I’m really excited to share with you a website I designed for Dogwood Initiative, which launched this week. Fair Share BC asks a simple but vital question: What’s a fair share of economic benefits for BC of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline? Whether you’re against the proposed pipeline — as are about three quarters of British Columbians — or for it, or agnostic/undecided, we’d like to hear your opinion.
Understanding that many of us would never put a price on our coast, the main purpose of the site is two-fold: to enable the people to decide what a fair share looks like, and to help conversations happen between folks with different view points. (Maybe Uncle Bob wants more permanent jobs for BC, but thinks we’d get a lot more than we would in reality?) I’d consider myself well-informed, and was surprised by the actual numbers.
Prime Minister Harper’s decision on the Northern Gateway project is anticipated soon. If he gives it the green light, it’s then up to Christy Clark to stand up for BC. But her “fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits” condition in the pipeline’s way is vague — what’s fair by her standards? Dogwood Initiative will collect the public’s Fair Share BC quiz answers (totalling over 2,000) to put some hard, public-powered numbers behind that. I want to make it clear that thinking about what a fair share looks like doesn’t mean we can be bought if we got what we asked for — the reality is that we won’t, so this is an exercise in making it clear that Christy Clark’s fifth condition cannot be met.
I worked closely with Kai Nagata, Energy and Democracy Director. Dogwood Initiative’s Karl Hardin and Joshua W provided technical heavy lifting for which I am grateful.
Additional ways to take action
Join over 16,000 people to send a message to the “Enbridge 21” — BC’s Conservative MPs who stand to lose a lot if the federal government approves the project. Encourage them to support BC instead of Enbridge.
I still remember the staff meeting at the David Suzuki Foundation where I was on the verge of tears. I don’t remember what the sad news was, but the fourth person to speak was David, by phone from South America I think. It was such a devastating stack of news that maintaining composure was a challenge. It was on par with listening to Tsleil-Waututh elder Amy George speak about the Healing Walk and what has happened to their land in the last 150 years — land on which I grew up, too. Her words brought me to or very close to tears twice in one week.
This past Saturday, I spent the entire day with my non-profit friends, some of whom I have the sincerest pleasure of working with. We attended a conference called CanRoots, which was generally uplifting and closed with a standing ovation for two women from Kitimat’s Douglas Channel Watch. The feeling in the room and in my heart was extraordinary: all of us, united in our shared joy and passion, applauding and cheering for a small group of committed citizens who fought a Goliath and won. This is, I thought, a morsel of what it will feel like when British Columbians win.
When your work is to fight hard for something you care deeply about, your job is going to be full of emotion. It’s difficult to hear bad news — ice sheets melting, sea stars dying en masse, another pipeline approval, another loss for democracy. And it’s pure joy to celebrate our successes. But I know that some of my friends have a hard time with the slog. At the end of the day, though, I wouldn’t be doing anything else. I do this work, and I try so damn hard in my personal life as well, because I care so f*&%ing much. Our government calls us radicals and extremists, and we respond by standing taller and stronger. It would, though, be considerably easier to stop pipelines, curb runaway climate change, prevent our water from being destroyed in mining operations, and save the salmon if our provincial and federal governments cared like we do and understood what’s at stake. What we do to the planet, we do to ourselves.
So I’m going to keep throwing my heart and soul at this work. At a fairer democracy, at sustainable alternatives, at stopping new oil pipelines and LNG plants. I’m not a radical. I’m a human.
Want to join me? I just signed up as volunteer organizer for what I think is the best shot we’ve got at saving British Columbia from Enbridge. Sign the pledge to push for a fair, province-wide vote on oil pipeline and tanker traffic expansion in BC. And if you care like I do, I’d love for you to join me in collecting pledges in your community. Will you stand up for BC with me?
It can be difficult to grasp the scale of Edward Burtynsky’s subjects when there are no points of reference — no recognizable objects, intentionally no humans, and sometimes no horizon. Your understanding of what you’re looking at changes between close proximity and several steps back. Sometimes it’s better just to wonder, because comprehending the vast scale of a field of oil drilling rigs, Alberta’s oil sands or a coal mine in BC can take the wind out of you — at least, if you’re as affected as I am by these visuals. I left feeling pretty drained as it’s emotionally taxing to look at how we’ve shaped, polluted and destroyed the landscape of our planet to meet ever-growing needs. Not everything in the Vancouver Art Gallery’s exhibit of Burtynsky’s work was dark, but a bleak image of a massive pile of tires (at a distance, just a huge wave of black) burning after a lightning strike had me reeling and thinking, “what have we done?”
