Activists fight pipeline and oil sands expansion

Matt Gardner
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Protesters link arms in front of MP Randy Hoback’s office on Saturday to symbolize a “united wall of opposition” across Canada to risks posed by pipelines and oil sands expansion as part of a nationwide day of action. The two banners read “Defend Our Climate” and “Defend Our Community."

Local activists rallied in front of MP Randy Hoback’s office on Saturday as part of a national day of action against threats posed by fossil fuel development.

Approximately a dozen supporters attended the demonstration under the banner of Defend Our Climate, Defend Our Communities.

In solidarity with activists across Canada, they sought to highlight growing opposition to risks posed to the climate and individual communities by pipelines and oil sands expansion.

“If you look at the graphs that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released and you look at the year 2050, that’s the year where everything starts to go to hell,” Renewable Power -- The Intelligent Choice (RPIC) member Steve Lawrence said.

“We have to make the changes we need to make before 2050, which means we have to start now … If you look at some of the graphs, by the year 2080 to 2100, the agricultural area of Saskatchewan will be mostly desert.

“Up to 2050 we can maybe adapt. Beyond that, (it) gets pretty scary.”

Council of Canadians members Nancy Carswell and Rick Sawa both gave brief speeches to the assembled crowd.

Carswell began by noting the ongoing fast by Yeb Sano, lead climate negotiator for the Philippines. Sano is fasting in solidarity with his people during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is currently underway in Warsaw.

Energy stored in waters near the Philippines, Sano said, is increasing the intensity of typhoons and rendering devastating storms such as Typhoon Haiyan much more frequent.

“While we may never have to tie down the roofs of our houses, climate change has profound implications for our communities too,” Carswell said.

“Continuing on our current path of extreme energy, tar sands, fracking and nuclear is clear madness. Not only is it environmental madness, but it is economic madness. The energy return on investment is not there and as the price rises, green energy will win.

“By ending subsidies to petroleum industries and implementing a carbon tax, we will have the funding necessary to shift to a green economy that will defend our climate and our communities.”

Sawa sharply criticized the Harper government and emphasized the all-encompassing nature of environmental issues.

“This government is keeping us extremely busy,” he said. “We’re concerned about health care, water, trade agreements and on and on and on.

“But as we all know, if we don’t take care of the environment, does it really matter what our education system looks like? Does it really matter if we have health care or not?”

Climate change has profound implications for our communities ... Continuing on our current path of extreme energy, tar sands, fracking and nuclear is clear madness. Nancy Carswell

His remarks focused on two main concerns, the Energy East Pipeline Project and what he referred to as “reckless tar sands expansion.”

Currently being promoted by TransCanada Corp., the Energy East pipeline would transport up to 850,000 barrels of crude per day, including tar sands oil, from Alberta to markets such as China, India and Europe.

The Council of Canadians has strongly opposed the pipeline, arguing that it would pose a significant threat to local communities and ecosystems.

By the same token, Sawa believed that the tar sands development stood in direct opposition to the need to transition towards alternative forms of energy.

“Big Oil is pushing to triple tar sands production to over five million barrels per day,” he said. “This will do irreversible damage to … communities already suffering from rising cancer rates. This runs in direct conflict to the urgent need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in the face of climate crisis.”

Sawa noted that while the Harper government has claimed to be reducing emissions, Environment Canada recently projected that the country’s carbon emissions would decrease by barely three per cent by 2020, compared to a promised 17 per cent cut.

“This target is far below what is being demanded by the global South and communities on the front line of climate impacts,” Sawa said.

Many motorists offered supportive honks over the course of the demonstration.

Asked about potential solutions to the climate crisis, Lawrence pointed to recommendations by the International Energy Agency such as increased efficiency in conservation, removing methane from oil and gas wells, limiting coal and taking away subsidies to the oil and gas industries.

“All those things will create a great deal of economic movement in our economy,” he said. “It won’t be a negative thing. It will be a very positive thing that will create a healthy environment for us and future generations.

“From my point of view, people know that climate change is here,” Lawrence added. “They know it’s happening. They just don’t know what to do, and we have to have governments and policies and groups starting to do things to show people what can be done.”


Organizations: Daily Herald

Geographic location: Canada

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