) at city hall to discuss oil tankers in Burrard Inlet in light of the BP oil spill catastrophe. In Vancouver, the clearest first step is to stop any further expansion of oil travelling through Burrard Inlet, and then take the steps necessary to reduce and eliminate the more than 100 oil tankers that navigate these waters annually.

      Greenpeace is calling upon the Canadian government to learn from the mistakes of our American neighbours and not allow Kinder Morgan or Enbridge to become the BP of B.C. The only way to do this is to legally ban oil tankers and offshore oil and gas development on Canada’s West Coast.

      We can eliminate the dirtiest and most dangerous energy sources, like offshore oil development and the Alberta tar sands. Our addiction to oil can be replaced by an energy revolution based on renewables.

      In a city where so many people enjoy kayaking and the beauty of our marine environment, it would be tragic if kayakers in Vancouver had to paddle through thick, toxic oil to reach one of our beaches. The more likely alternative is that we would no longer see kayaks in the water, period.

      We still have a choice. We cannot let Enbridge or Kinder Morgan become the BP of B.C.

      Stephanie Goodwin is the B.C. director for Greenpeace Canada.



      Kim DidierSerre

      Jul 5, 2010 at 4:47pm

      I can only tell you how I feel. I am a huge supporter of the life of animals. I live and breathe for them by either in assisting or educating someone or even myself. One common thread I have found between us and Nature is that we are always in their way and making life so much harder on them than it needs to be. We always seem to be more worried about ourselves and are completely blinded to what else we need to exist in life. I do not believe I "need" offshore Oil tankers and such in order to exist. So to sum it all up...No I do not support anymore "Oil Tankers or the likes there of" in, near or about the waters of British Columbia....Quite frankly I do not want them in any waters anywhere in the World at all. Thank you for listening.

      find out what neoliberalism is

      Jul 6, 2010 at 1:20am

      We don't actually have a choice in Harpers Canada and Gordon Campell's BC.

      Democracy is fought by our governments in the service of corporate profits.

      Stephanie Ballendine

      Jul 7, 2010 at 11:30am

      Let us learn from our Southern neighbours and treasure what we have for generations to come. There is no doubt that the gulf oil spill will have significant reprecussions on the North American economy and even us in BC. We cannot afford a disaster like that on our doorstep!


      Jul 7, 2010 at 11:35am

      MMMMMMMMMMMMM peanut butter!!!

      Z from Victoria

      Jul 7, 2010 at 1:36pm

      Every day since the spill, I have taken special time out of my day to visit the ocean in Victoria. For the first time in my life I feel strongly that our pristine natural environment is going to be lost during my lifetime (I am 23). If we gain nothing else from this atrocity, let us ban ALL offshore oil operations. Especially those off our northwest pacific coast! We have one of the most vital marine ecosystems on the planet. Please everyone, imagine your waters filled with sludge and get acting on banning oil operations today.

      Harold B

      Aug 6, 2010 at 5:54pm

      This is a non-problem. There will be no offshore drilling in BC because the geology is such that the prospects of finding commercial quantities of oil are slim to none.