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On the Line

 An eco-adventure documentary like no other. Follow Frank Wolf and Todd McGowan on a 2,400 km journey by foot, bike, raft and kayak as they seek to uncover the truth about a proposed 5.5 billion dollar oil pipeline.
 
In honour of Earth Day yesterday, Whistler Watch, Whistler Earthsave and I teamed up to screen the documentary film On The Line. Cliff Jennings kindly offered his home as a venue, which was soon filled with people bearing delicious vegan dishes. On offer was lasagna, Mexican 3 layer dip, salads of kale and broccoli, pizza, and an assortment of dips. Dessert was an extravagant affair of chocolate (carob) chip cookies that I made, mini cupcakes, and a banana cream layer cake covered in fruit that well took the cake. Visit Earthsave’s website: http://earthsavewhistler.com/ for photos!
 
After feasting, we soon settled into the impromptu movie theatre to watch the film, shot by Frank Wolf about his journey across BC with his friend Todd McGowan, following the precise route proposed by Enbridge for the Northern Gateway pipeline. They trekked, biked and kayaked, and interviewed people along the way to get their perspectives on the pipeline. Not surprisingly, the few supporters of the project that they spoke to lived in Alberta, primarily those that worked in the oil patch. Many Albertans conveyed that oil and gas is so ingrained in their economy that another pipeline is no big deal. Others, conveyed that they wanted the tar sands development to slow down, at least until solutions are found for potential problems like leaks. BC residents interviewed largely expressed grave concern for their livelihoods (related to commercial fishing) if the pipeline were to ever leak. Many stated that the risks just weren’t worth the few economic gains that their community would accrue with a pipeline. 
 
The countryside that they hiked through, especially as they approached the Coast Mountains was as wild and pristine as it comes. They followed ancient moose trails and swam in crystal clear streams while ascending some steep terrain. Weather socked them in a few times on their trip- meaning there was little to no visibility- and it became apparent that running a pipeline through this area, let alone finding a leak and fixing it, would pose considerable challenges. A leak would certainly go unnoticed until it was affecting people quite a ways down stream, so the damage would already be done. 
 
To my surprise and delight, a tree planting buddy, Rebecca Reeves, was interviewed in the film!  She was the only Albertan they interviewed with a strong voice against the project- ya Reba!! Her parents have a farm that they will most likely sell because of the proximity to the tar sands development. 
 
At the end of the evening, Sara Jennings had us draw the Earth Day commitments we had written on a scrap piece of paper. I had written “Buy Less Stuff” and drew “Visit the David Suzuki website.” Very cool idea- thanks Sara!  
 
Hoping to screen this film again soon, to an even bigger audience. Any suggestions on an inexpensive venue?
 

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It’s been days and many musings since I last wrote. Lately, it feels like I’m being served up a huge buffet of tasks, with left overs that I just can’t seem to finish; blogging being one of the most lamentable. You’d think my hunger would’ve diminished by now, but I feel like taking action to find alternatives to the tar sands is feeding my soul. Here’s a bit of an update in case you haven’t heard the latest…   

For the past year and half, I have been following the tar sands developments with mounting concern. It began as a distant storm on the horizon of my consciousness that moved in quickly and grew to be a torrent of conviction. Conviction is when the mind and the heart agree upon the truth, and when there is a tsunami of conviction swirling in your gut it wants OUT real bad!! It simply became impossible for me NOT to do something, and that is when this blog was born. 

I began reading more about the impacts of an oil spill, not just on the land, but on our economy and communities. I started listening to TED talks, reporters and analysts all stating in nearly perfect unison that the tar sands are a disaster- literally the largest industrial complex in the world that is accelerating climate change, destroying the boreal forest and causing rising rates of cancer in neighbouring communities.  

It also became abundantly clear that our government has absolutely no intention of listening to the legitimate concerns being raised about the tar sands atrocity and pipeline projects like Enbridge’s Northern Gateway and the one that Kinder Morgan is quietly trying to expand. It became crystal clear that I needed to do more.  

Conversations with thoughtful and compassionate friends helped to reveal my path. I would run across BC this summer, connecting with others to find alternatives to the tar sands. The campaign is called Band Together BC.

Piping and shipping crude from the tar sands threatens so many of our values as British Columbians- clean air and water, pristine ecosystems, vast wilderness and recreational areas, traditional livelihoods, First Nations’ culture and beliefs, tourism and land-based industries, even our democratic process- that many people are taking a stand against building pipelines and allowing oil supertankers to enter the inside passage.

But there are those that work directly and indirectly in the oil and gas industry and are understandably protective of their jobs. There are others that may not know much about the issues and are confused by conflicting reports in the media and statements provided by government spokespeople.

Regardless of my personal standpoint against expanding the tar sands, I think it is critical to hear and share other perspectives with the world. The tar sands is a project that has huge ramifications for all Canadians, therefore it is a conversation to which we should ALL contribute.

