Vampire Blues: suckin’ blood from the earth

When Neil Young recorded the anti-Big Oil "Vampire Blues" for his brilliant album in the mid-1970's, who could have known that the song would end up even more relevant a quarter century later?

I’m a vampire, babe,
suckin’ blood
from the earth
I’m a vampire, baby,
suckin’ blood
from the earth.
Well, I’m a vampire, babe,
sell you
twenty barrels worth.

When Neil Young recorded the anti-Big Oil “Vampire Blues” for his brilliant album On the Beach in the mid-1970s, who could have known that the song would end up even more relevant a quarter century later? Speculation abounds on fan sites that Neil, who is currently on tour, believes the time is right to perform “Vampire Blues” once again, particularly given the ongoing disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

While BP, with the complicity of federal authorities, has been blocking the media from reporting on what is actually happening in the gulf, startling images from behind the wall of industry and government obfuscation periodically leak out. The still photographs of oiled birds, especially the endangered brown pelicans, are near impossible to view without immediately descending into a very dark, ugly place.

The video posted online showing the oil-coated baby bottlenose dolphin as it lay dying in the arms of a tourist trying to rescue the animal serves as an awful harbinger of the death and destruction taking place that we are not being allowed to witness. One hopes that a sea change is occurring in the continent’s collective consciousness and that the annihilation of our fellow non-human inhabitants will no longer be acceptable as part of the cost of doing business in the age of oil.

I’m a black bat, babe,

bangin’ on
your window pane
I’m a black bat, baby,
bangin’ on
your window pane.
Well, I’m a black bat, babe,
I need my high octane.

At the root of the ever-growing mess we are making of the world’s oceans is an economic system that is based upon unlimited growth on a finite planet… which leads us to British Columbia, Canada where federal and provincial governments, equally obsequious in the face of Big Oil’s demands as their US counterparts, are eager to turn BC’s magnificent teeming-with-life coast into an energy corridor. Enbridge Inc. is pushing hard to construct a twinned pipeline from the tar sands of Alberta to the coast of BC, where Exxon Valdez sized supertankers would ship “the world’s dirtiest oil” to Asian and American markets.

Speaking of the tar sands, a major commotion has erupted in reaction to the launch of the US-based Rethink Alberta campaign, which is urging Americans not to visit the province this summer. BC conservation groups might want to consider taking a page from US environmental NGO’s and adopt a similar campaign asking British Columbians to “rethink” travelling to Alberta in light of the pipeline the Alberta government, the tar sands industry and Calgary headquartered Enbridge are trying to shove down our throats.

In response to the Rethink Alberta controversy, it appears that federal Environment Minister, Jim Prentice, is attempting to make the tar sands a gauge of Canadian patriotism. His assertion that “all Canadians really have an obligation to speak up” in defense of the tar sands is highly disconcerting. There are a whole lot of Canadians who happen to live in British Columbia that have some serious issues with putting the BC coast at risk so that Alberta can reap profits by shipping tar sands crude off shore. Polling suggests a majority of British Columbians want to see our coast remain oil free. Would Prentice judge this significant segment of the BC citizenry to be unpatriotic Canadians?

BP’s Deepwater Horizon debacle has prompted many Canadians to pause and reflect with regard to the industry and government agenda of aggressively pursuing oil development and transport. A delegation of First Nations leaders from coastal BC recently traveled to the Gulf Coast to witness the upheaval firsthand. What they saw only steeled their opposition to the Enbridge proposal as First Nations would be the hardest hit among coastal communities in the event of a catastrophic oil spill on BC’s north coast.

But when it comes to corporate Canada, it’s full speed ahead, even in the face of the “oilpocalypse” to the south. Armed with a $100 million war chest, Enbridge has launched a public relations blitzkrieg to convince Canadians that their “Northern Gateway” pipeline project will accomplish all manner of wondrous things, with the possible exception of a cure for cancer.

Full-page advertisements in newspapers across the country trumpet how Northern Gateway and its attendant oil tanker traffic will solve unemployment, build sustainable communities and even make BC’s rocky north coast safer for all marine traffic. Desperate to find messaging that will resonate with the Canadian public, Enbridge spin doctors have even started to assert that Northern Gateway is at heart an egalitarian crusade to help poor third world countries by supplanting animal dung with oil for their heating needs.

Good times are comin’,
I hear it everywhere I go
Good times are comin’,
I hear it everywhere I go.
Good times are comin’,
but they sure comin’ slow.

Neil, it’s looking like we’re going to need you to come home to Canada and help us fight the vampires up here too.

A version of this article was previously published in The Huffington Post on July 20, 2010, Monday Magazine on July 28, 2010, on July 25, 2010, and on August 6, 2010.

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