“In Burtynsky’s vernacular, the ‘manufactured landscape’ is no longer a simple contest of nature versus culture; instead his images suggest an emergent condition in which the natural world has been fully consumed, never to reappear again.” — Vancouver Art Gallery
I was standing in front of a large format aerial photograph of a Scottsdale, Arizona suburb when the woman next to me said, “this is the scariest one.” I don’t know if she’d been to the other side of the exhibit yet, but I understood what she meant. A rectangle of desert with a road around its perimeter marks the Navajo reserve, abruptly divided from suburbia, which is the usual unsustainable pattern: tendrils of cul-de-sacs, single-family houses — many with pools — tennis courts, and trees, all supported by a dwindling water supply. Far, far in the distance one can see a few towers in Phoenix, an unpleasant highway commute away. Now that I have time to absorb it, the connection between this and the rest of the exhibit is clear: the activity documented by Burtynsky feeds this horrific exercise in “community planning.” Artificially cheap oil, mining coal and metals, irrigating the desert — it’s all to feed an insatiable appetite called the American Dream.
I’ve been working for months on various campaigns working to shift away from Canada’s large-scale, rapid energy extraction, consumption and export economy, and toward green energy and jobs. Our opposition is wealthy and determined, and the media not always kind. Exhibitions such as Burtynsky’s, or similarly Chris Jordan (on consumption and waste), help to bring a real-life tangibility to what corporations and consumers are doing. It’s up to us to fight for the alternatives, and to be reminded of the ways in which we can meet reasonable needs responsibly.
To that end, here are a few ways you can get involved:
Before you start thinking I’m super gross and live in a pig sty, let me explain.
I’ve been keen on zero waste for a long time. I’m definitely a devoted recycler and composter, having grown up with both at home. But once I moved out I got to make my own choices about where my trash goes and how to keep it from showing up in the first place. Here’s my secret.
This is the most fun you’ll ever have recycling. There are tons of people at the depot. Assuming you pre-sorted your stuff into categories, once you’re there you just drop it into bins and have a chat with people. I usually pay a dollar to have three months’ worth of stuff recycled and the depot is a seven minute bike ride from home. Super convenient.
I usually spend November 16th with my youngest niece for her birthday — she’s turning eight. But this year, I’ll be standing up for her future at what I hope will be the biggest national rally Canada has ever seen.
Over 100 communities from Victoria to Nunavut to Halifax have signed up for Defend Our Climate, Defend Our Communities events to “help build a united wall of opposition to dangerous pipelines, reckless tar sands expansion and runaway climate change.”
At rallies in Vancouver and other BC communities, opposition to pipelines — Enbridge’s Northern Gateway in particular — will be a major force. The event is happening on the heels of BC and Alberta’s premiers agreeing on a “framework” for moving the Northern Gateway project forward, in spite of mass (in fact, majority) opposition among citizens and a clear lack of answers on whether Christy Clark’s five criteria were met, after she earlier rejected the pipeline based on those criteria.
The timing will only add more fuel to the fire as we decide we’ve had enough of being ignored by our government leaders. I look forward to standing up with my fellow Canadians from coast to coast to coast in support of a clean energy economy, action on climate change, and renewed democracy.
I’m really proud to be contributing my design expertise to a very talented national team that has been working hard on this since long before I joined. Please do share our articles and images on social media to spread the word and, if you can, a little love, too. See you on the 16th.
I wondered for a long time why climate change deniers existed. Maybe, I thought, because the truth is scary and requires us to change our ways — not a comfortable request for a society so deeply anchored in business as usual. While it’s true that climate change is indeed frightening and changing ourselves can be met with resistance, the actual reason is that there is a handful of very wealthy people who stand to lose a lot of money from the societal shift required to prevent catastrophic climate change. The rest of us, well, what we stand to lose by doing nothing can’t be measured in dollars.
