What role does a concert like the Salish Sea Summer Gathering hosted by the Tsleil Waututh Nation play in stopping an oil pipeline? Bringing together art, music and culture is actually really important in the work to protect our coast. First Nations and non native people working together is not only important for healing the wounds of history but also for collectively plotting a course forward.
Stopping a multi-billion dollar mega-project is fundamentally a battle for the hearts and minds of the majority of people and a festival like this one can go a long way towards building a vitally important social movement and spreading awareness. We will never have as much money as Texas-based Kinder Morgan, run by billionaire (and former Enron executive) Richard Kinder, but we do have people power on our side and to succeed it must continue to grow.
Cates Park, or Whey-ah-Wichen, is the perfect location to hold this Summer Gathering. To get a sense of what's at stake, you just have to look out from the park across to the Kinder Morgan terminal behind Burnaby Mountain. It's these beautiful waters, which the Tsleil-Waututh have lived on for millennia, that Kinder Morgan wants to put at risk with up to 400 giant tankers per year filled with tar sands diluted bitumen heading for export.
First Nations lawsuits based on land and title rights are one of the strongest tools that are being used to stop pipeline projects. Building a greater respect and understanding within non-native communities regarding our contractual (treaty) and moral obligations to First Nations is important. Concerts like this one play a big role in helping facilitate that process. As non-native allies we have a responsibility to help spread this kind of understanding. A good way to start is inviting your friends to the Summer Gathering on Sunday.
One of the most common questions asked in regards to proposed oil pipelines is, "Don't we need the oil?" Folks feel like hypocrites driving to work in the morning and opposing a pipeline at the end of the day. An important part of this dialogue is building an understanding that not only is it essential that we phase out our dependence on fossil fuels to stop the destabilization of the climate and the extreme weather events that come with it, but that doing so actually creates more jobs than the status quo.
The World Bank and International Energy Agency have both clearly stated that not only can we move beyond fossil fuels using existing technology, but the process of this transition will create trillions of dollars worth of new opportunities worldwide.
Thankfully, the Tsleil-Waututh Nation are not just standing against this dangerous Kinder Morgan plan; they're also on the leading edge of advocating and implementing positive alternatives, having invested in their own wind turbine company and installing solar panels on their government buildings. The nation has been a leading advocate for energy alternatives and solutions that create good jobs everyone can be proud of.
Of course it's hard to talk about pipelines without mentioning that the reality right now is that we also have the fight of a lifetime on our hands against the Harper government in Ottawa, which is doing everything it can to push through tar sands pipelines to the B.C. coast.
The election in 2015 is a critical moment to transform public opposition in to political impact. The next election is likely just over a year away, and we can't afford for the Harper government and its pro-pipeline agenda to win.
People in every corner of this province are getting organized to make sure our politicians are representative of the huge public opposition to both Enbridge and Kinder Morgan's pipelines. I hope you'll join them. Elections are of course only a small part of democratic engagement. Real leadership comes from the grassroots, thats why its so important for us to come together and this festival is a great place to start.
We all have a role to play in stopping these pipelines. It starts with getting informed and getting involved. Talk to your friends and family about it and bring them to the summer gathering and other events. Help the movement grow. Think about what you like to do and how you can help. A better world is possible, now it's up to us to make it a reality. Let's have fun doing it.
Enjoy the sunshine and this coastal wonderland that is there for us all to cherish and protect.
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