January 16, 2012
I’ve been visiting Canada all my life, but I’m a little worried about my upcoming trip.
In late March I’m supposed to come to Vancouver to give a couple of talks. Youth Action Canada invited me to come, to speak to college students from across the country; I’m also planning to do a benefit for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. But now I read that Joe Oliver, the country’s natural resources minister, is condemning “environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block” the Northern Gateway pipeline from the oilsands of Alberta to the Pacific.
I think he’s talking about people like me. I’ve spent much of the last year helping rally opposition to the Key-stone XL pipeline from the oilsands to the Gulf of Mexico. I was arrested outside the White House in August, and emceed the demonstration that brought thousands of people to circle the White House in November. When I come to British Columbia, I’ll urge everyone I meet to oppose the Gate-way project. In fact, Youth Action is paying me to come. And the money will end up at 350.org, the international climate change campaign, helping fight projects like Gateway around the world.
Since a majority of Canadians, according to the polls, also oppose the pipeline, I’ll be in good company. But Oliver, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the organizers of the Ethical Oil campaign don’t want any out-side voices. As the latter explained on its website, “It’s our pipeline. Our country. Our jobs. And our decision.”
Fair enough. But you know some-thing? The atmosphere belongs to all of us. There’s not some wall at the 49th parallel that separates Canada’s air from everyone else’s. Since the oilsands is the second biggest source of carbon on the planet, that makes their development everyone’s business. As NASA’s James Hansen, the planet’s premier climatologist, put it recently, if you heavily develop the oil-sands, it’s “essentially game over for the climate.”