Liza Horne: Oil is our heroin

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      Protesting the oil industry and the Enbridge pipeline while wearing a rain jacket and plastic boots is like Rob Ford saying he is a good role model for kids. In both cases, words and actions do not line up.

      Although Ford has finally come clean about his drinking and drug exploits, anti-oil protestors seem to be in denial of what the true problem is, and the extent of their own involvement.

      November 16 marked one of the largest environmental and anti-oil demonstration in Canadian history. From coast to coast, national solidarity was shown in the push for green energy, responsible resource use, and the fight against the Enbridge Pipeline in British Columbia—a proposal which many feel will put our environment on a direct path to a catastrophe.

      Being a fan of the environment, I decided to attend the event. Once I arrived, I noticed that however well-placed their intentions were, the majority of people who showed up did not fully understand the scope of the issue.
      Cramming into the open space in front of Science World, thousands of people joined together to take a stand. In addition to the amazing speakers that took part, the crowd voiced their opinions in the form of the signs they carried: “No More Oil”, “Silence is Consent”, “No Fracking way".

      But only one sign accurately captured the big picture: “Oil is our Heroin”.
      Our current consumer society greatly depends on oil and, like the sign suggested, we are addicted. Plastics, waterproof materials, stretchy fabrics, medicines, makeup, cleaning supplies, and countless other objects we use daily all contain traces of oil. On the odd chance they don't, they were certainly transported to our store shelves by a gas-powered vehicle.

      Oil has been so intricately woven into our products that most of us don't even know its there. This may lead us to think that if the oil industry were to stop, it would only affect a limited portion of our lives. What we don't realize is that as Vancouverites, some of our favourite consumer goods would also suffer and would have to be completely reengineered such as rain jackets, Thermoses, boots, sports gear, and stretchy yoga pants.
      Although deciding how to move oil in and around our province and coast is a serious subject and should not be taken lightly, it is unrealistic to demand the abolishment of the oil industry entirely. People claim that we, the citizens, don't have the time, power, or money to combat oil companies, but in reality it is us who gives them their power. Every time we buy something containing oil, we are telling big business that we need their products and, in turn, put another dollar in the oil company's pocket. If anti-oil protestors really wanted to take a hard stance, they would go cold turkey and leave all oil based products behind.
      There are those however that argue that only a minimal amount of oil is used in consumer goods. Yet with Black Friday in the U.S. just around the corner, followed closely by Christmas and Boxing Day, the sheer volume of products that are produced, transported and sold is monstrous. Ink on cards, glue on boxes, plastic in toys, nylon in clothing—our addiction to oil is all-encompassing.
      In terms of the Enbridge proposal, they may be the wrong company for the job, yet rerouting oil transportation around B.C. completely does not make the problem go away; it simply pushes it into someone else's backyard.

      Coincidently, we share a fence with that someone else. If all pipeline proposals were rejected and the oil companies decided to go through the Northwest Territories, the Yukon, and over to Alaska, that would put the USA in charge of ocean transport. The world has already witnessed weak American regulations by what happened with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and, based on my personal experiences and knowledge of American oil and environmental standards, I would prefer to have the British Columbian and Canadian governments in control of this project.
      It is unreasonable to expect our consumer mentality to change over night, and it is unrealistic to think that we can continue this rate of consumption indefinitely. What is needed is to bring awareness to the presence of oil-based products in our everyday lives and consumers to put pressure on the companies that produce these goods to evaluate how they can make more sustainable products. If we do this, we can initiate a transition away from oil-based production and lessen our dependence on such a destructive industry. Just like a junkie shaking from withdrawals, we know this won't be easy.  

      Having lived in a northern Alberta oil town for two years, SFU student Liza Horne has had the opportunity to learn first-hand about the oil industry. She has spent her university career evaluating the effects of big business and advertising on society, culture, and the modern consumer mentality.



      boris moris

      Nov 25, 2013 at 1:50pm

      Both my Peruvian alpaca sweater and my Nepalese jacket are petrochem free...except for the nasty kerosene fueled flights back here. I got a Jones for flying while suspended in a state of denial. I also like to pretend my weekly ferry trips are fueled by methane emissions courtesy of provincial politicians. Blazing in the smokers section maintains my oil addled appreciation for wilderness and creative delusion.

      Oh wait...we're in a future sub-duction fault zone, right? Maybe it's time to book and leave the coast in the hands of the Petro4ever nihilists? Then nasty talk radio fascists can rule the airwaves and the only action booked into Vancouver's many venues will be Christian rock, C&W and televangelists in thrice weekly live assaults on the gullible and the fleeced. Militia enrollment will grow by a factor of 10 and jackboots will prevail.

      Achtung Baby...der Homeland Furher ist in da house.

