The Future of our Environment Depends on Pipeline Protests

by November 24, 2016
filed under Activism
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National ObserverAlong with twelve other organizers, we dropped the 150-foot long “No Kinder Morgan” banner from Cambie Bridge in Vancouver as kayakactivists raised their flags for climate justice in the waters below. I climbed onto the concrete roadway median on Cambie Bridge and anxiously waited for the marching protesters to join us. In a matter of minutes we could hear the beating drums, anti-pipeline chants and honking horns of solidarity. The sound of an inter-generational and cross-cultural movement for climate justice and water protection filled the streets. The message carried by the thousands of protesters was clear: The proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion deprives current and future generations of a healthy environment while nourishing corporate greed. The pipeline cannot be approved. After Justin Trudeau’s recent shortsighted approval of the Pacific Northwest LNG terminal, which will be Canada’s largest carbon emitter in history, the very institutions in place to represent public interest are playing Russian roulette with the climate and our collective future. Now more than ever, it’s time to elevate our voices through dynamic, radical, and tireless action.

If the Kinder Morgan pipeline goes through, the consequences would be devastating. With an increase of 890,000 barrels of toxic heavy bitumen oil transported daily, tanker traffic would increase from 60 per year to more than 400 per year. Our tanker-saturated inlets would become a constant visual reminder of the imminent threat of an oil spill that would devastate marine life and local communities. In the past 37 years, there were 3.2 major oil spills per year. In just the last five years, that number has soared to 14.8 major oil spills per year. We cannot even afford the risk of one. Even more shocking is the fact that approximately 706 million gallons of waste oil enter the ocean every year and this isn’t deemed an oil spill. Canada’s complacent acceptance of waste oil is an explicitly dangerous standard of tolerance for environmental degradation.

It’s unconscionable that Canada’s once climate-justice touting poster boy, Justin Trudeau, is considering pipeline and fossil fuel infrastructure expansion when just last year he publicly committed to the Paris Climate Agreements in his euphoric declaration, “Canada is back!” Perhaps Trudeau and other fossil fuel hungry politicians forgot what it was they agreed to: Reducing carbon pollution and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. In order for that to happen we need to decrease fossil fuel extraction and consumption. To uphold the Paris Agreements, 70-80 percent of fossil fuels deposits must be left in the ground. At this rate, Canada will overshoot the Paris Agreement target by 91 megatonnes.

Paris Climate Agreements aside, what about Canada’s declarative statements of support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Treaty 8 rights? Just last year, Trudeau proclaimed, “It’s time for a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations peoples, one that understands that the constitutionally guaranteed rights of First Nations in Canada are not an inconvenience but rather a sacred obligation.” Despite this public commitment, Trudeau’s approval of the Pacific Northwest LNG, silence on the construction of the Site C Dam and expected approval of the Kinder Morgan Pipeline speaks louder. In a yearlong review of six expert reports, the Tsleil-Waututh Nation concluded that the environmental and cultural impacts of an oil spill would be disastrous. Fumes from spilled oil alone could make over 1 million people sick, while heavy oil would destroy salmon, herring and bird populations. The very water that once provided 90 percent of their diet would be occupied by tanker traffic in the Tsleil-Waututh’s traditional territory, the Burrard Inlet.

The honeymoon phase following Trudeau’s election is over. The once exciting sentiments of human and environmental rights promises now reek of disingenuous lip service. Saturday’s Kinder Morgan protest that drew thousands into the streets represents our collective divorce from political illusions that are not rooted in the interests of people and the Earth. It’s in everyone’s interest to be involved in this movement for climate justice. Canadians still subsidize the fossil fuel industry in $3.3 billion incentives and tax breaks per year. We are being forced to fund the demise of our communal and environmental well being. While the Cabinet is expected to make a final decision on the pipeline in December, the movement won’t end whether or not the right decision is made. The power of this movement is in the strength of community and that won’t be dismantled by corrupt political decisions. We’re energizing each other for the long run as we act together for our future.

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