If you hope to someday photograph a wild grizzly bear, or experience the very rare thrill of photographing the great white Spirit bear, then you need to know that these amazing experiences are under serious threat. Imagine discovering a peaceful landscape scene with a grizzly wandering along the banks of a lush inlet in coastal British Columbia; and then put a big old dirty crude oil tanker in the background. Sadly we’ve all heard this story before; human activity rapidly destroys and pollutes ecological habitat. But this time we need to say no! Before you switch off and think this is just another environmentalist’s plea for wildlife preservation over economic progress, please take a moment to think again. This is simply a message to let you know there is something truly magical out here. A natural wonder that is yours to explore and discover. This is a message of hope. A hope that by the time you do uncover all the treasures of this land, it’s not beyond repair.
So take a moment…and then tell someone else to take a moment. Share this story with everyone you know and tell the world that the pristine coastline and wildlife rich waterways and estuaries of BC are to be transformed into a toxic international port for oil and gas shipping. Without intervention, this heavenly piece of earth will soon be exposed to potential ecological disasters the likes of the BP oil spill. Ask yourself and ask your family and friends to consider the immense loss of life that would occur should a massive oil spill flood this fragile environment. The irreparable ecological damage will be the destruction of a rare paradise. A piece of our world we will never see again.
The delicate food web of Northern BC means that any water contamination will not only damage areas adjacent to the spill, but will also destroy the wild salmon run, which is a source of life for grizzly bears, Spirit bears, whales, birds, and the entire temperate rainforest. This salmon run is one of the world’s great ecologic events and the BC waterways allow the salmon to leap upstream, where their bodies eventually nourish the largest remaining intact temperate rainforest zone in the world. A number of species, including several endangered populations, are threatened by the potential construction of the Northern Gateway pipeline. According to recently released government records, some of these threated populations include species listed in the Canadian Species At Risk Act such as woodland caribou, and rare types of birds and frogs. The pipleline is also set to run underneath waterways (such as the channel between Burns Lake and Decker Lake) that are used as sources of drinking water.
So how can this be happening?!?! Well Canada is not only rich in natural beauty, it is also rich in natural resources, and the country’s primary export is oil. The industry supports a large portion of Canada’s economy, and just like many other companies, these businesses are seeking ways to improve profits for their shareholders by exploring international export opportunities. However, money in the pockets of shareholders is just money. It could be spent on cars, clothes, and a variety of other material things. But it will never be able to restore the Pacific Coast of BC should oil leach into the waters. Nor will that money be able to encourage the whales, salmon and seals to return, after their playgrounds are turned into heavily trafficked shipping routes.
The two companies at the centre of this mess in British Columbia: Enbridge and TransCanada. These companies are seeking new export opportunities to Asian markets, and their plan is to use beautiful British Columbia as the primary port for distributing oil and gas to Asia. This need to seek out and develop new markets is being stimulated by various factors. Two major forces on Canadian companies such as Enbridge include an increasing international oil demand, and a decreasing level of US oil importation. The International Energy Agency’s 2011 World Energy Outlook predicts that world oil demand will increase to “99 million barrels per day by 2035 from 87 million barrels per day in 2010”. Therefore, whilst Canada is already well positioned to service the increased needs of the US, reports by the U.S. Energy Information Administration indicate that U.S. oil import requirements are likely to diminish in coming years as domestic production of crude oil and equivalent products grows and demand for transportation fuels decreases.
Fuelling the project are political claims that Canada needs to stand up against US bullying. With Prime Minister Harper talking about being “held hostage by US interests”, and US news sources describing Canada’s recent push for the pipeline as “uncharacteristic defiance”, the environmental implications are taking a backseat to a North American ego contest. Yes oil trade to the US is a critical component to the Canadian economy, but to take reckless actions in the name of demonstrating defiance is widely irresponsible.
Under this pressure to expand to exportation to foreign markets, the oil companies are looking for a Canadian coastal location as close as possible to the Pacific shipping routes. Sadly the rare, untouched and stunning rainforests of Northern BC are the target. Whilst these companies may have explored other options for shipping their resources to foreign markets, we have to believe that there must be a better solution than invading the biologically diverse environment of the Pacific Northwest. Yes the oil needs to be sold, yes it needs to be transported to buyers, but there must be a solution that does not involve the great rainforests of BC.
Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline will have an enormous impact on the local environment with around 525,000 barrels of crude oil and bitumen (both raw and upgraded) being pumped out per day. “At a cost of about $7 billion, the Northern Gateway Pipeline would be nearly 1,200 km in length from Edmonton to Kitimat on the west coast of British Columbia. It would carry an average of 525,000 barrels of petroleum per day to the west, and an average of 193,000 barrels of condensate, used to thin petroleum products for pipeline transport, per day to the east.”
A two-agency review panel in the US that convened for hearings on the Northern Gateway pointedly described the project as a pipeline that won’t deliver much oil to the U.S. For the US market, the Northern Gateway is merely a companion project to TransCanada’s highly criticised Keystone Pipeline. Environmental protests and political attention in the US has swelled around this Alberta to Texas pipeline that is being described a climate change catastrophe. However, whilst the Keystone Pipeline will deliver oil to the US, the Northern Gateway is simple seen by many in the US as a means for Canada to end its sole dependence on American buyers as its most important export by opening up markets in Asia, and allowing it to attract the badly needed foreign investment to develop the sands.
However in addition to Enbridge’s oil pipeline, TransCanada is also planning to extend its network of natural gas pipelines to the B.C. coast within a decade, as producers seek to profit from potential export markets. Premiums on the super-cooled resource in Japan, Korea and China compared to low prices in North America have seen shippers propose a number of LNG export terminal projects along B.C.’s northern coast. So if the crude oil fails to obliterate beautiful British Columbia, then liquid natural gas shipping operations will surely complete the destruction.
In recent developments, opponents of the Keystone Pipeline staged a website blackout in protest of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s efforts to forge ahead with that pipeline. In relation to the Northern Gateway, there has been renewed criticism of Enbridge’s inadequate oil spill response plans, and in response to another substantial Enbridge oil spill in Alberta, the Yinka Dene Alliance (one of the leading First Nations opponents of the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline), stated that Enbridge’s track record “demonstrates why the proposed project will never be permitted in their lands”. In British Columbia, federal hearings on the Northern Gateway pipeline continue.
The uniquely pristine and breathtaking wilderness of BC is something that stays with you. It is an extraordinary land of stunning rainforests and fresh waterways rich with magnificent species. This paradise on earth will refresh your spirit. It is pure and peaceful, with an unsurpassed wealth of captivating wildlife. It is an enchanting land where love is found, and perfect photographs of our natural world swirl all around you.