Oil pipeline to Alberta tar sands must not cross B.C.’s north coast

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      By Ryan Vandecasteyen, Faroe Des Roches, and Curtis White

      Surrounded by concrete towers swallowing the sky, noisy crowds of people milling in all directions seemingly unaware of those around them, the dizzying white noise of a screaming city, we cower in awe, stumble with vertigo, and are reminded of the distance between the city and the coast. In an environment that contrasts so completely with what we’ve experienced on B.C.’s north coast, it may be easy to see why such a crucial issue like Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline can seem so distant.

      Having spent two months paddling the length of B.C.’s coast, we’ve been humbled by our complete immersion in what seems like a whole other world. From waters teeming with an astounding abundance of creatures, from the giant humpback whales to microscopic plankton, being embedded in and reliant on our environment has made the pipeline and tanker issue even more tangible and the battle to stop them from destroying our coast even more important.

      We embarked on our 900-kilometre, two-month journey after hearing of Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which would connect Alberta’s tar sands to B.C.’s north coast and bring massive crude oil supertankers to our shores en masse. From our lives in the city, the decision regarding Enbridge’s proposed pipeline felt intangible and inaccessible. We were frustrated at our exclusion, the apparent exclusion of the voices of concern from communities across the province, and the daunting realization that corporate power and government bureaucracy hold the reins on decision making that would effectively force the citizens of coastal B.C. to take a risk they are not willing to take. This compelled us to take on our kayak expedition, which we have just now returned from.

      Our search began at the first of Kitimat’s formal Joint Review Panel sessions. We quickly discovered many of the inadequacies in the formal process that has been established by the federal government to try to give the public a voice. Many communities, which are poised to lose everything in the event of a tanker spill or pipeline breach, expressed their concern that they have yet to be properly consulted, and that their fate rests in the hands of the appointed three-member panel that will be responsible for the final decision on the project. The more time we spent talking to communities along the coast, the more we realized that public participation in these types of decisions ends at providing feedback. Stakeholders and the public often lack any real decision-making power, leading to questions of how democracy fits into the important decisions that would have profound repercussions on a national level.

      The more time we spent on the coast, the more we began to realize that we weren’t the only ones searching. Everywhere we turned we encountered expressions of similar quests for effective ways to become involved in the creation of our collective future. Situated within a so-called democratic system in which 80-percent opposition is not sufficient to halt a project backed by barrels of oily wealth, everyone seemed to be searching for ways, and creating space, to participate.

      Despite the daunting and ongoing search for answers, the people of the coast have created a multitude of incredible and powerful ways to take their futures into their own hands. Perhaps embodied by the pristine, stunning, raw, powerful, and awe-inspiring beauty of B.C.’s coast, we found the humble strength and determination of the north coast communities essential in creating the space needed to be heard. As many of the people on the coast will tell you, a line is being drawn in the sand here—a line that these people, the stewards of this coast, will ensure is not crossed by those seeking to jeopardize one of the few remaining truly wild places on Earth.

      We found hope in the strength of the communities we visited. They’re firm in their commitments, and it’s inspiring. But the pipeline, and other such projects, will only be stopped if we all join the struggle and defend that line in the sand, the line defining the future we are fighting for.

      Ryan Vandecasteyen, Faroe Des Roches, and Curtis White are members of the Pipedreams Project, which aims to experience, connect, and engage citizens about the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.



      don't be hypocrites

      Nov 8, 2010 at 5:52pm

      Couldn't you wackos concentrate on something like doing less driving or taking less tar sands fueled diesel bus transit rather than being hypocrites who drive out to the beach to protest a tar sands pipeline? If u are truly concerned about the environment, go after TransLink operating diesel buses underneath the trolley bus lines to UBC !!!

      three times lucky

      Nov 8, 2010 at 8:31pm

      no tankers no pipe no drilling no problem

      james green

      Nov 8, 2010 at 10:55pm

      Calling these committed young people who care profoundly about their country and the environment is so hurtful and mean spirited I wonder why the Straight published your comments.
      We should all be proud of youth who care enough to get involved and take action that is peaceful and meaningful.
      Good job to all of you.

      Dana V

      Nov 9, 2010 at 7:55am

      These 'hypocrites' all ride bicycles and don't own vehicles. They would love to have skytrain go out to UBC. When is the last time you got involved in a cause to the point that you were prepared to give up work, friends, university, and family for 60 days to experience something far bigger than yourself? How many groups exist that are rallying FOR the pipeline....I'm guessing none.

      @Dana V and James Green

      Nov 9, 2010 at 12:32pm

      Yes, I have never aimlessly puttered about the ocean, you're right, and GS has an obligation to print both sides. For you information, I also ride my bike to work daily. If I lived in Edmonton or Calgary where the weather isn't conducive to cycling all year round, I'd be driving half the year.

