Jack Emberly.

Along the Fraser: Opposition to blind progress

“Impossible to believe anybody who thinks there won’t be an incident,” if oil tankers sail on coast.

“Not blind opposition to progress, but opposition to blind progress” – John Muir, American naturalist.

I’m watching a movie with Gerry Pinel about a world blindly dependent on oil.

It’s a topic, Pinel, a confessed “recovering oil executive,” knows a lot about.

Groundswell, the Raincoast Foundation film, features two world- class surfers riding huge waves off B.C.’s rugged northwest coast. Neither Gerry or I surf, but the film’s not about that. It’s about a special place.

The Great Bear – one of the largest remaining tracts of unspoiled temperate rainforest left in the world – stretches from the tip of Vancouver Island to Alaska.

“It’s a place,” says B.C. surfer Chris Devries, “on the verge of change, against the will of people.”

People like Heiltsuk First Nations Jessie Housty, seen collecting the medicinal plants her great-grandmothers used.

“Our entire identity,” she says, “is tied to the place we come from and how we interact with it. Anything that threatens this place also threatens the people, also threatens the culture, also threatens the root of our entire existence here.”

It’s a place that’s home to cougars, wolves, salmon, grizzlies, the white Kermode – or “spirit” bears –and a place, thanks to a decision of the National Energy Board, where tankers loaded with Alberta’s tar sands bitumen could ply through pods of humpback whales, orcas, and “rafts” of sea otters, if Enbridge satisfies 209 “conditions.”

They’re irrelevant, says, Raincoast’s director of marine studies, Brian Falconer. He’s sailed through and around rugged Douglas Channel on the tanker’s route for 30 years.

“It’s impossible to believe anybody who thinks there won’t be an incident,” says Falconer, captain of the Achiever, the sailboat that carried the surfers here.

The Heiltsuk agree.

“The tides through here are some of the strongest in the world,” says William Housty. “You could only imagine how fast that oil would travel to the estuaries and rivers systems, and when you affect one, everything else is affected.”

Pinel paints a frightening picture of an incident.

“The grain ship that spilled bunker oil into English Bay was little compared to even mid-sized oil tankers,” he tells me. “They’re 245-metres long, holding 80,000 metric tonnes, or 500,000 barrels. There’s seven barrels per tonne. Multiply that by 42, the gallons per barrel. That comes to 500,000 times 42 times 3.78 [litres per gallon], or 75-80 million [88,905,600 on my calculator] litres.”

Pinel pauses to let you visualize the scene.

“Even if you dumped just three per cent of the cargo of an oil tanker in Douglas Channel, that’s 1,000 times more than the spill in English Bay. Scary enough for you?”

It is, if you note oil spill facts and history. Oil response firm, Worldocean says only about 15 per cent of oil spills in sea water is ever recovered, despite official claims.

The risks posed by tankers along the irreplaceable Great Bear Rainforest – an eco-tourism gold mine –are too high.

The NEB’s 209 conditions are meaningless except to an industry blinded by profits.

Dr. Chris Darimont, Raincoast director of science, predicts the project will be stopped by First Nations challenges in court or on site.

“If I had 15 minutes with one of these oil executives, I would suggest he didn’t have a clue about the power, the defiance, of a people absolutely united in opposition.”

But, would anyone driven by blind progress listen?

 

Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist.

 

Just Posted

Teacher receives reprimand after 2017 altercation with student

Gregory Norman Brock was issued letter of discipline, suspended three days without pay.

RMMBA holds first training session of season in Maple Ridge

Players wore green in honour of St. Patrick’s Day

UPDATE: Location for more temporary supportive housing in Maple Ridge by end of week

Evacuation shelter now a night refuge only, then shuts for good March 31.

Getting dry in Maple Ridge, be careful

Two brush fires recently already

More condos sought for downtown Maple Ridge project

Seeking 20 per cent increase in number of units

Five highlights in the 2019 federal budget

Latest budget includes a sprinkling of money for voters across a wide spectrum

Facebook to overhaul ad targeting to prevent discrimination

The company is also paying about $5 million to cover plaintiffs’ legal fees and other costs

B.C. mosque part of open-house effort launched in wake of New Zealand shootings

The ‘Visit a Mosque’ campaign aims to combat Islamophobia

‘That’s a load of crap’: Dog poop conspiracy spreads in White Rock

Allegation picked up steam through a Facebook page run by a city councillor

Explosives unit brought in after suspicious boxes left at B.C. RCMP detachment

Nanaimo RCMP issues all clear after packages were found on lawn earlier in the day

Avalanche control tomorrow on Highway 1

Expect closures of up to two hours east of Revelstoke

2019 BUDGET: As deficit grows, feds spend on job retraining, home incentives

Stronger economy last year delivered unexpected revenue bump of an extra $27.8 billion over six years

Newfoundland man caught after posting photo of himself drinking and driving

The 19-year-old took a photo of himself holding a beer bottle and cigarette while at the wheel

Carfentanil found in 15% of overdose deaths in January: B.C. coroner

Carfentanil is 100 times more powerful than illicit fentanyl and used to tranquilize elephants

Most Read