Lori and Goliath

A scientific communicator takes on big oil and its so-called regulator

Focus magazine


When the Burrard oil spill started seeping onto English Bay beaches in April, the backstory of the oil industry’s corresponding rising share prices was already in the blogosphere. Kinder Morgan (Trans Mountain) owns half of Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC), a company that has a monopoly on cleaning up spills on the coast. Lori Waters, a scientific communicator in rural Saanich, was connecting the dots for her blog followers in graphic detail.

Waters is not your typical David taking on the goliath oil industry. With two Masters degrees, one in science (in biomedical communications) and the other in fine arts, rather than wielding more conventional weapons of mass research and lengthy reports, she has sharpened her pen (and mouse) to generate images of key concepts that get the kind of viral exposure useful in challenging giants.

Waters triggered a tsunami of protest in January of 2013 with her animated video submission on the last day of the Enbridge Joint Review Panel of the National Energy Board (NEB). She inserted the missing islands in Enbridge’s “tanker safety” advertising videos and recreated what the tankers would actually be navigating—a tortuous archipelago of 1000 square kilometres of islands rather than the placid “gaping maw” that Enbridge had portrayed as Douglas Channel. Her recreated videos went viral, reaching international newspapers. She also lodged a complaint with the Competitions Bureau and Advertising Standards Canada that Enbridge’s ads were false and misleading. In response to the bad press, Enbridge withdrew their videos. Waters is a new kind of scientist-artist-activist who understands the power of images that quickly and succinctly communicate key issues.

It was natural for Waters to turn her attention to the Kinder Morgan pipeline hearings given the potential impacts of tanker traffic on her own home stretch of the Salish Sea…Returning to the coast, her skills were employed by Elizabeth May as a researcher/communications specialist. And now Waters is lending her sizeable talents to Raincoast Conservation Foundation—one of BC’s most respected scientific research-based environmental groups—where she has been hired to communicate Raincoast’s extensive coastal research, which includes the large body of evidence compiled regarding pipeline proposals. Raincoast has been an intervenor in both pipeline enquiries. It has made it its job to research and speak out about the probabilities of risk and the consequences of the two massive pipeline/tanker schemes…

To read the full article please visit the Focus magazine website.

You can help

Raincoast’s in-house scientists, collaborating graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and professors make us unique among conservation groups. We work with First Nations, academic institutions, government, and other NGOs to build support and inform decisions that protect aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, and the wildlife that depend on them. We conduct ethically applied, process-oriented, and hypothesis-driven research that has immediate and relevant utility for conservation deliberations and the collective body of scientific knowledge.

We investigate to understand coastal species and processes. We inform by bringing science to decision-makers and communities. We inspire action to protect wildlife and wildlife habitats.

Coastal wolf with a salmon in its month.
Photo by Dene Rossouw.