I’m Still Waiting for an Interview With a Government Scientist About the Diesel Spill Near Bella Bella

Oil spill near Bella Bella

I’m irritated today. Maybe it’s a case of the Mondays. Maybe it’s because B.C.’s pipeline incident webpage has been down for over a month. Or maybe it’s because the amount of oil spilled from a pipeline into an Alberta wetland, first reported on October 6, remains undetermined.

But I think the real reason is that a media request I placed with the B.C. government on Thursday last week — to speak with a scientist about the barge that ran aground on the central coast last week and its tug that’s leaking diesel into Heiltsuk territory— has yet to be fulfilled.

Not that I’ve been ignored. No, on the contrary, I’ve received helpful messages along the lines of ‘don’t lose hope, Carol! We’re going to connect you with a real, live scientist soon. Very soon!’

Yeah, um, not holding my breath.

BC Hydro Repeating Painful History with First Nations

Construction on Site C dam

Fifty-five years ago, construction crews started one of the tallest earth dams in the world 22 kilometres west of Hudson’s Hope, B.C. It was to flood a valley shaped by the Parsnip and Finlay Rivers.

This secluded paradise had been home to the Tsay Keh Dene for millennia. It was where they derived their livelihoods, established their identity, honoured their ancestors and envisioned their future. The band was not consulted about the project. No plans were drawn up to help them move ancestors to new burial sites or establish a new village.

W.A.C. Bennett, B.C.’s premier at the time, was consumed with his “two rivers” plan, developing hydro power both on the Upper Columbia and the Peace rivers.

What Prince William and Kate Really Need to Know About B.C.

Dear Will and Kate,

Welcome to beautiful British Columbia!

You are getting a pretty epic tour this week — from Victoria and Vancouver to Bella Bella (sorry about the rain) and Haida Gwaii. All of us watching the photo-ops are pretty jelly to be honest.

Here’s the thing though: I’ve noticed you’re hearing plenty of platitudes about “protecting the environment” from our good-looking leaders, B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

I know you’re smart people, so I don’t want you to be fooled by their looks — or their words.

Don’t get me wrong: B.C. truly is a glorious place — the type of place you can fly over in a seaplane and easily think the wilderness will never end.

But it’s also one of the world’s last frontiers and the race is on to cut down our old-growth forests, to send more oil tankers into our ports, to build natural gas plants in our salmon estuaries and to flood our rivers for megadams.

Here are a few things I thought you ought to know about B.C. (and which I’m doubtful you’ll hear from Justin or Christy).

Trudeau Can't Have His Climate Plan and Build a Pipeline Too

So far, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made a lot of the right moves when it comes to climate change, but a new report this week makes it clear that Canada's PM cannot lead on climate change and support the expansion of oilsands pipelines at the same time.

Yet, there was a rumor circling earlier this month that the Trudeau government would approve the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline in the name of the “national interest”. If approved, the pipeline will increase the amount of oil produced and shipped to Vancouver's coast for export by a whopping 590,000 barrels a day — nearly triple what is currently transported.

At the same time, the Trudeau government is expected to roll out a plan this fall to fulfill its election promise to take “bold action” on climate change.  

These two positions are irreconcilable. 

Wild Pacific Salmon Face Upstream Battle for Survival

Salmon have been swimming in Pacific Northwest waters for at least seven million years, as indicated by fossils of large saber-tooth salmon found in the area. During that time, they’ve been a key species in intricate, interconnected coastal ecosystems, bringing nitrogen and other nutrients from the ocean and up streams and rivers to spawning grounds, feeding whales, bears and eagles and fertilizing the magnificent coastal rainforests along the way.

Climate Refugees? We Don't Have a Plan for That


While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau maintains relatively high popularity numbers here in Canada, they pale in comparison to the borderline rock star status the Canadian Prime Minister currently has on the international stage. Most recently, he was in New York to address the United Nations’ General Assembly and attend the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants.

It’s the first-ever summit of its kind because there hasn't been a refugee crisis like this in our lifetimes — or in the UN’s lifetime. You’ve heard the facts by now. Right now, more than 65 million people have been forced from their homes. That’s more than at any other time since the end of the Second World War. And there’s no end in sight.

