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.