Tag Archives: Kinder Morgan

The Clearing of the Misery

When the National Energy Board of Canada approved Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion on May 19, like most people, I was far from surprised. But strangely, I was also somewhat uplifted that day. Buoyant even. Maybe I’m becoming deluded, I don’t know.

It’s just that the system did exactly what the system is designed to do: expand the web and capacity of fossil capital, regardless of public opposition, democratic process, infringed indigenous rights, or the science of climate change. Stupid is as stupid does, and I doubt there’s ever been anything in this world quite as dumb as the accumulation of more of everything for the sake of accumulating more of everything.

At that moment, it didn’t matter. The NEB, whichever government (Harper’s or Trudeau’s) hell bent on expanding the tar sands—it just didn’t matter. All this feels part of a world that is so patently of the past, redundant now, finished. I’m not saying pipelines won’t get built—they might still. I’m not saying fossil fuels are done like dinner—though they have never looked more vulnerable to system change. I’m just saying something feels different now, and this has an upside and a downside—no doubt a few other sides too.

On the UP SIDE, I’m reasonably confident that we are now indeed living in the early days of a transition away from fossil fuels and towards some amalgam of renewable energy sources. I’ve got no hard evidence for this—it’s a gut feeling—but it’s based on what feels like a tipping point in how the media is covering the issues, the sort of weary inevitability that reporters and even industry executives seem to be meeting the constant grass roots resistance and ever-present call for climate action. Maybe I’m in an alternative media bubble, but it seems different now. The Fort McMurray fires are part of this. Floods in Europe. Everything now is openly linked to acknowledged climate change, by both the majority of media outlets and even most government officials. Where climate change would have been ignored or angrily dismissed before, now it seems an inevitable part of our lives—not a ghost of summers to come, but a spectre haunting the hot and dry present. Again, maybe I’m deluded, but the nay-sayers seem to be losing.

Ok. DOWNSIDE NUMBER ONE. I think it’s too late. Climate change is already happening and no matter what we do now some amount of destructive warming is here and its effects will be a part of the rest of our lives, our children’s lives, and—if they have children—their children’s lives too. Global temperatures are hitting 1.5 already, sooner than expected, and should shoot past 2 degrees global warming before too long. Oceans will rise, inundating coastal communities. Deserts will expand at the hearts of continents. Food scarcity will be a real issue felt by almost everyone (though the most marginalized and impoverished will of course feel it first), and more and more people will be displaced, the number of those in search of climate refuge swelling into the many millions. Fires, storms, flooding, drought, etc. etc.

This even if my rosy prediction is right and we are indeed on the cusp of starting a transition away from our fossil fuel dependence. This even if we, in a few short decades (best case scenario—it really will take time), stop investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure and instead invest public funds in renewable energy, phase out the tar sands, replace fossil fuel driven cars with electric ones and light rail in our cities, etc. etc.

I think the beginning of a transition is probable largely because of DOWNSIDE NUMBER TWO: capitalism keeps doing what it’s doing as long as it finds a way to keep being profitable, and fossil fuels are on their way to not being profitable anymore (at least this appears to be the case in Canada already, a fact for now being ignored by irrational corporations and their elected supporters). Once the profit rate on business as usual falls low enough, business will move on to something more profitable (those electric cars are starting to look pretty good after all). So downside number two is that, even if we are managing to force the world towards an energy transition, and leaving aside downside number one for a minute, we may rid ourselves of fossil fuels but not the capitalist logic that led to the adoption of fossil fuels in the first place. This leads me to:

UPSIDE NUMBER TWO. As we struggle to deal with the effects of climate change—with food scarcity, mass displacement, extreme weather damage and avoidance of climate impacts (which may involve large scale migrations), the capitalist system will continue to show itself ill-equipped to deal with these challenges. Thus there is still—even if capital does what capital does, and rebuilds itself once again in its own image, only as “green capital” this time—there is still a real opportunity, even a demand, to toss private property, the profit motive, the wage and all the rest to the curb as we come together to deal collectively with the crisis capitalism has created. In other words, we are in the midst of being thrown from the frying pan into the fire; now, what mid-air acrobatics are we yet capable of? Who would rather some other landing place than the flames beneath the pan?

I’m sitting right now with an old book open in my lap. It is William Morris’s 1890 utopian novel News from Nowhere. In the future, after long social struggle and a revolution, our narrator is taken through a radically transformed London. Trafalgar Square has lost its imperial column and is now an orchard, as the city has gone through a sort of re-wilding known as “The Clearing of the Misery” (commemorated every May Day “in those easterly communes of London”)—a process which amounts to an erasure of the distinction between the urban and the rural, the town and the country—as in the absence of a “World-Market,” communities have had to learn how to be as locally self-sufficient, and thus as ecologically self-sustaining, as possible.