In his speech at the summit on Monday, Trudeau took a bow for Canada’s efforts to take in refugees. Yet when the applause died down, he emphasized how that isn’t enough.

I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that Canada’s engagement must not stop at resettlement,” the Prime Minister said. “Now is the time for each of us to consider what more we can contribute. So, in Canada, we’re looking at our options.”

So what are those options? How can we address the forces that are driving people from their homes in the first place?

National Energy Board is a Captured Regulator in Urgent Need of Overhaul

National Energy Board panel

This op-ed originally appeared on the National Observer.

After more than a year I decided to withdraw as an expert Intervenor at the National Energy Board hearing into Trans Mountain’s Expansion Project. I came to the discouraging conclusion that the Board was on a predetermined course of action to recommend approval of the Project. The Board did this by narrowly scoping its list of issues, removing cross-examination, and refusing to compel answers to information requests made by myself and most other Intervenors.

Corporations cannot regulate themselves. Their first priority is to maximize returns for their shareholders. Regulation is an accepted method in Canada to ensure private interest is not achieved at the expense of the public interest. Government steps in and establishes a regulatory framework to protect public health, safety and the environment as well as to attain objectives related to the nation’s economic and social goals.

Regulatory capture takes place when the regulator ceases to be independent and advances the commercial interests of the industry it is charged with regulating. The Board’s behaviour during the Trans Mountain hearing not only turned the process into a farce, it exposed the Board as a captured regulator.

Feds Appoint Chair of B.C. Industry Group to Panel Reviewing Environmental Assessment Process

The federal government has appointed the founding chair of a vocal B.C.-based industry advocacy group to a four-member panel tasked with reviewing Canada’s environmental assessment process.*

The panel is part of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s attempt to make good on his campaign promise to restore credibility to environmental reviews of major energy projects — but the appointment calls into question the credibility of the panel. 

Tweet: New EA review panel member leads an industry advocacy group w close ties to @BCLiberals http://bit.ly/2cH6u5H #bcpoliThe appointee, Doug Horswill, is the founding chair of Resource Works, an industry advocacy group with close ties to the BC Liberals that aggressively advocates for the interests of extractive industries in B.C.

David Suzuki: Cultural and Ecosystem Diversity Key to Resilience

It’s been shocking to watch news of the Brexit vote in Britain, Donald Trump’s promise to build a wall between Mexico and the U.S. and the ongoing threats and violence against ethnic minorities in many parts of the world. I’m not a political or social scientist, but my training as a biologist gives me some insight.

When I began my career as a scientist, geneticists were starting to analyze the molecular properties of single genes within a species. When we started looking at highly evolved species such as fruit flies, we thought we would find that their genes had been honed through selection over time, so they would be relatively homogeneous within single species. Examining one kind of protein controlled by a specific gene, we expected to find them all pretty much the same. Instead, we learned there was a great deal of heterogeneity, or diversity. A gene specifying a protein could exist in a number of different states.

This is now called “genetic polymorphism” and is considered to be the very measure of a species’ health. Inbreeding or reduction of a species to a small number reduces genetic polymorphism and exposes harmful genes, thereby rendering the species more susceptible to sudden change. In other words, genetic polymorphism confers resilience by providing greater possibilities as conditions shift.

Inuit Fight to Protect Territory from Oil Industry's Seismic Blasting

Seismic blasting in the Arctic

The Arctic’s Baffin Bay and Davis Strait region is home to seals, bowhead whales, polar bears and up to 90 per cent of the world’s narwhals. The area’s marine waters also provide habitat for 116 species of fish, such as Arctic char, an important dietary staple for Nunavut’s Inuit communities.

Although the area is crucial to Inuit for hunting and other traditional activities, the federal government has approved underwater seismic blasting by a consortium of energy companies. They plan to fire underwater cannons from boats to map the ocean floor for oil and gas deposits, in preparation for offshore drilling.

The blasting, approved by Canada’s National Energy Board in 2014, is meeting fierce opposition.


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