Say the Names...

Al Purdy wrote a wonderful poem called "Say the names say the names" which celebrates the names of Canadian rivers - Tulameen, Kleena Kleene, Similkameen, Nahanni, Kluane and on and on in a celebratory song.

Enbridge is planning to build a dual pipeline that will carry bitumen and condensate across hundreds of waterways between Edmonton and Kitimat. Some of these waterways are rivers like the Parsnip (or what's left of it), the Nechako, the Morice and others are smaller creeks whose names are often known only to the folks who live along their banks or who fish in their shadows or who bend to wash or drink as they cross paths.

I want to collect the names of these rivers and creeks, to collect your stories, your poems, your songs so we can collectively give voice to the land living under the line Enbridge plans to draw.

People have also sent me copies of their presentations to the community oral presentations. If you'd like to add your voice, email me ( your stories and I'll post them for you. The copyright remains with you.

All the best.
Sheila Peters

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Save all our coasts

Our travels have brought us (via Via's the Ocean) all the way to Halifax. This morning we were missing the Smithers Save our Coast event so we mounted our own little demo at the Halifax (very industrial) harbour.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Widening Gyre

We were driving (yes, driving) across the prairies, often sandwiched between semis carrying heavy machinery, steel pipes, or huge plastic barrels; pickups carrying men and equipment to service oil wells, pumping stations; vehicles rumbling into tank farms or out to the grain fields peppered with black tanks and pumping stations. The arteries of oil. 

All of that big sky, big wind and only one or two old windmills on the whole route; it wasn’t until we drove past Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario that we came across solar panels, a huge field of them. And in Shelburne, at the base of the Bruce Peninsula, a line of ghostly windmills, their ponderous blades revolving in and out of sight through the fog. 

Driving, people say. You need oil just like the rest of us. In other words, shut up. As if it’s all or nothing. As if we have to accept whatever the oil industry does without question. As if the questioning doesn’t have any impact on production methods, cleaner processing, or more efficient use. 

But this isn’t what I want to say. With all this activity, it seems as if we’re all chasing our own tails. If  we put the oil produced on one side of the equation and all the energy that went into the oil extraction and refining processes, into the trucks driven, the steel manufactured to make those trucks, the equipment, the pipelines, the tanks, the drills, flying the workers back and forth to the oil and gas fields, well, what is the net energy gain? The estimates range from 1.5/1 to 5/1 for tar sands oil– that means for every unit of energy put into the process, from 1.5 to 5 units of energy are produced, a much lower amount than in the past. This, of course, doesn’t take into account the carbon footprint, the pollution of downstream ground and river water, the air and ground pollution as the oil is burned, the plastic manufactured from that oil settling into the landfills, snagging on trees, washing up on beaches, killing seabirds and other creatures. 

Petroleum is used to make a million things – some of them valuable and useful, others junk. There is a a range of ideas about what is wasteful, what is useful, and what is essential, but we can all question ourselves when we pick up a packet of 300 brightly-coloured hair elastics for $1.99 or ask for a plastic bag to hold the plastic bag holding 100 extra strength garbage bags we’re buying so we have a place to put the plastic packaging we’re going to throw out. You just have to see Chris Jordan’s amazing photographs of albatross chicks who died from eating a colourful diet of plastic whirling in the Pacific gyre Chris Jordan's amazing photographs to realize how far-reaching and destructive this is.It makes Yeats’ “Second Coming” all the more prescient.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

4000 Reasons Festival

In June, I took part in an event in Smithers to celebrate all the people who stood up to speak to the Joint Review Panel expressing opposition to the proposed Enbridge Northern  Gateway pipeline project. (See Masset Hearings and 4000 Reasons). The event, organized by the Driftwood Foundation, included an afternoon of poetry and performance, a wild salmon barbecue, and an evening concert featuring many regional performers, including Wet'suwet'en dancers, Rachelle Van Zan Zanten, Alex Cuba, Magpie Ulysses, Miriam Colvin, Travis Hebert, and Los Gringos Salvajes. Videographer Taylor Fox has created a very moving video collage of the day: to view it, Click here.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Meet 'Dil Bit': The Enbridge Testimony Stephen Harper Doesn’t Want Heard

by Miranda Holmes

Many voices have been heard during these hearings, yet one has remained silent: the oily character at the centre of the debate. I think that’s a shame and so I am using my time before the panel to allow this character’s case to be made.

Hi, my name’s Dil Bit. That’s short for Diluted Bitumen, but I feel like I’m amongst friends here, so let’s not be too formal.

I come from the tar sands and, as you know, Alberta totally digs me. Alberta’s so generous she wants to share me with everyone.

If she gets her way, I’ll be passing through British Columbia a lot in the future, so I thought I should introduce myself properly.

As fossil fuels go, I’m a bit unconventional. But, as Alberta’s favourite son Steve will tell you, I’m totally ethical. (And don’t let those jet setting celebrities tell you any different.)

I’m also way better than conventional crude oil.

For instance, my total acid concentrations are up to 20 times higher than conventional crude. My sulphur content is up to 10 times higher and I’m up to 70 times thicker. Pretty impressive, eh?

Yeah, it’s true I can be a bit abrasive. Bits of quartz, pyrite, silicates, sure I carry them around. It’s just the way I’m made.

So conventional crude doesn’t have my grit. So what? No need to point out, like those granola eaters at the Natural Resources Defense Council did, that putting me in a pipeline is “like sandblasting the inside of the pipe.”

I don’t know why the Americans have taken against me, because – like so many of them – I pack some serious heat. Thanks to my true grit and my thickness (I like to think of it as strength), I make pipes hotter than conventional crude - and harder to monitor. In fact, pipelines carrying me are16 times more likely to leak.

See? I told you I was better.

I’m Alberta’s most precious resource. You think she and Steve are going to let just anyone transport me? No way.

For my travels through British Columbia, they’re going to use Enbridge, a fine, upstanding company with an excellent track record. Why, it took Enbridge 10 years to spill half as much oil as the Exxon Valdez. And they didn’t just spill it in one spot – they spread it around.

Regulators in the US thought the three million litres of me Enbridge spilled in Michigan was so funny they compared the company to those great comedy characters the Keystone Kops.

If Enbridge maintains its current success rate it should be able to meet Steve’s federal standards, which allow undetected pipeline leaks of less than 2% of capacity per week.

For the Northern Gateway project that means Enbridge could legally leave 11 million litres of me a week behind on my way to Kitimat without getting into any serious trouble. And why should they? Eleven million litres of me would be more than three times funnier than Michigan, right?

That’s good news for me, because I’ve heard there are some mighty pretty places in northern BC and I think it would be a shame not to get to know them better.

And it’s good news for BC, because your premier’s promising lots of jobs out of oil and gas exports, and cleaning up after me will sure keep people employed.

Sorry if any of the spots I’m going to wreck is one of your favourites, but I’ve got to keep Alberta happy. You know what she’s like. 

Miranda Holmes is a former journalist who spent a decade working on toxics and genetic engineering for Greenpeace and other environmental organizations in Canada and the UK. She has also worked on human rights and development issues. She is now an associate editor of the award-winning Watershed Sentinel magazine. She made this presentation to the JRP in August in Comox.