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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Photos from the coast: the good, the bad and the hopeful

Unless you've been hiding out under a rock in a cave on the dark side of the moon, humming to yourself really loudly with your fingers in you ears, you've probably picked up on a bit of the recent media frenzy over the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline and associated tanker route through some of B.C.'s most treacherous waters.

Wow, that was a long sentence. But that doesn't make it any less true.

The controversy over the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines Project, which could see as many as 320 supertankers visit the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest every year, has surfaced in the media to varying degrees over the past couple of years. But coverage of this proposed development really kicked into high gear last week when B.C. Premier Christy Clark announced that she was taking a long-awaited stand on the project by laying out a list of five requirements the project would need to meet in order for the B.C. government to support it. Well... sort of.

In fact, the first four requirements laid out by the premier are measures that are either already required or will do nothing to safeguard the B.C. coast. The only relevant demand that Premier Clark outlined was the requirement for B.C. to receive it's "fair share" of the profits from this project. Putting aside the legal and constitutional can of worms that this opens, the Premier is saying basically this: If the price is right, we are willing to accept the admittedly grave risk that the Northern Gateway Pipelines Project presents to the B.C. coast.


The problem is this: the environmental risk is enormous, as the major spills in the Gulfs of Alaska and Mexico have shown us. Those spills ultimately cost BILLIONS of dollars to clean up (much of which would fall on the shoulders of tax payers here in Canada) and have caused long-lasting devastation to almost every other industry on the coast. These were spills of conventional crude oil (which floats on top of the water), while tankers servicing the Northern Gateway Pipeline would carry tarsands bitumen which sinks to the sea floor and for which there is no proven method of cleaning up. Statistically, a major spill is likely to occur once every 10 years from tankers, and far more frequently from pipelines... The list goes on, but I think you get the picture.

In effect, that's like saying that we are willing to accept a relatively small amount of money for the risk of a major environmental spill that will cost the people of BC a very large amount later on.

But, as I've alluded to before, that is not the real bottom line, and I find it really discouraging how this conversation always comes down to money as the only measure of the value of our coastline. To illustrate what I see is the real bottom line, I want to share some pictures taken by my friend James in Caamano Sound, right in the path of the proposed tanker route.

A pod of Northern Resident killer whales resting in the evening light

Transient killer whale traveling through Caamano sound

A groups of humpback whales feeding

The ever elusive fin whale

Inter-tidal zone with algae and seagrass

If you would like to see more of James' beautiful pictures from Caamano Sound, he put together a couple of great videos on which you can watch here and here.

Now compare the above pictures with those below:

The oil tanker Braer sank and spilled 84,7000 tonnes of crude oil in the North Sea in 1993

Oil from the Exxon Valdez comes ashore in Prince William Sound in 1989

Attempting to contain oil from the Exxon Valdez

Attempting to clean up the oil from the Exxon Valdez

Ruined habitat, ruined lives, need I say more?

So, at this point you're probably thinking "I get it, already: pristine wilderness + plus oil tankers = oiled ducks." I mean, it isn't like no one has ever juxtaposed photos of the natural riches of our coats with photos of the disastrous aftermath of an oil spill. Jeez, be original!

Well, I have one more set of photos to show you that fall into neither category. These are photos that people from around British Columbia have posted on the Keep it Clean Map, which Living Oceans Society set up to map opposition to oil tanker traffic in the Province. There are a few examples below, but I encourage you to check out the map, submit your own photos and send a clear message to Premier Clark: Our coast is not for sale!

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