So this summer, I will run through the communities located along highway 16 (communities that will perhaps be the most directly impacted by the Northern Gateway pipeline) to capture perspectives via film and social media that will hopefully foster a dialogue (on the ground and virtually) on how we can transition from mining the dirtiest oil in the world to building an economy based on clean renewable energy. It’s not going to happen overnight, but I believe it begins with dialogue. 

Canada currently lacks a national energy strategy. The dearth is being filled by a get rich quick scheme that is stealing our future and pawning it to China (and other eager markets). We need a plan that leads us towards a clean energy future- one in which all of us- including our kids-can prosper.  I believe we all need to be part of creating that plan, to make sure that it truly serves EVERYONE’S needs. 

Together we can and must find ways of creating jobs and revenue that don’t rely on the wholesale destruction of our land and communities. 
 
There is much to be done. Fortunately, there are many passionate, unstoppable people that are doing everything they can to raise awareness and engage people on the tar sands issue. It’s been an affirming, heart expanding experience to connect with total strangers on an issue that is one of the most critical of our time. Everywhere I go, I find my tribe. And while sometimes my heart aches at the dark prospects and the terrifying trajectory we humans have set ourselves upon, I am joyously inspired by the people I’ve met and keep meeting that are envisioning a bright future and taking action to realize that dream. 

 

 

Well I’ve been gone for 12 days which in blog-landia is probably equal to 23 years or something. I’ve come to realize that bloggers, like cats, adhere to a completely different concept of time. They also get notoriously perturbed when you disappear for awhile, so I realize I’ve probably alienated all of my 5 followers. Damn. If you’re still out there somewhere, I’m sorry. I’ll spare you the details of how life stuff upended my priorities-which should of course be 1. blog 2. run 3. work 4. eat. I promise to never leave you that long ever again. Would a Whiskers Tuna Temptation make everything better? Works for Mojo…

Anyway, the good news is that 1) I am writing this on my new computer and 2) I am not writing this from prison for the brutal murder of the UPS delivery guy that despite his job title didn’t seem that interested in delivering my computer.  

The other piece of somewhat interesting news is that I will be running the relay distance. Myself. This summer. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

This thought emerged in the wake of some mega doses of inspiration from Matt Hill-an energetic soul that ran around North America (11,000km!!) raising awareness about environmental issues and actions on behalf of his foundation Run for One Planet (as a side note, Matt’s also a celebrity voice actor, whose cherished cartoon characters included Tenderheart of the Care Bears and Rafael of the Teenage Ninja Turtles?!! How freakin cool is that?!). We talked about the relay idea and he asked me if I had considered doing the run myself and I was like: “um…huh…well…maybe.” And then it just hit me….what better way to meet people in the northern communities fighting the pipeline and to share their stories with the world? I will be armed with a POV camera and can have face to face interactions with the leaders that have inspired me in their stand against Enbridge. In return they can feel that they are not alone in standing up for what’s right.  

Matt told me to ask my body for permission on my long run that day and sure enough my body gave me the thumbs up. I can’t say that it was an enthusiastic thumbs up, but there was a willingness to give it a try.

Fast forward several other conversations with trusted friends and loved ones- and lo and behold I have support. So now all I need to do, is assemble an all star team of volunteer helpers, get myself a bio-diesel RV and run across the province. 1170 km is only 29.25 days of running 40 km /day. Less than a marathon a day. I can do this. Exhale! 

I’ve found that when something is hard to grasp in the mind, (as in it’s hard for me to wrap my head around running a marathon a day for a month), its helpful to ask the heart. So that is what I’ve done and my heart has offered a resounding “YES, let’s do this.” I simply cannot sit back and allow the atrocity that is tar sands expansion to take place without doing absolutely EVERYTHING in my power to stop it. Canada’s democracy is in shambles- Harper has already promised that the Enbridge proposal will be approved (before the public review process has concluded). Writing letters to officials just isn’t going to cut it. Audacious displays of courage are what is needed.

I have been so inspired by the words and actions of the many that are fighting this proposal. There is a massive ocean of resistance to tap for strength. I work with a woman that has declared that she is willing to go to jail to stop this proposal. She’s middled aged and has worked for government for most of her adult life. She certainly does not fit the profile of a radical, although Harper and Joe Oliver would disagree since apparently we are all radicals if we have concerns about a proposal that threatens life on this planet, now and for our children.

So I have begun to train harder. I will start running twice a day. And when my body tires, and doubts start to infiltrate my mind as I know they most likely will, I will consult my heart and push on.

All I need to do is recall the words of this man: Garth Lenz, a photographer who speaks movingly about the tar sands and the plans to expand their reach. 

The True Cost of Oil:

Watch it. Be moved. Take action. 

