A child of this precious coast

I think about the future of this precious coast much more often now. This is because I am now invested in it like never before; my partner  and I have brought a little girl into this world two months ago.

She’s in Bella Bella with me during field work. She’s had her first boat rides, her first walks into ancient temperate rainforest. She has sat in a sling around her momma as she walked a pristine intertidal beach. This will be her future. We will raise her as a child of this coast.

I think about how she will explore the intertidal pools like I did as a child; how she will taste salmon and crab for the first time; how her grandfather will teach her how to sail; how she can go for (quick) swims on those rare hot days up here. Maybe she’ll be interested in a career in coastal eco-tourism or the myriad associated opportunities it provides coastal areas. Maybe she’ll follow in my boot-steps and be interested in studying a world-class, bio-diverse ecosystem.

Balancing these pleasant visions are the disquieting thoughts I have about her future. What if she’ll 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?  What if the BC coast endures what Louisiana and other Gulf states will face for the next several decades in the wake of the BP catastrophe?  Gone would be the tide pools of her future, the taste of wild salmon, and the rich opportunities to be a girl and woman of a healthy coast.

Why must we worry about the future of this coast? Enbridge Inc. filed their application for the Northern Gateway Project with the National Energy Board last week.

Their grand scheme includes a twinned pipeline from Alberta’s dirty tar sands and the port of Kitimat on the north coast. In their vision, supertankers – like the Exxon Valdez – will bring ‘condensate’ in to be pumped to Alberta, which is mixed with the oil crude. The mixture can then be pumped back to the coast. From there, the toxic slurry enters the tankers and is shipped to Asian markets.

All this is to occur on one of the most perilous stretches of coast in the world. We hear promises of world-class safety protocols. The very same protocols now failing the Gulf Coast I presume?

This is a plan for which the benefits to coastal communities will be modest and short lived. In return, people of the coast now and into the future will bear all the risk. So too will one of the richest ecosystems on the planet.  All for a proposal that makes a mockery of the constraints of energy dynamics – why ‘spend’ more energy with the extraction, pumping, and shipping of the oil than is delivered with this new source of fuel? Especially in light of global climate change, most thinking people believe this plan to be one of the most obscenely ill founded ever considered.

We are in for the battle of our lives.  The power and influence of oil companies are much greater than we know. Think Avatar.

At Raincoast, we are ready for battle. No ‘corporate engagement’ in our plans. We know there is no room for compromise. Some of our science staff  – me included – have been approved by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency as experts to assess the adequacy of the Enbridge Environmental Impact Statement. Meanwhile, our ‘informed advocacy’  will engage legions of supporters, who for the most part already stand tall against this threat to their livelihood and way of life.  And importantly, we march in lockstep with coastal First Nations, who will lead the charge in defense of their coast.

We will do this for our daughters, our sons, our future.

Maëlle & family at the Raincoast field station

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