In short, Morris offers an image of entwined and interdependent social and ecological transformation. Trafalgar Square, we learn, was where the struggle really began—with a direct confrontation between the state and protestors. And now Trafalgar Square blooms with an orchard—rather than “beastly monuments of fools and knaves”—revealing its carefully managed provisioning of the local commune.

While the NEB does what the NEB is designed to do, and while the Trudeau government goes on doing what industry tells it to do, I find myself dreaming about those sites of struggle—the Burnaby Mountains, Westridge Marine Terminals, Burrard Inlets and tar sands—that may be the sites of future orchards—after the Clearing of the Misery that is fossil capital.

Advertisements

When Democracy Becomes Controversial

[My portion of a lecture given at the SFU Centre for Dialogue, with Lynne Quarmby, for the Nora and Ted Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy]

1

Our argument tonight, stated as simply as possible, is this: If what Lynne and I have done constitutes anything “controversial,” it is so only because of the problematic state of our current democracy, for all we have done, in our opinion, is exercise “normal” and supposedly long-standing democratic rights of assembly and public speech. Democracy, now, produces a fundamental contradiction which anyone engaging in the political must wrestle with: we feel we cannot help but participate in the current democratic system (there are so many urgent issues to address)—voting, supporting parties and candidates, participating in public debate, even running for office—at the same time, we can have little faith in the ability of our political system, as currently constituted, when it comes to the most pressing issues we face (such as climate change, the geographical displacement of populations, and Indigenous rights and land claims), and so we must also take direct action outside of the electoral and representative apparatus of governance. To live today is to live in a world of such contradictions. Go vote on Monday, but do not stop there, and do not stop demanding, and taking steps to build, a more just, more open, more equal and more participatory political system.

Another way of approaching this: controversy, however figured—along with informed, respectful argument and passionate disagreement, as well as acts that can be seen as confrontational or disruptive, acts which sometimes may involve non-violent civil disobedience—should really be understood as part of the healthy functioning of a democracy. They are evidence of the people taking autonomous control of and responsibility for their lives. If such acts themselves come to be characterized as “controversial,” rather than essential, then something is rotten in the state of our democracy.

Our discussion tonight of what, exactly, might be “controversial” about direct democratic action will pass through the lenses of our personal stories this past year, the particularity of our fields of research, and the critique we are levelling with our words and our actions.

2

For me, my involvement in the Kinder Morgan resistance this past year was unavoidable. I had for a number of years been writing about and participating in social justice and environmental justice grassroots movements. I had been concerned about climate change, social inequality, Indigenous land claims, and our government’s seeming inability, or lack of interest in, doing anything about these issues. When Kinder Morgan came to the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area, to cut trees and conduct seismic testing for their new pipeline last September, they came into my back yard. I have a 20-year relationship with Simon Fraser University, so this mountain is one of my homes, a place where I have spent a good portion of my life, and I care about it, as a place and as a community. I care about local First Nations title to this land upon which I am a settler. And I care about the state of this world, the natural environment upon which we all collectively depend, and the future my and your children and grandchildren and great grandchildren will inherit. “Kinder Morgan,” it may be worth noting, in perhaps not the best German translation, can be taken to mean “tomorrow’s children.” This accident in corporate naming is telling.

I could, on my way to and from work, stop on the mountain and join others keeping watch in the forest. I could, and soon did, play the role of a spokesperson for what people were trying to achieve on the mountain. And I could write—and I did write—as Lynne did too.

For me personally, one of the most instructive, and chilling, moments was having my writing read aloud in the BC Supreme Court, by Kinder Morgan’s lawyers, accusing me of conspiring against their company. “Underneath the poetry,” the lawyer said of a blog I had written (and I quote), “is a description of how the barricade was made”—thereby unintentionally echoing the famous Situationist slogan: sous la plave, la plage (under the paving stones, the beach). It was a good day for poetry—it mattered enough to be cited in court—even if it was a bad day for this one poet.

That one sentence spoken by that lawyer on November 5 2014 continues to haunt and shape my work (including my forthcoming book of poetry, Once in Blockadia). Of course, I’ve always mostly been interested in what was “beneath the poetry”—the Real, the material world of exploitation and repression, and collective struggles for justice and freedom and our complicated social relations. But now that the two-headed monster of the corporate state has tipped its hat—that it, too, is very interested in what’s “beneath the poetry,” and the sort of veiling that literary and other cultural expressions may engage in—well, quite simply I’m still trying to process this new piece of information.

IMG_1355

3

The connection between poetry and politics, poetry and social justice and social movements, is primary to the work I do in my academic field. In a recent publication I referred to the sort of work I do as a form of “embedded poetry”—like an “embedded” journalist, I write from a position within groups undertaking certain actions in the social field. Obviously this is anything but dispassionate, distanced or objective research; it is a committed creative and critical practice. But the literature that doubles as social commentary and in fact at times as a form of social “action” also has a long tradition about which I teach and write, as well as engaging in it in my own creative practice.

