I just got back to Vancouver from house hunting in Calgary and the photo you see above is taken in a park right by the house I am moving into. It didn’t strike me until I saw the Husky Oil building in the background that I was moving to the province that is also the home to the Alberta tar sands. The big story on the front page of the Calgary Herald when I was there was of James Cameron (film director and Canadian) meeting with Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach regarding the responsible development of the tar sands. Reading this article took me right back to three years ago when I sat in my friend, Veronica’s kitchen in Kitimat way up in Northern BC talking about the proposed pipeline that Enbridge wanted to build across BC to the tar sands in Alberta and listening as the townspeople there spoke about what this would mean for their community and for all the other communities along the coast who depend on the waters and the wilderness to survive. At the time, Veronica said to me that she was concerned that people in Vancouver had no idea that this was going on and that this would effect them too. As we have seen today after the four month long disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, oil spills have a devastating effect on the environment. There are too many things that can go wrong with pipes that stretch over kilometers of land and ships that carry the oil over rough BC waters. We saw the devastating effects of the Exxon spill in Alaska twenty years ago which is still not completely resolved ecologically. And as we also know, the earth is a closed system and so anything that happens in one place effects all the other places on earth. If an oil spill were to happen along the BC Coast, it would effect drinking water and marine life all along the Pacific Ocean and the effects would spread to other oceans and peoples in far reaching places. I had an Instant Message discussion with Veronica’s eleven year old daughter, Hannah, about this proposed pipeline a couple of weeks ago. Hannah is one of the home learning kids I work with as a consultant and what follows is our discussion:
Jennifer Engracio: I’m havin’ a coffee and watching a video your mom sent me on the Alberta tar sands.
Jennifer Engracio: Have you watched it?
Jennifer Engracio: What did you think?
Hannah: It was good info.
Jennifer Engracio: Do you think they should run that pipeline through?
Jennifer Engracio: How come?
Hannah: I hate what they are doing.
Jennifer Engracio: So what is it you hate about what Enbridge is wanting to do?
Hannah: I was watching the TV and I saw the animals and it was so sad!!
Jennifer Engracio: Yeah. I know. I felt sad too.
Hannah: AND THE FISH- DONT GET ME STARTED!
Jennifer Engracio: I think it is too late for that 🙂
Hannah: What do you think?
Jennifer Engracio: Humans are animals too. And I think if more of us knew that we are a part of nature, we’d care more about our water and wildlife. We really aren’t separate from nature like we think.
Hannah: I think that too.
Jennifer Engracio: I think part of the problem is that we’ve gotten so used to just going to a grocery store to get our food that we don’t realize that damage done to the earth is damage done to us via our food sources being effected as well as our water and air supply.
Hannah : Yes. You took the words out of me.
Veronica said to me the other day: “Don’t people in Alberta care about their water?” Granted, I am pretty new to that province, being born and raised in BC and I certainly can’t speak for all the people there. What I know about the Albertan friends I have is that they do care about the land. I think if Albertans knew what was going on in the tar sands and how this effected their resources, ability to survive, and the rest of the world, they would call for different choices. Like folks in Vancouver, people just don’t know about it and it is easy to feel helpless when media takes an alarmist approach. But there are things we can do and every voice counts. I believe it is time to think long term in our planning instead of thinking simply of short term financial gains. I am not sure that average people are the ones that benefit financially from projects like oil pipelines. Of course, many of us depend on oil to get to work but there are ways to minimize our ecological footprint if we want to.
To find out more about ways you can lessen your dependence on oil go to:
If you are interested in learning more about the proposed pipeline go to: