Freaking Out About the Northern Gateway Decision?

Emma Gilchrist

DeSmogCanada, June 17, 2014

Today the internet is full of noise about the Enbridge Northern Gateway decision by the feds.

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All the noise, ironically enough, makes me think about the silence of the Great Bear Rainforest — of the sea lion that popped up beside my row boat under the starriest sky I’ve ever seen while I sailed along the proposed oil tanker route three years ago.

I’m reminded of bobbing up and down on the water, thoughts coming in 60-second flashes between the breaths of a humpback whale feeding near our boat.

Now, like then, my mind moves away from all the hype to the only truth there is: clean air, clean water, wild salmon. That’s it.

My thoughts drift to the stoic face of Marven Robinson of the Gitga’at First Nation in Hartley Bay — to the people whose way of life depends on stopping this project.

And then my mind settles on the stillness and splendour of one of the world’s last untouched places … one of few places in the world that’s just as it was thousands of years ago. There’s nothing like that thought to make you feel small in the scheme of things.

I’ve revisited that sailing trip in my mind more times than I can count in the past three years — when Joe Oliver called pipeline opponents foreign radicals, when I found out Canada’s spy agency was monitoring public hearings on the project, when the B.C. government called on the joint review panel to reject the project, when the town of Kitimat rejected the project in a plebiscite.

At times, the polarized debate on this issue has been all-consuming. But I’ve always found solace in going back to the heart of the matter: what kind of country do we want to live in? Are we the type of people who force the risk of catastrophe on communities that say no? Or do we know when to say enough is enough? 

Today pundits will write thousands of words about the political consequences of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision. I’ll try not to add to the noise.

But I will listen to the voices of First Nations who have rejected the pipeline and tankers on their lands and waters. And I will think of the two-thirds of British Columbians who want this project rejected or delayed. And I will be calm in knowing that thousands of groups and individuals are committed to preserving that long stillness and silence of the Great Bear Rainforest. And within that silence, the sound of opposition is deafening.


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