Ben West: One year from today, we could have a new Canadian government. Then what?

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      This past Sunday was a year to the day before Stephen Harper faces the electorate on October 19, 2015. For the next year, people’s attention will be focused on key issues facing Canada’s present and future. At the top of the list for many, especially here on the Pacific coast, are issues of energy and pipelines. Harper is running on a platform based on so-called “responsible resource development”. This creates a big opportunity to take a closer look at what this really means and to shift focus to opportunities for positive changes as energy and resource issues are top of mind.

      There is already a strong desire for alternatives right now, regardless of the election. People living in the crosshairs of these dangerous pipeline and tanker proposals are coming together wanting to make better projects a reality, and that creates an opportunity for change. The fact that Harper has mismanaged climate and energy policy and undermined democracy only adds fuel to the fire. It’s time for a power shift in our country in more ways than one. Let’s use this moment to move beyond that political dinosaur Stephen Harper and beyond our dependence on fossil fuels in Canada.

      British Columbians will play a big role in determining the outcome of this election. We have a chance to decide whether Harper stays or goes. Given his government’s very unpopular decision to green-light the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, I don’t like Harper’s chances here in B.C. I think he’s going to learn you can’t just bulldoze over our province.

      It’s critical to be talking about not only getting rid of Harper but the specific projects and policies we want the next prime minister to implement. We can’t count on the opposition parties to do this for us. We must define what being responsible with our resources means for ourselves. The environmental movement is often accused of being against everything; here is a chance to make it clear what we are in favour of. This means highlighting specific projects and policies that we want. The next year is critical but to really make change for the better we must continue to build on the momentum beyond election day as well.

      Canada is at a crossroads. It’s why I’ve decided to write a book about how we can use this moment to make real change for the better. I’m crowdfunding to help complete and publish a manuscript I’m already working on. In fact it feels like I’ve been working on this writing for most of my adult life.

      Every Time the Wind Blows will be a book that explores above all the practical alternatives to the destructive tar sands and fossil fuel projects like Enbridge and Kinder Morgan. Every time the wind blows, we miss an opportunity to harvest the renewable sources of energy that are all around us. This is not pie in the sky stuff; the alternatives are already there for us, waiting to be developed. The only question is will we act in time.

      With a prime minister like Stephen Harper, who has proven he’s willing to do just about anything to get these tar sands pipelines built, we’ve spent most of the past decade immersed in efforts to collectively say “No” to these destructive policies. My book will reflect on the lessons I’ve learned from these campaigns, and look at how we can use this moment strategically.

      Along with writing the book, I’ll be traveling to front-line communities along the routes of proposed new tar sands pipelines, in order to bring you the stories of people coming together to help organize around alternatives.

      I want to get the word out that the future is now. We don’t need new pipelines anymore, there are viable alternative energy and transportation projects that we must focus on instead.

      Just saying no to bad projects simply isn’t good enough. We need to replace the status quo as soon as possible. We can do truly responsible renewable resource development in this country and with partners around the world. In the era of climate change we all now live in, creating the kind of jobs we can be proud of couldn’t be more important.




      Oct 21, 2014 at 2:20pm

      For someone who has been working on this "for most of their adult life", you're viewpoint is certainly immature and very simplistic. Seriously, even a cursory overview of what is involved in producing and operating wind turbines reveals how truly dancing they are to the environment and wildlife. You probably love those toxic twistee bulbs that were supposed to replace their inefficient yet benign, incandescent brethren.


      Oct 21, 2014 at 2:40pm

      The author started with a fixed viewpoint, continued with it, and wrapped up with it being the only true path to salvation. Garbage !!!

      I am no supporter of Harper... very far from it... I never voted for him, am not in favour of him, will never vote for him !!! BUT environmental purists are even worse. Holy'er than thou.... idiots... The pipeline isn't more dangerous than using a Northern Ontario abandoned mine site for disposal of 1/4 of Canada's waste.

      All of this is irrational, farcical, utterings... a pox on your tainted, biased house.

      Who calls the pot black ???


      Oct 21, 2014 at 2:48pm

      Well Ben, The wind does blow, and we put wind turbines up to harvest it. So much so that it is actually decreasing the quality of life of those around them, in fact to much so that Ontarian have taken the industry to court to stop them. And Ben your Solar panel stretch goal requires petroleum products to refine the panels and lithium batteries to store the energy in, because during winter in Canada it's dark for 18 hours a day. Where does lithium come from Ben? It comes from mineral waters in the Andes Mountains of Chile. But their environment isn't as precious to you at your Vancouver coastline. You clear own a computer and most likely a cellphone. It's full full of plastic and rare earth metals, where do they come from Ben. Get over your liberal self righteous self.


