Enbridge Northern Gateway project; a risk too great for children of this priceless coast
Enbridge CEO Patrick Daniel recently lamented that Canada was at risk of foregoing ‘energy superpower’ status if his corporation’s Northern Gateway pipeline proposal was squashed (Van Sun, April 07). Gone, he argued, would be opportunities for ‘significant permanent employment right across Canada’ (significant profit for Enbridge shareholders too, we imagine).
We agree. Canada is indeed at risk. But it’s at risk of increasing its international pariah status as a pusher of ‘the world’s dirtiest oil’ to hydrocarbon hungry Asian and American markets. The pipeline itself is a risk as well, one that threatens coastal British Columbia, its economy, and our children’s future on this priceless coast.
This past spring, baby Maëlle adventured into the heart of Heiltsuk Territory, just a day’s travel by spilled oil from proposed tanker routes in a northwestery gale. There she met Landon, who calls this great place where the land meets the sea his home.
These children have witnessed an abundance of life only our coast could offer. In our arms, they have navigated the maze of life that carpets intertidal beaches where Landon’s ancestors have gathered seaweeds, clams and other foods for millennia. Our new babies have entered ancient rainforest watersheds blessed with salmon – a marine resource that has fed Heiltsuk people, grizzly bears, and a whole web of life since time on this coast began. And on our boats, we’ve shared with them an ocean bustling with fish, marine mammals, and birds.
As they grow, we envision them exploring tide pools like we did as children; tasting salmon for the first time; learning to read the wind and currents from their grandparents; even swimming on those rare hot days here.
Balancing these pleasant visions of their future are some disquieting thoughts. What if they inherit a coast like Prince William Sound, where the Exxon Valdez spewed oil and where coastal communities are still – 20 years later – desperately impoverished, financially and otherwise from losing their coastal resources and way of life? What if our children one day suffer what children of the Gulf states will endure over the next several decades in the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon catastrophe? What if their waterways of life become despoiled, like Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in which oil gushed from a poorly-maintained Enbridge pipeline?
Gone would be the tide pools of their future, the taste of wild salmon, and the rich opportunities along their priceless coast.
Enbridge, in their quest for profit, places all this and more at risk.
The plan is nothing short of arrogant in its ambition to taunt one of the most rugged landscapes and perilous coastlines in the world. We hear promises of world-class safety protocols. Will pipeline maintenance match the Enbridge standards that polluted the Kalamazoo? Can their marine clean-up responses match BP’s, which failed the Gulf Coast? If we have learned anything from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, it should be that even the best available technology can be reduced to irrelevance by human error, malfunction, bad luck, weather, and their wicked interaction.
Many years ago, Landon’s great-grandfather spoke of how Heiltsuk Territory had absolutely every type of resource that anyone could ever want and need. But, people needed to be cautious, he forewarned, because as the outer world continued to move and “progress”, they would take resources with them; one day, they would be coming for it all.
That day is now. By having us – and our children – assume a risk we have clearly stated we want none of, Enbridge plans to risk our most precious resources: our security and our way of life.
But we are ready. When you bring your own child into the world, your sense of defense heightens to levels that you never knew you had. And we feel the strength of an entire coast united behind us.
We will safeguard this coast for our children. We will do this – as members of a strong coastal Nation, as scientists, and as informed advocates – for our daughters, our sons, our future.
About the Authors
William Housty, father to Landon, is also the Director of Coastwatch Heiltsuk Monitoring Initiative in Bella Bella, Heiltsuk Territory. To learn more about his work, visit the Qqs (Eyes) Projects Society’s website, or write to him at william (at) qqsprojects (dot) org
Chris Darimont, father to Maëlle, is also the Director of Science for the Raincoast Conservation Foundation and a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of California, Santa Cruz. To learn more about his work, visit Raincoast’s website, or write to him at darimont (at) ucsc (dot) edu