Read this if you care about the future

By Bruce Hill

We’re in the midst of a folkstorm between big oil, indigenous communities and environmentalists. Reeling from the collapse of the local forest industry we face a tangled web of difficult choices. The fight over the Enbridge Northern Gateway oil pipeline is not just another dust up between industry, First Nations and enviros, but a turning point that will define our future.

Whether you are left, right or sideways, you know we are in the midst of profound change – climatically, morally and economically. We’re scared for our children. And increasingly our children are scared as well.

We’ve overspent, underthought, and have been engaged in an orgy of consumerism that threatens to leave future generations bereft of choices. Yet we are curiously dissatisfied despite our wealth. There’s a dawning realization that health, community and family are priceless, as is this place we call home.

Enbridge desperately wants to build a pipeline from the tar sands to our coast. They say the danger of a spill is “nil” despite the fact they can’t seem to keep their oil in their pipes anywhere else.

They ask for our trust yet are constantly being prosecuted by agencies in other jurisdictions where they operate, for ignoring the rules and laws they are supposed to abide by. They say that even if a spill happens, on our coast or in our rivers, they have a contingency plan for cleaning it up, when every shred of empirical evidence denies this is possible.

Does anyone with a grasp on common sense actually believe Enbridge’s claim that a major spill on our coast can be cleaned up? That they could even get to a broken pipe destroyed by a landslide in a remote canyon in the coast range in the middle of winter? How would you house, support and feed thousands of oil spill workers on our outer coast in the middle of winter? Are their contingency plans anything more than an awkward and corrupt attempt at deception? Do we even have laws in Canada that would hold Enbridge liable for full damages if something goes wrong?

This project is intended to create political pressure on the U.S. to back off on demands for cleaner Canadian oil. We are caught in the middle of global game playing, with an unwanted and unneeded pipeline being shoved down our throats. We know our addiction to oil is significantly damaging the world. Clean water and clean air are not luxuries for the enviro elite, but necessary for all life.

Northern Gateway is a symptom of what’s wrong. Hydrocarbons from halfway around the world (condensate) being shipped to our coast, then piped 1,200 kilometers to Alberta, only to be mixed with raw bitumen, and sent right back along the same route to be shipped, again, halfway around the world. This is madness.

Polls show 80 per cent of BC residents understand the madness of this project, and want a crude oil tanker ban on the north coast. Our children get it. But some of Terrace’s leaders don’t, or won’t.

This is not about a few jobs; this is about our survival as a species, and our obligations to future generations.

We are caught in the headlights of history, and this region and its citizens are at the centre of it all. If the madness doesn’t stop here, then where will it? Time to choose. Time to lead. Time to be righteous and brave. Time for Terrace to join with First Nation communities and simply say ‘no’.

Bruce Hill is the project director for The Headwaters Initiative, an organization that works on resource issues with northwestern First Nations.

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