The potential impacts of the Energy East project on communities in Northwestern Ontario and throughout Canada could be devastating. Already, we are hearing stories of communities in Quebec divided by corporate duplicity (check out climate photographer Robert Van Waarden’s excellent project “Along the Pipeline” for a synopsis of the tricks that have been played in small town Quebec).
Here in Kenora, people are concerned about the legacy this project would leave to our children and grandchildren, as well as impacts on First Nations communities and culture. At the same time, through recent experiences to save the Experimental Lakes Area, we also know that even seemingly unbeatable odds don’t mean we are locked into an inevitable trajectory.
- When we think about oil, we think about oil spills and explosions, like the train carrying Bakken crude at Lac-Megantic, or the massive pipeline break in Kalamazoo Michigan, or like the Exxon Valdez oil tanker breaking up. All dumped millions of litres of oil into land, water, and in the case of the Exxon Valdez, the Pacific Ocean.
- We also think about carbon making the oceans acidic and endangering habitat for fish and other creatures. We think about melting ice caps and we wonder whether the lakes and water of northwestern Ontario will be there for our children and grandchildren. Will we be satisfied that we did all we could to protect the land for generations to come?
IT’S ALL RISK AND NO BENEFIT TO ONTARIANS
- Ontario produces energy through nuclear power, and through renewable sources like hydro, wind and solar. Soon we will be producing energy through bio-mass, wood waste in Thunder Bay and Atikokan. We do not need oil sands crude. We never will.
The oil is all for export. Remember, Canada exports over half of the oil and gas it produces! Ontario is simply a highway of pipelines and rail shipping oil to refineries in the Maritimes, where the oil will be refined and sent overseas. Rail tanker cars will then return to the west full of the toxic chemicals used to dilute the bitumen, which, when diluted, will be loaded on rail cars and put into the pipeline to be sent east. We face a two-way risk of toxic spills.
- Would we want open pit mining around Kenora, leaving scars over huge tracts of our land? Then, why are we allowing oil companies to devastate the land of First Nations people in Alberta?
The National Energy Board says some damage to First Nations’ Territories is irreversible; other damage will take fifty years or more to heal. We are Canadians, bound by treaties, which obligate us to protect the land “for as long as the sun shines and the rivers flow.”
Let’s ask local, Treaty Three First Nations, how best to protect the water, air and natural life we share together.
- In the struggle over energy, think of the oil and pipeline industry and the federal government, as Goliath, and the cottage owners, hunters and fishers, First Nations and everyone who lives along the pipeline and rail line as David.
Can David slow the train down?
Citizens of the northwest worked hard to save the Experimental Lakes Area, as did Municipal Councils supporters across Canada and the globe, when Goliath, the federal government,wanted it closed.
People wrote and petitioned and rallied and never gave up hope. This is how community action works. And it can work on energy.
Farmers and ranchers in Nebraska put a stop to Keystone XL; the people of British Columbia have come out strongly against the Northern Gateway pipeline. Why? Because they fear spills and the devastation spills will cause. They want cleaner energy, safer energy.
YES WE CAN!
- Stephen Harper says that Canada will follow the lead of the United States on climate climate change. Why wait? We, the citizens, can act now. Together, cottagers, hunters and fishers, tourist outfitters, farmers and First Nations, can slow the flow of oil and transition to green energy.
We know that we must limit the amount of carbon we put into the air and the water. Already, we are seeing glaciers and ice caps melting, the extinction of species and the natural cycles of land and animals and fish disrupted. The National Energy Board approves oil sands projects despite admitting, for the record, that damage to wetlands is irreversible, that loss of traditional harvesting areas is irreversible; that loss of species is irreversible.
More pipelines mean more oil and more oil means more pipelines, and more carbon. As long as we support oils sands development, we have no chance of meeting our greenhouse gas targets by 2020, 2030 or 2050.
Energy East is part of the problem, not a solution.