British Columbians are waging a battle against two pipelines and a prospective future that puts at risk much of what we hold dear. There is a huge opportunity in this crisis, however, to supercharge our people power and fight not just for our rights, the environment, and democracy in BC, but to impact the course of future energy use in Canada and abroad.
Especially with the upcoming provincial election, the time is now to get British Columbians talking seriously about a clean energy direction for the future that helps us avoid oil sands expansion and a six-degree increase in global average temperature.
To help facilitate that, an amazing panel of speakers will be heading the West Coast Oil Pipeline Summit and gala dinner on April 19th. Amongst them, Mayor Gregor Robertson whose team at the City of Vancouver has been very outspoken against Kinder Morgan’s pipeline and tanker expansion plans; Tzeporah Berman, environmental activist; City of Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan; and Chief Justin George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation in North Vancouver, who are directly across from the pipeline terminus at the Chevron refinery in Burnaby.
Say yes to beautiful BC. Say no to Kinder Morgan and oil sands expansion.
Uniform, flawless produce requires a heartbreaking amount of food waste. (Photo by rick via Flickr)
If we’re to feed the world delicious, nutritious food and halt climate change, we have to kill the supermarket.
There are many reasons why I suggest this enormous beast be culled. It thrives on the unsustainable industrial agriculture model of large-scale, monocrop food production, where food is not grown for taste or nutrition. It’s then shipped long distances, so you can eat lettuce in Vancouver in January. Even if garlic is grown in your region, you’re served up the garlic from China instead.
The produce section is a sterile place devoid of scent (the first sense to get us salivating), where the fruits and vegetables are uniform, barely ripe (if at all) and virtually flawless. It’s no wonder children don’t know their food grows in the ground or on a vine: the produce is so unnatural, it hardly seems a product of nature. Its sprawling, dizzying vastness is a maze that encourages overconsumption and takes up excess land to, among other things, allow for extra-wide shopping carts. It makes buying junk food more appealing than buying produce through a combination of store positioning, packaging and price, and this leads to disease.
I could go on; the reason I’m going to focus on here, however, is its massive — and one could suggest criminal — contribution to food waste.
The environmental film series at the annual Vancouver International Film Festival appears to have blossomed this year with over a dozen films dealing with issues ranging from food waste and sustainable seafood to climate change and the tar sands.
Some of them are surprising for their genre: Burning Ice brings artists, musicians and poets to the Arctic, and People of a Feather takes us intimately into the lives of Inuit whose very existence depends on the down of eider ducks.
Premiering on Tuesday is a film about Canada’s energy use by local filmmaker Charles Wilkinson and produced by his partner, artist Tina Schliessler. I’m particularly excited to see this one as I’ve known the family since my childhood. Peace Out features interviews with both opponents and proponents of our current destructive energy systems, and aerial footage of the tar sands in Alberta, a project so massive it can be seen from space. Seen from a plane, it’s utterly heartbreaking. Ultimately, we all need to use less energy.
Every summer I swim in the waters of Burrard Inlet and English Bay. My favourite spot is Cates Park (Whey-ah-Wichen, Faces the Wind), which is nearly opposite a Chevron oil refinery that is responsible for a slow leak discovered a year ago. This refinery is east of the Second Narrows bridge which, as the name suggests, spans a narrow crossing — and it’s a shallow one as well. The number, size and capacity of oil tankers passing through here is growing, with no decline in sight as our thirst for oil continues to increase. This worries me because it leaves us ever more vulnerable to a spill that would ruin a coastline inhabited by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation long before this place had a name, and enjoyed by Metro Vancouver residents and tourists alike. The beaches and waters are home to starfish, crabs, jellyfish, geoducks and many varieties of birds. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot some other fish, a seal or even a whale. Eagles are frequent visitors.
We can’t afford an oil spill in Burrard Inlet, nor can we afford one anywhere along our beautiful coast. The consequences of the Exxon Valdez spill off Alaska are still felt there. A spill of that magnitude hasn’t yet happened to us — neither in BC nor in the Saint Lawrence — and on Monday, May 2 we have the opportunity to uphold the decision the Liberals made in 1972 by voting for candidates who support this ban.