      G Lewis

      Nov 25, 2013 at 2:45pm

      The other reality that humans needs to face is that the greatest single factor on our individual carbon footprint is not how much we turn down the thermostat (fueled by hydrocarbons) drive a hybrid (fueled and built using hydrocarbons) switch to cotton fabrics(consuming far more hydrocarbons to grow, harvest and spin the cotton than using oil based synthetics)is how many children we have! Having one extra child puts a huge burden on the world's resources which is almost impossible to make up for in conservation. As soon as these people quit having children they can speak credibly about conservation.


      Nov 25, 2013 at 8:02pm

      How do government subsidies to oil and gas companies fit in with your recommendation that we wean ourselves off petrochemicals, Liza? How does a huge investment into oil infrastructure help us achieve this?

      What, if not the true price of a resource will cause us to use less of it and find better alternatives?

      Yes, we absolutely need to become aware of consumption (I am a HUGE proponent of this and I suspect many of the protesters are too) but maybe Liza overlooked that the protesters are seeking to prevent massive investments into oil infrastructure in order to reduce the switching costs to other forms of energy, and expedite the transition to a low carbon energy.


      Nov 25, 2013 at 8:10pm

      Well said. OIL IS OUR HEROIN! We are not off of it. Shout it from the rooftops.

      Mark Worthing

      Nov 25, 2013 at 10:51pm

      This is a dumb article. Can the GS find a better writer to make this argument, instead of just sounding like an out-t-lunch lay-person wining on the bus.

      You're better than this GS.


      Nov 26, 2013 at 3:37am

      this writer would blame inmates for the quality of prison food. go back to uni


      Nov 26, 2013 at 10:33am

      It's stupid to trust a Big Oil Corporation with repeatedly leaky pipelines made at the lowest cost possible in order to maximize Profit.

      It's even more stupid BOTH Environmentally & Economically to SHIP heavy Bitumen at a low price and therefore low Royalties, unrefined Crude, to Communist China.

      Taking the risk of an Exon Valdez II right here with heavy Bitumen Shipping is Fracking Stupid!!!!

      It would be mush smarter to Refine into Grades of Gasoline & by-products up the value chain and keep BOTH Jobs & the Highest possible Dollar value for the Crude Resource here in BC.

      Economics 101 for the benefit of British Columbians.

      Look at Norway for the best Model for Benefiting the Citizens over Big oil Corporations...

      - Tar Sands get Billions in Rebates every year,

      - Alberta & Canadian Royalty rates amongst the LOWEST in the world calculated on the Low price of Bitumen not even Crude prices,

      - Leaving Alberta in a serious structural Deficit while Oil prices & Profits are at an all time high, a stupid situation,

      - contrast this vs Norway which keeps 85% of it's Oil Revenues via a Nationalized Oil companies & Stat Oil!

      - Even NewFoundLand has a somewhat strong Royalty structure and/or Rate.

      - With a Royalty structure like Norway Canada would have Zero Deficits, All Canadians Health Care & Education would be paid for several Generations,

      Someone should write a Book come and Take it from Canada they give their stuff away!


      Nov 26, 2013 at 10:54am

      I might be misreading the author, but I think she is saying that opponents of Enbridge stand for the abolition of the oil and gas industry.

      As far as I know, the opponents of the Enbridge are opposed to the EXPANSION of the industry, which is a different thing.

      I agree with the author that we are oil-dependent.

      I think that even the most optimistic advocate of solar, wind, thermal and wave energy would agree that there are plenty of perfectly decent, respectable uses for petrochemicals; around 15% of petrochemicals (about a billion barrels a year) are used in nonfuel products, such as clothing and plastics.

      To me, that is plenty of capacity for the uses of oil OTHER THAN burning the stuff up.

      Therefore, opposing Enbridge is NOT the same as fancifully wishing away the oil industry entirely.


      Nov 26, 2013 at 10:57am

      @G Lewis

      I agree and disagree.

      I think it would be desirable for conservationists to practice reduction themselves, such as the minimization of their breeding. Sure.

      But a failure to be fully, fanatically devoted to the elimination of one's footprint is not an argument against treading that footprint more lightly.

      By analogy, the eating of an occasional donut is not a reason to eat them all the time. Efforts to consume lightly are ongoing and ebb and flow.


      Nov 26, 2013 at 6:27pm

      Just because we've been raised and live in an oil dominated society doesnt mean that its okay.

      We have the technology to very VERY seriously reduce our oil use.
      The biggest problem is infrastructure.

      But no big pushes are being made to get those techs out there. Yes some of it comes down to people buying non-oil related products. But like you pointed out, its SO woven into everything that its hard NOT to buy anything thats touched oil.

      So we have to have the right mix of pressure from people, and non-corrupted, non-profit-max'ing companies that listen.

      There is no easy solution for sure.

      But saying "Well you're wearing something made from oil" doesnt make anything they are doing okay, nor does it mean we should settle for using oil.

      Thats like saying "oh, you bought cage eggs once in your life? Guess that means you think its okay"