Thursday, January 3, 2013

Briony Penn Takes on Oilberta

Focus Magazine used to be this sleepy little mag read by seniors and, well, pretty much no-one else. But over the last couple of years, it has transformed itself into one of the most hard-hitting, deep-digging, and well-written magazines in Canada. And pretty much nobody outside Victoria knows about it.
We also have some of the smartest and most committed environmental activists in the world here. The local environment pretty much demands it of a person. There's Alexandra Morton taking on the fish farms of the Broughton Archipelago. David Suzuki just keeps getting smarter and more focused. And let's be frank; who else has elected a Green to Parliament? And then there's Briony Penn.
photo from The Province newspaper
Yes, Briony is not unwilling to use pretty much any means to get an issue attention. She rode through Vancouver as Lady Godiva to bring attention to logging on Salt Spring Island. And, if you've seen Salt Spring
Island, youll know why she did it.
Photo from
Briony is also an adjunct professor of environmental studies at the University of Victoria, and continues to write--currently in Focus Magazine.  Where she has written this excellent article on the way the two sides are approaching the expansion of pipeline capacity through British Columbia.
Despite [Ian Anderson, CEO of Kinder Morgan}'s claim to be committed to more genuine consultation, it’s not clear that he or any of his colleagues in the oil patch understand British Columbians’ deep opposition to exposing their land, rivers and sea to the risks posed by oil pipelines and tankers and our even broader concerns. Many of us are sensing that we are on the verge of environmental collapse and that any one of these major projects could put us over the edge. Gerald Amos, past chief councillor of the Kitimaat Village Council, at the end of Enbridge’s proposed pipeline between the tar sands and the coast, articulates the crucial point around consultation: “The big issue for communities—one that really hasn’t been grappled with yet—is the cumulative impact of what we call progress.”
Whether it’s Jasper grappling with the cumulative impacts of man-made corridors on wildlife populations; or Kitimaat with the rising toll of logging, mining, hydro projects and the eight proposed liquefied natural gas plants; or Victoria facing another 300 oil tankers in our waters each year to service the expanded Kinder Morgan depot, the big issue for British Columbians is not just the next big project planned, but the sum total of where we are going as a nation with our energy needs, our distribution, and the rate of exploitation.
Anderson’s speech suggested that he believes it’s a waste of time trying to educate British Columbians about the importance of the pipeline to national security, that we’re simply concerned about our own backyard. In reality, though, it’s Anderson who doesn’t understand the big picture.
We get it that we are moving perilously close to the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Or, more aptly, in the case of the Rockies, the mountain caribou’s back. And on the coast, the southern resident orca’s (another species at risk) back. Environmental collapse cannot be addressed with such solutions as one discussed by the Heavy Oil club: saving caribou in the tar sands by fencing them into compounds to “mitigate” their decline.
“Cumulative impact” is the scientific term for what we intuitively sense is happening to our environment. While assessing such impacts is central to environmental assessments—and true national security—in jurisdictions around the planet, Canada’s policy on such matters, unfortunately, has regressed back to the 1950s.
Read the article. Particularly if you're an Albertan--the days of blithely assuming that oil will sell, the economy will expand, and "Alberta will be the  envy of the country," well, those days are over. BC is one of the reasons Harper decided to gut environmental protections in this country. We are squarely in the cross-hairs, and we know it. Ans still two thirds of BC residents are willing to flip him the bird. Harper's worried about bodies in front of bulldozers day after day on the news. He should be.

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