      Hopelessly attacking the tar sands as unsustainable is misguided and you people could better direct your attention to the unsustainable use of diesel buses in Vancouver because they are using diesel fuel produced in Alberta by Suncor and others, we don’t have much conventional oil left to exploit. Don't tell me that you don't drive or have never relied on someone who drives, that's crap.

      We don't have to spend billions of dollars on SkyTrain transit which is unaffordable and a ruse by TransLink to stall and profit over the next 10 years operating diesel buses costing next to nothing. Simple trolley buses costing a fraction of the SkyTrain would do nicely to meet transit demand to UBC if TransLink opened up more routes to UBC for trolley buses along 4th and 16th avenues.

      Of course, many including impressionable students have been brainwashed by TransLink into believing that SkyTrain is “it”. This is unfortunate but most people only know what others tell them and can’t think for themselves. Meanwhile, TransLink will keep milking taxpayers for its $10 million dollars (and climbing) to study transit options to UBC.

      Keep puttering about the ocean, you aren’t accomplishing much and are still misguided hypocrites who cry about our dependence on oil. Putting the blame on Alberta is very hypocritical when you only have to look at TransLink in BC to find the people who are most to blame and the cause of our dependence on oil. Thanks for giving me the chance to enlighten you or others who might have a little more sense than you.


      Nov 9, 2010 at 2:16pm

      I don't understand "hypocrite" why you spend so much time being negative and criticizing others. It's easy to put down people who are doing their best to bring a voice to an issue but how is that helping. They're trying to bring attention to the pipeline because that's a part of the bigger oil issue. By making people aware maybe the public will start looking at things like translink but if people like you put down and belittle every person who tries to draw attention to this issue nothing will be solved. Yes you ride your bike to work- big deal so do a lot of people. Lets be serious this attack on the pipedreams project is just about building up your ego. Negativity is nothing but a cop out. If you're really so concerned about translink then maybe you should be joining forces with people like the pipedream project not fighting them. Oh but wait then you wouldn't be the centre of attention. Grow up and realize that your negative attitude will get you nowhere in life.

      Dana V

      Nov 9, 2010 at 4:13pm

      To HYPOCRITE: That's ok you can aimlessly hide behind your laptop instead but if you paid attention to what was written you will find that it is the pipeline from the tarsands to the coast that is being questioned, along with the decision making process. The pipeline's main purpose is so that this oil can be sold to China, increasing the output at the tarsands by 30% which means even more pollution, more cancer in downstream villages, more dead water fowl (260 last week) and more depletion of clean water used in the process. Along with the pipeline there will be over 250 oil tankers per year navigating narrow passages on our coast and there will eventually be a spill. Google Exxon Valdez to see how over 20 years later you can simply turn a few rocks on the beaches to find crude oil. It's called crude for a reason. Another purpose of the trip was to try and bring these concerns forward, to get people talking about this issue. Guess what...it's working. If everyone simply took your attitude that you can't stop big business etc etc then not much would ever change for the better would it? It is people like this trio that may have a part in saving us from ourselves. It may take a few generations but it will happen.

      Avid Cyclist

      Nov 9, 2010 at 4:30pm

      If we all took transit and rode bicycles, we would not need an oil pipeline in the first place.

      If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

      Stop driving your vehicles and get on a bike... NOW.


      Nov 9, 2010 at 5:43pm

      They aren't tarsands, they are oil sands.
      The river downstream from that location had oil slicks on it a long time before anyone started mining for oil.
      Those protesting it have no idea what they're squawking about.
      They have been duped by a well-funded campaign to deny North Americans ANY domestic oil supply. It's so obvious as to be a joke!
      The Obama admin has hobbled drilling efforts on dry land and offshore, while investing Billions of dollars in Mexican and Brazlian offshore oil.
      Do the math, people, and realize how stupid you look protesting these efforts. You DO know that tankers have been sailing in and out of Burrard Inlet for generations, don't you? Come to think of it, you probably don't, and are now going to protest that! Too fun!

      @Dana V and NZ

      Nov 9, 2010 at 6:12pm

      You'll probably be surprised, I vote for the Green party. Nothing is fail-safe, still if you were talking about a nuclear reactor with long term dire consequences (millions of years), I'd be on your side.

      We are talking about relatively benign oil (short term consequences). An oil pipeline is the safest way to transport oil and the tankers today are double hulled; we aren't going to have another Exxon Valdez disaster here and drunks don't get to be captains of oil tankers anymore. Your paranoia over the pipeline seems to me to be excessive and unwarranted.

      If you want to redirect your efforts towards the users in BC, you might do some good going after TransLink which uses 40 million litres of diesel fuel every year for its eco-diesel buses on our trolley bus routes. We might meet someday if you do. Damaged lungs from breathing toxic diesel exhaust will do you more harm in your life than any pipeline across the Rockies.