It is Up to Us to Make a Stand and the Time is Now!

by: Sara on 01/24/2013

Today's blog post comes from our very own Publishing Assistant, Customer Service, and Office Manager extraordinaire Jean Wyenberg. Jean made the following presentation at the Joint Review Panel for the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project as a member of the local Gabriola organization the Positive Energy Quilters.The full list of presentations can be found here and to learn more about the push to protect the delicate landscape and waters of BC's West Coast from oil-tankers see the Dogwood Initiative and The Georgie Strait Alliance websites.

In keeping with our activist roots, members of the New Society Publishers staff will be participating in the Idle No More Worldwide Day of Action on Monday January 28th, to stand in solidarity with the movement’s goal to urge the government of Canada to repeal all legislation which violates First Nations treaties and indigenous sovereignty rights, and removes environmental protections, leaving land, water and forests endangered and terribly vulnerable to exploitation.

My name is Jean Wyenberg; I live on Gabriola Island and I am a member of the Positive Energy Quilters group. I am here to voice my strong opposition to the Northern Gateway Project based upon the stated mandate and the goal set by the National Energy Board.

I have a vital interest in the protection of our environment with a personal focus on the protection of wildlife. I work as a volunteer for a group called GROWLS (Gabriola Rescue of Wildlife Society) and this brings me in contact with wildlife at risk mainly due to the actions and to the influence of humans, whether it be direct attack, loss of food source, destruction of habitat or by accident. My little quilt square is of an otter I saw on a rock on an absolutely beautiful sunny day. The water was sparkling blue and clear and the otter was fat and healthy.

Sadly, I regularly see starving animals, whether it be seal pups, eagles, heron, otters or others, admittedly sometimes due to illness but often due to a simple lack of available food supply. These things are canaries in the coal mine. And when looking at the entire planet as opposed to just my little island the coal mine is littered with dead canaries. There are many causes for these deaths but the biggest and the most challenging to deal with is global warming climate change and the current and future disasters it will bring to the planet and its inhabitants world-wide and then focused down into our country, our province, and our little island.

This pipeline project is proposed to carry bitumen from the tar sands to our coast. Because it requires large amounts of energy production of this bitumen is estimated to release at least three times the greenhouse gas emissions per barrel as compared to the production of conventional crude oil.

We are currently at just over 390 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and we are seeing polar ice disappearing at an alarming rate, glaciers, a source of drinking water for many people, melting away, ever more violent storms, severe droughts and equally severe flooding, warming and acidifying oceans, the moving north of deadly insects bearing malaria and denge fever and so on.

Based on what actually is happening now, a few years ago scientists determined that the breaking point was actually at 350 parts per million, so in a sense we need to start moving backward in time in order to move forward on this issue, and that means drastically reducing our carbon emissions -- drastically.

This is no longer taking the form of strongly worded warnings about the future, it is at the point of strongly worded statements by green extremists such as oh, the World Bank, the International Energy Agency and Price Waterhouse Coopers that we are literally in the future now and facing great turmoil and hardship. We are dealing with it now as in the most recent U.S. disaster Hurricane Sandy and the out of control fires in Australia.

I’m guilty myself of feeling like I live in a safe little bubble and all of this is happening elsewhere, but we will not be immune to this effect, not at all. So it seems inconceivable to me that we, meaning citizens, governments, and industry, are not spending most of our time, energy and resources figuring out and developing ways to wean ourselves from oil, coal and other carbon creating fuels.

It’s inconceivable because it is so very urgent. Our lives and the lives of the animals, the trees, the inhabitants of our oceans and the oceans themselves depend upon it. How can it make any sense at all that governments and businesses are madly chasing more and more oil to be burned, trumpeting about oil self-sufficiency, even about jobs and the economy when our very lives and the lives of our children are at stake?

What good is finding more oil if we cannot use it, because even to the strongest and the most cynical deniers the need to stop using it will soon become evident and undeniable.

 The stated goals of the NEB (NAtional Energy Board) are to ensure that,

1. NEB regulated facilities and activities are safe and secure. Can anyone ensure that pipelines will not burst, be crushed under land or snow slides, be destroyed by an earthquake or just deteriorate -- like so many are doing as I speak?

We have had two major earthquakes off the northern B.C. coast in three months. In these cases, no tsunamis occurred that were of any note, but what if one did occur when a giant tanker was travelling our coastline? The tsunami damage to the coast would be bad enough but the resulting oil spill would be unthinkable. And yet we must think about it when considering this project.

 Goal 2: To ensure that the environment is protected throughout the lifecycle of NEB regulated facilities and activities. Again, I don’t believe that it is possible to ensure that the environment can be protected at all. Not along the pipeline route, nor from the catastrophic oil spill on our coast, something that most believe is not just a possibility but a certainty.

 And goal number 3: To ensure that Canadians benefit from efficient energy infrastructure and markets. Jobs are talked about in wildly varying numbers, but they will mostly be temporary construction jobs, especially in B.C. It is pointed out by economists that oil prices will increase here if the bitumen is shipped to China. And as I pointed out earlier in this presentation, there is absolutely nothing efficient about the production of tar sands oil.

Goal 4: To ensure that the rights and interests of those affected by NEB regulated facilities and activities are respected. If the safety and security of the facilities and activities cannot be ensured, if the environment cannot be guaranteed to be predicted, then those very same rights and interests cannot be respected. The only interests that will be protected will be those of the companies that profit from the venture.

In closing, I wish to respectfully voice my opposition to the Northern Gateway Proposal based upon what are the mandate and stated goals of the National Energy Board. I believe that the dangers and risks posed by such a project far outweigh any potential benefits gained. And I sincerely believe that even those benefits will be short-lived due to the powerful and undeniable effects of climate change and the ever more urgent need to address it by drastically reducing our dependency on oil.

I truly love the beautiful and innocent animals that I have pledged to help. And I cannot bear the thought of them and their habitat being destroyed out of greed and ignorance. This is the only planet we have. No one else is going to save it for us or save us. We cannot wreck this one, leave it behind and go elsewhere. It really is up to us to make a stand and now is the time.


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