Intellectual Disjuncture

“British Columbia,”1 a province wrought through the genocide of First Nations2 and theft of their territory has been beset with several forest fires this summer that has at times choked urban centers with ash and particulate.

Christy Clark, the premier of British Columbia, has blamed climate change for the great burn. “Climate change has altered the terrain. It’s made us much more vulnerable to fire,” said Clark.

Clark noted the financial impact of such climate change — the province was $100 million over budget on fire fighting.

Lamenting the costs, the damage to the environment from forest fires, if it is that,3 and the air quality issues are legitimate areas of concern. However, blaming climate change while being a major contributor to climate change seems extremely hypocritical or extremely ignorant.

For example, Clark and her regime are pushing for:

A. Fracking in northeastern BC

Anyone who has watched Gasland is aware of the negative impact of fracking on the environment and that fracking releases fossils fuels that contribute to climate change. Nonetheless, BC health minister Terry Lake relayed the government’s findings on fracking: “After careful review and analysis, the study found that the risks to human health from the emissions from oil and gas activities in the northeast remain low.” “Low” is undefined, but the dangers are not considered nil.

The BC Medical Journal published its concerns over fracking in the province.4 The author noted “concerns including freshwater depletion, air quality, social factors, and greenhouse gas emissions.” Greenhouse gas emissions are implicated in climate change. Natural gas from fracking is often touted as a green alternative to other fossil fuels, but this claim is also dubious.5

First Nations are opposed to fracking.6

B. Pipelines

Photo from Skeena River First Nations

Photo from Skeena River First Nations

In addition to wanting to build an LNG pipeline through several First Nations’ territories (and pretty much all “BC” is First Nation territory), Clark’s regime wants to establish an LNG port in an environmentally sensitive salmon rearing area on Lelu Island near Prince Rupert (Tsimshian territory).

Clark’s regime signed an agreement with Malaysian oil giant Petronas which has been heavily criticized. A Georgia Straight article described the sudden implementation of the Liquefied Natural Gas Project Agreements Act as a “Faustian pact.” “[I]t ignored what science teaches about the drivers of global warming and it put its faith in LNG as something of a religion in its own right.”7

The Lax Kw’alaams First Nation had the moral integrity to turn down a $1 billion dollar offer to allow construction of the LNG port.8 The pro-environment sentiment is shared by many First Nations.9

Then there is the Kinder Morgan TransMountain line which in bringing Alberta’s tar sands oil south to Vancouver will “cross hundreds of kilometres of B.C. Crown land, slice five provincial parks, cross dozens of waterways, and result in six times more oil tankers off Canada’s west coast”10 before being shipped out through the confines of the Salish Sea. The oil spill in English Bay this April that spread to Vancouver beaches attests to the dangers of oil tanker traffic in Vancouver’s tight confines.11 The city of Vancouver is opposed to the Kinder Morgan pipeline.12

Oil spill in English Bay: risk of increased tanker traffic. Photo @JWALKER604

Oil spill in English Bay: risk of increased tanker traffic. Photo @JWALKER604

The recent Nexen oil spill in Alberta bodes ominously for pipelines transporting Alberta crude with the Apache pipeline spill13 of two years earlier still vivid.

This was supposed to be the poster-pipe for safe, eco-friendly oil transportation. One of the selling points used by Enbridge to convince British Columbians about its Northern Gateway pipeline to take bitumen to the West Coast is that the line will be double-walled and interwoven with leak alarms, so bad spills won’t happen in the Great Bear Rainforest or from a tanker port in the Douglas Channel.14

Scientists Neil C. Swart and Andrew J. Weaver concluded, “Developing the Alberta oil-sands will lead to carbon emissions that in turn result in global warming.”15

C. The construction of the Site C dam in Peace River region of BC

Dams are cited as a cause of climate change.16 One study published in the peer-review journal Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change indicates that 4% of global warming may be attributable to dams.17

Despite such misgivings the BC government has decided to issue environmental approval for the Site C dam without considering recommendations made by the Joint Review Panel 471-page document warning that the dam would have a negative impact on the environment, wildlife, Indigenous people, farmers, and wider public.18

First Nations are opposed to the dam.19

Conclusion

Two points jump out:

1) Clark and the BC government are oblivious to the concerns of First Nations. This is unsurprising, as it has long been the case.

2) Given Clark and her government’s pursuit of climate change-inducing industries, in what light should her laments of climate-change influenced forest fires be considered? There seems to be an intellectual disjuncture.

  1. See Kim Petersen, “Unceded, British Columbia,” The Dominion, 16 February 2010. []
  2. Tom Swanky, The Great Darkening: The True Story of Canada’s “War” of Extermination on the Pacific plus The Tsilhqot’in and other First Nations Resistance (Burnaby, BC: Dragon Heart Enterprises, 2012. See review. []
  3. Sutton Eaves, “The Case For Letting Canada’s Forest Fires Burn,” DesmogCanada, 8 July 2015. []
  4. Michael A Benusic, “Fracking in BC: A public health concern,” BCMJ, 55:5, June 2013: 238-239. []
  5. See Eric Niiler, “Fracking Makes Climate Change Worse, Not Better,” D News, 15 October 2014. []
  6. Sharlene Gale and Lana Lowe, “For B.C.’s First Nations, the true cost of gas fracking is too high,” Globe and Mail, 29 October 2013. []
  7. Martyn Brown, “Our children will pay for B.C.’s Petronas LNG precedent,” Georgia Straight, 23 July 2015. []
  8. Canadian Press, “B.C. First Nation voters reject $1B for LNG project in 1st of 3 votes,” CBC News, 7 May 2015 []
  9. First Nations Oppose Petronas LNG Plant due to ‘shocking’ lack of consultation,” Vancouver Observer, 6 November 2014. []
  10. Mychaylo Prystupa, “Whoops — BC government misses NEB deadline for Kinder Morgan pipeline review,” National Observer,3 June 2015. []
  11. Jane Seyd, “Oil spill’s fingerprint on North Shore beaches,” North Shore News, 24 July 2015. []
  12. Dene Moore, “Vancouver taking NEB to court over climate change, Kinder Morgan pipeline,” Globe and Mail, 21 August 2014. []
  13. Canadian Press, “Apache fine for pipeline spill not even a slap on wrist: Environmentalists,” Beacon News, 7 July 2015. []
  14. Lorne Gunter, “Nexen pipeline failure spells big trouble,” Edmonton Sun, 2015. []
  15. Neil C. Swart and Andrew J. Weaver, “The Alberta Oil Sands and Climate,” Nature Climate Change, 2, 2012. []
  16. Gary Wockner, “Dams Cause Climate Change, They Are Not Clean Energy,” Ecowatch, 14 August 2014. []
  17. 4% of Global Warming Due to Dams, Says New Research,” International Rivers, 9 May 2007. []
  18. Canadian Press, “Peace Valley group appeals fail to quash Site C dam,” Vancouver Observer, 23 July 2015. []
  19. See Allison Russell and Emily Beveridge, “Treaty 8 First Nations file lawsuits to protect sacred lands, stop Site C Dam,” West Coast Environmental Law, 1 July 2015. []
Kim Petersen is a former co-editor of the Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be reached at: kimohp@gmail.com. Twitter: @kimpetersen. Read other articles by Kim.