      Oct 21, 2014 at 2:52pm

      A total ignorance of reality Ben. Oil=tax money. No oil=canada broke.


      Oct 21, 2014 at 3:20pm

      Most of us cannot come close to affording wind as a source of energy. It is simply not ready to support an industrial nation. Perhaps a small island where the owners can pick fruit and read books can live on wind. Nor is solar energy practical yet in Canada. We are a resource based nation, like it or not. Global warming may never be curbed to a level necessary to appease anyone. If we are serious about GHG we should do a lot better in monitoring natural sources. We do not monitor ocean discharge after earthquakes. Isotope fingerprints are not enough and can be misleading. Fracking is a better answer to obtain a clean source of natural gas. But that is still not going to appease a radical environmentalist. Sorry Canada needs oil as does the world. A pipeline is just a logical safe step.


      Oct 21, 2014 at 3:36pm

      You can either grow prosperity on a farm or mine it from the ground. All prosperity relies upon natural resources. If you don't get it, you are blind to the prosperity that surrounds you. Each and every day the economy runs on natural resources. Moreover, there is no shortages. Finding more keeps inflation down. Putting roadblocks in the way just hurts everyone, but it hits the poorest first. The left will never get over their jealousy of those who grow food, find resources and make money and jobs for everyone, even them. Nor can they suggest another path to financial freedom and prosperity.


      Oct 21, 2014 at 3:40pm

      I see the bat signal has gone up for the tar sands fans.

      What matters is impact per unit of energy. Wind, solar, what have you, doesn't have to be perfect in order to be far better.

      For example: "petroleum products to refine the panels" for solar? In fact current solar panels generate the energy used in their manufacturing chain within two years, and last for over 30 years. For wind it's more like 1 year payback, and 30 year lifespan.

      And lithium batteries? Recyclable. And as electric cars make it on the road, their batteries would be more than enough to fill the need for grid-storage once their capacity has dropped below 75% or so of new, meaning low remanufacturing impact.

      And "A total ignorance of reality Ben. Oil=tax money. No oil=canada broke."?

      Actually that's a lie. An oft-repeated one, but a lie nonetheless. Outside of Alberta, the tar sands make up less than 0.5% of Canada's GDP.


      Oct 21, 2014 at 3:49pm

      Jake: "We are a resource based nation, like it or not."

      False, and even if partially true, which resources? For BC a total of 10% of government revenues are from "natural resources", and half of that is from forestry. The total contribution to BC's GDP from the petro and mining sectors is 3.5%. The contribution to GDP from the tar sands outside of Alberta is under 0.5%, and out of GDP growth, only about 0.1% (according to the IMF).

      By the way, the "plastic in cellphones" etc argument?

      Non-fuel products make up something under 3% of crude oil use.

      So where are you guys sent here from? Obviously someone is trolling the net to look for articles like this, and then signaling Albertans and federal tories to pile into the comments.


      Oct 21, 2014 at 4:16pm

      One more lie to smack down.

      "Most of us cannot come close to affording wind as a source of energy. It is simply not ready to support an industrial nation."

      I'm not sure about wind, but solar is on one of those exponential advancement curves. You see, there's a trick thing about exponential change of any kind. It looks like nothing for a very long time, and then suddenly everybody has a smart phone with a supercomputer inside it and all the world's knowledge at their fingertips.

      Or for decades, solar is a laughable "alternative". Certainly I thought it was - until I looked at the data again. The cost has been dropping at an exponential rate for decades.

      In 1977, the cost per watt was $60 (inflation adjusted)
      In 1986, it was $11
      In 2000, it was $5
      In 2014, it was $2
      Projections are for $0.50 per watt in 2016.

      Get the picture? In 2016, solar will be cheaper than new coal-fired plants. Then five years later it's cheaper than natural gas.

      Elon Musk, one of the founders of Paypal, founder of Spacex, Solarcity and Tesla, is building a "gigafactory" with Panasonic that is expected to double lithium battery production in one go, and lower costs by at least 30%.

      How's that price of oil going? Kinda sucks for Alberta, right? You know what's going to happen? It will be left in the ground, because the floor will drop out from under you. The infrastructure proposed is a waste in economic, resource, social, and environmental terms. It should never be built.


      Oct 21, 2014 at 5:01pm

      I love you Bruce.