Northern Gateway pipeline is more than just an environmental issue

By Bob Worcester

The Northern Gateway Pipeline is pitting U.S. interests against the Chinese, and Alberta against B.C. Five oil sands companies have revealed themselves as supporters of the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline, lending their names to a massive infrastructure proposal that has stirred intense opposition in Western Canada. Cenovus Energy Inc., MEG Energy Corp., Nexen Inc., Suncor Energy Marketing Inc. (a subsidiary of Suncor Energy Inc.),and Total E&P Canada (the domestic arm of French giant Total SA) have each spent money to help develop the $6.6-billion pipeline which, if built, will funnel massive volumes of oil sands crude to the West Coast for export to California and Asia. Gateway’s financial backers also include Chinese state-owned energy company Sinopec. And there are others who have yet to step forward. Market sources have said they believe China National Petroleum Corp. also holds an interest in Gateway. Sinochem Group, another Chinese energy firm, is also believed to support Gateway.

Against this backdrop a story is emerging that Canadian environmental groups receive some funding from US charities. Canada’s Conservative government is using this as a “talking point” against the swelling opposition to the Gateway pipeline and tar sand development. The government seems to be taking a very narrow view as to what constitutes the “national interest.”

No one can deny that billions of dollars of foreign investment will impact the Canadian economy. It seems easier, however, for the government to deny that billions more tonnes of greenhouse gases will impact the Canadian (and global) climate. Despite the petro-dollar funded denials it remains an “inconvenient truth” that we are mortgaging the health and welfare of our children and grandchildren in the rush to exploit the last remaining fossil fuel deposits and get them to market across BC’s pristine northern forests and rivers.

Oil and gas geologists know very well what global warming is doing to arctic ice and northern tundra. They drive through the infestation of warm weather pine beetles in BC’s boreal forests. For them it is merely the cost of doing business, knowing that they are not even being asked to pay those costs. Those costs are being passed on to our children in the form of catastrophic climate changes now occurring faster than the IPCC’s worst predictions.

Environmentalists are raising the alarm because the facts are truly alarming. This is much more than merely an environmental or economic issue. It is an eldership issue of survival. Elders have understood for generations the dangers of reckless exploitation and resource exhaustion. Those cultures that heed the warnings survive and thrive while those that don’t disappear into the mists of history. The difference now is that the impacts are global and there are no more uncharted territories to shelter the survivors.

Ecology has no national interest. Iroquois Law is often described as decreeing that decisions must consider seven generations. Sadly, governments are bound instead to election cycles and oil companies are bound to balance sheets and annual reports. Eldership transcends those limitations and never was there a greater need for elders to be heard. Canada’s national interest is a sustainable future for its next generation. Who will speak for them?

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  • Wow, refreshingly to the point. Well said!

  • The attempt to taint opposition to the Enbridge pipeline as “foreign-funded radicalism” has already back-fired. The message that BC residents want to preserve their forests, rivers and coastlines from tanker traffic and oil spills is simple and self-evident – who doesn’t ??? The larger issue of the impact of mining, refining and burning dirty oil from the tar sands on future generations is more difficult to communicate. It is the role of elders to speak for a sustainable future from their experience of the past with some detachment from their own self-interest. That wisdom can’t be bought.

  • Jerry and Mary Riches

    Not just the pipeline. The idea of letting supertankers sail up and down the inside passage brings tears to my eyes. I’ve spent most of my life at sea and have seen the damage oil spills can do, and these were the little ones that didn’t make the news.

    God protect us from the giant corporations and big politicians. I wish I could stand shoulder to shoulder with the resisters.

    For God’s sake, let’s stop this. Don’t forget, if an accident can happen, it will. It isn’t a matter of if, it is a matter of when.

  • Why do we not have transparency from all sides? We know as a matter of public record where oil companies receive their funding. Why is it such a secret from where Environmental Foundations receive their funding? All sides should declare whose interests they are really representing. For instance, if an American company gives money to Tides or to First Nations groups in order to block Canada from exporting oil to the far east, shouldn’t we know that? I have gone to Tides several times but can’t find any information on who their contributors are.

    Elders require transparency from all sides and don’t trust people just because they say they represent environmental interests.

  • We cannot despair, but must stay firm and faithful. Over the years I have seen other major battles that seemed impossible, but were won by the power of the people’s voices. The Vietnam war, smoking in cars, homes, restaurants, parks that have been saved from destruction and protected. Now we have one of the biggest challenges yet, as global economic interests are massed against the very earth we inhabit and against those who seek to protect it. Joe Oliver drew his line in the (oil)sand yesterday; there seems no lies and subterfuge to which they will not stoop in their will to be victorious.
    But the people are angry; we know the costs of the profits “they” seek to reap, and we will not sell out our Earth. You cannot buy a new planet with any amount of dollars; we must preserve the one we have. And anyway, the planet is not “ours”, but ours in trust only. We cannot betray that trust.
    Cherish the Earth, and she will provide for us; betray her and we are doomed.

  • Thanks Bob, well said.

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