 

 

 

 

  

One person’s moving experience with the destructive power of the oil industry.

http://www.vancouverobserver.com/blogs/earthmatters/2012/02/20/oil-executive-sons-testimony-prince-rupert-northern-gateway-pipeline?page=0,1

“We are destroying future generations for now, and forever.”

 

Tonight I attended the AWARE screening of Spoil; an incredible documentary about the Great Bear Rainforest.

The International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP) team[ed] up with Pacific WILD, the Gitga’at First Nation of British Columbia, LightHawk, TidesCanada, Save our Seas Foundation, Sierra Club BC, and the Dogwood initiative to carry out a Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition (RAVE) in the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia. [They] focused their energy and cameras on this pristine region in response to plans by Enbridge Inc. to build a pipeline for heavy crude oil from the Alberta tar sands across British Columbia to the coast of the Great Bear Rainforest.

The film features incredible footage and stunning still shots of one of the only truly wild places left on earth.  I was completely overwhelmed by the beauty of it all. Old growth forest is nestled up against the sea and cradled by fresh water estuaries. The whole area- terrestrial and aquatic- simply teams with life; salmon (the lifeblood of this ecosystem), giant starfish that can swallow up anything (even spiny urchins!) wolves, eagles, whales and bears are just some of the inhabitants.
The Spirit Bear, from which the area takes its name is a really rare black bear with a recessive gene that makes it all white. There are something like 200-400 left and this is the only place in the world where they live. The images of the Spirit Bear, literally two feet from the lens of the photographer reveal a playful, resourceful being with just as much right to be here as we have.
The film also features the Gitga’at, one of the first nations people that call this place home. At first they spoke of the Spirit Bear in hushed tones, afraid of the attention this rare creature would bring to their hidden gem of a territory. Now that this area is in dire threat from pipeline incursion they are trying to raise awareness worldwide about the existence of the Spirit bear and the importance of protecting its home. They believe that the Spirit Bear is sacred and was sent by the Creator as a message to preserve their homeland and keep it clean.

A pipeline shipping 400000 to 1000000 barrels a day of crude oil is a huge threat to Gitga’at’s traditional way of life and food sources as it is to all of the inhabitants of the Great Bear. If the project is approved the dire threat of a spill would be a horrific specter in all of their lives, because it’s not a matter of if, but when an oil spill would happen. Enbridge alone is responsible for close to 700 spills in the recent decade (1999-2008) amounting to 132,000 barrels of hydrocarbons released into farms, wetlands and waterways on the continent. The 2010 spill in Michigan was one of the largest in Midwest history, leaking more than three million litres of oil, some of it into a 50-kilometre stretch of the Kalamazoo River. The proposed Northern Gateway pipeline is intended to cover  1,170-kilometre- the immense scale and geographic scope of the proposed pipeline (and thus the implications of a spill) are mind boggling, and not just for the the Great Bear. The pipeline will cross over 1000 waterways, several mountain ranges and a spill could cost Canada billions. That is to say nothing of the staggering impact mining the tar sands has on the boreal forest and the climate change impacts of using the filthiest crude on the planet.

Do we really need to ask what the price of clean water is? Or clean air? Or healthy fisheries? Or healthy ecosystems? Of preservation of ancient traditional wisdom and customs? Or our national sense of ethics?  These are questions that can not be answered with dollar figures. They are priceless.

I have been touched by the Spirit Bear and think a trip to the Great Bear is necessary. Perhaps as a post-marathon reward…

Where is the project at right now you may be wondering…? (I will be writing more on this soon!)

Federal regulatory hearings (AKA Joint Review Panel Community Hearings) started this month and will continue for many more months. Here’s a link to the dates and locations: (http://gatewaypanel.review-examen.gc.ca/clf-nsi/nwsrls/2012/nwsrls01-eng.html)

More than 4,300 individuals and groups have registered to speak at the hearings conducted by two federal environmental bodies over the next 18 months or more across British Columbia and Alberta. Kevin Rae of Whistler is one such individual and he said a few words at tonight’s gathering.

He said that the tar sands are the largest industrial development in the world and that the prospect of expanding them via pipeline expansion and increased tanker traffic is the biggest environmental issue facing Canadians today. It’s one about which he has serious concerns that he will be raising at a hearing in the near future. While the period to register for speaking during the review process has closed, it is possible to submit a letter to the National Energy Board or Federal government opposing the project by March 13th. He urged everyone to sign the Dogwood petition (http://dogwoodinitiative.org/no-tankers/petition) and continue to raise awareness by writing letters to local media, CBC and via social media.

Check out how these awesome organizations are making a difference!

AWARE (www.awarewhistler.org)

Pacific Wild (http://www.pacificwild.org/)

International League of Conservation Photographers (http://www.ilcp.com/)

Dogwood Initiative (http://dogwoodinitiative.org/no-tankers/petition)

Amazing documentary on the Great Bear Rainforest. Watch it here or come to Whistler and watch it tomorrow night (Jan. 23) at 7 pm at the Library. It’s free!

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