When British Columbian's go to the polls next week, we face a clear choice. Underlying the pipeline and tanker debates in this election is the question of whether we as a province want wild salmon, resilient communities and sustainable jobs for our children, or whether we want to leave a legacy of oil spills and rising seas. In other words, will we elect a government that will take responsibility to do something about climate change?
How timely that former U.S. vice president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Al Gore has been in Canada in May, talking about climate change. Diplomatically, but in no uncertain terms, Mr. Gore framed the development of the Alberta tar sands as a "reckless spewing of pollution into the Earth's atmosphere as if it's an open sewer." I suppose that would make the pipelines proposed to cross British Columbia the gutter through which the tar sands crude would flow before being burned and released into the atmosphere.
The scramble to build these pipeline "gutters" is characterized by frenetic posturing, multi-million dollar ad campaigns, government lobbying and multiple project proposals; pipeline companies are falling all over themselves to export tar sands crude from Alberta, in whatever direction possible. There are pipeline proposals that would go West, South, East, and now even North to the Arctic Ocean. Perhaps next someone will try to air-lift tar sands crude to get it to international markets.
For its part, the federal government is doing all it can to promote the tar sands at home and abroad; changing the laws, launching public relations campaigns, silencing scientists, and wooing foreign governments.
Meanwhile there have been so many pipeline spills happening across North America lately that it is hard to keep track of them all. And yet these oil and gas corporations have the audacity to say, trust us.
Trust us to bring tar sands crude across 700 salmon streams and through the world-renowned Great Bear Rainforest, says Enbridge, despite evidence from the National Energy Board that existing Enbridge pipelines don't meet national safety regulations.
Trust us, say the former Enron executives at Kinder Morgan, as they try to convince us of the benefits of building a new pipeline across B.C. to ship the world's dirtiest oil to Asia and the US, putting the west coast of North America at risk of oil spills and driving the expansion of the tar sands, spiking the impacts of global warming everywhere.
British Columbians know better.
If we connect the dots between all the natural gas, coal and tar sands proposals in B.C., a big picture emerges and the choice we face becomes both stark and clear.
We can allow the business-as-usual rapid extraction and export of non-renewable resources, for profit and at the expense of the long-term health and safety of our drinking water, our salmon, our communities, and our climate.
Or we can choose to slow down, take the long view, and act like we are actually going to be around for a while. We can choose to make the hard decisions, to do what is required now in order that our children are not faced with the mass extinctions of species and mass migrations of people that will result from a changing climate.
The science is clear. If we want to avoid catastrophic global warming we need to stay within our carbon budget, which is the amount of carbon that we can burn and still stay within 2⁰C of warming. This carbon budget is less than one-third of known global reserves of coal, oil and gas. Which means that the remaining two-thirds need to stay in the ground.
To stay within our carbon budget and leave a legacy of hope for our children means not building the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline or the proposed new Kinder Morgan pipeline.
On tar sands pipelines and tankers in B.C., both the NDP and the Greens have opposed the Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipeline proposals that would increase oil tankers off the BC coast. The Conservatives support the proposals. The Liberals have failed to take a clear position, even suggesting that, for the right price, they would accept the risk of oil spills.
The next B.C. government must have the leadership and vision to make the hard decisions; with the courage to stop building pipelines that would put at risk thousands of jobs and lock us into global warming. We need a government that stewards our collective future wisely, by investing in green jobs and saying yes to a clean energy future.
In this short video, Thief Behind the Mask, spoken word artist CR Avery connects the dots between pipelines, oil tankers and climate change. He is unsparing in speaking truth to power about the companies leading us down the path toward climate catastrophe and the movement building against them.
The video inspires us to think courageously about the future we want, for Canada's west coast and the planet.