This is what I find so useful and fascinating—both as a subject I study and a methodology I employ: poetry, especially, provides the generic wherewithal to imagine ourselves as vocal agents of change and actors on the stage of social transformation. Poetry is still shaped by speech and the oral imaginary. In a poem, we can say public things we otherwise do not have the opportunity or occasion (or perhaps even freedom) to say, and we can address situations, individuals, the body politic and even abstract entities in ways that would not otherwise make sense. And yet, this imaginary by which we speak to that which it is often impossible to speak is a crucial political imaginary too. Democracy, I would argue, is nothing less than a mechanism to allow impossible speech: the collective speech of and between communities, the speech of and to large and abstract forces that affect us all in the broadest, and therefore sometimes decidedly intangible, ways. Such speech is absolutely necessary to our social wellbeing, and while “publicness” seems to be something which has been steadily eroded over the past three or four neoliberal and austerity filled decades, poetry and other literary arts remain a place where the voice of honest indignation (as William Blake called it) is kept alive.

4

Here’s perhaps a bit of controversy: we’re not living in a democracy. Not, at least, if we take seriously the idea that a democracy is a system of rights and freedoms enshrining the self-determination of a community’s constituents. As many thinkers are now pointing out, western democracies in fact function much more like oligarchies than anything else—as a recent Princeton study suggests of the United States:

Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.

This is likely news to no one. Consider Bill C-51, a piece of legislation which the majority of legal experts in Canada deride as unconstitutional and, frankly, undemocratic. Consider the “close working relationship” between the current Conservative government of Canada and its “friends” in the fossil fuel industry—to the point at which, as documents have revealed, the government has over the past four years implemented exactly those policy and regulatory changes industry has asked for—down to each dotted i and crossed t. Then of course there is the denial of the will of the city and the majority of the citizens of Burnaby in the Kinder Morgan case on Burnaby Mountain, and the way various levels of government run roughshod over Indigenous rights and title in the rush to approve and develop multi-national fossil fuel extraction, infrastructure and trade deals.

I could of course go on. But consider this: a recent Fraser Institute report suggests that “democratic institutions are not relevant for an enhanced feeling of life control.” The report adds that economic freedom, specifically, “exerts a positive impact on life satisfaction, while democracy remains insignificant.” Here’s where we are heading under the current neoliberal phase of capitalism and governmentality: democracy is “insignificant”; you can find “life control” and “life satisfaction” through economic (as opposed here to social) freedom alone. Interesting. And who, we might ask, has access to this singularly significant “economic freedom”? Hmm…I wonder.

Let’s step back from the brink of democracy’s twilit last gleaming. The era in which modern democratic institutions developed, over the past two to three centuries, is also the era of capitalism’s full and eventually global development. It is also the era of colonialism—if we stretch this analysis back just slightly into the seventeenth century, when the British parliament, at least, began to exert more power, and in which global exploration and expropriation began to expand beyond Europe in earnest. All these socio-historical phenomena—capitalism, colonialism, and what we have come to refer to as “democracy”—are linked processes. They are phenomena unleashed by the drive of elites to increase their influence and wealth—and thus productive forces—supported by a rapidly developing ideology of limitless economic growth and competition—through the private ownership of land and labouring bodies (sometimes the bodies themselves, literally, at other times simply the labour time of those bodies—although it has often amounted to the same thing).

In the historical narrative I’m offering here, democracy—the “granting” of democratic rights and the gradual implementation of a slowly expanded franchise—functions as a “containment system,” intended to corral popular will and opinion—to cordon it off while the important business of colonization and capital accumulation proceeded and expanded (as indeed it continues to proceed and expand, in diverse ways). We might say that the rights and freedoms we do have were “granted” only because of popular unrest and resistance: the commons demanded change, and elites gradually offered various sops and allowances and “privileges” which were eventually stitched into a system (which we have deigned to call democracy), constantly modified, which allowed a semblance of the participation of the “will of the people” while continuing to serve the interests of the accumulation and radically uneven distribution of wealth.

If we, the commons, made some gains in the past through popular resistance, we can do so again. Indeed, I would argue that we have not yet gone nearly as far as we need to in this direction. In this regard, I recall the words of Henry David Thoreau, who in his essay Resistance to Civil Government, wrote: “Is a democracy, such as we have known it, the last possible improvement in government?”

So—maybe there’s something more important here that the word “democracy” obscures. Maybe what we really need to focus on is the demos, the commons, and the ability of the commons to manage and maintain its shared planetary resources. This is the controversial thing Lynne, and myself, and many others did: we stood on the remnant commons of public space and unceded territory and demanded that the commons be heard, be acknowledged, and be followed.

IMG_1377

5

I return to the question of controversy. Is it really controversial to act to protect our shared natural environment? Is it really controversial to place ecological values ahead of economic ones, or to demand economic practices that are in harmony with ecological values? IF it is, then we are truly in a bad way. And certainly legislation such as Bill C-51 attempts to mark out those who stand in the path of the economic’s triumphant parade over the body of the ecological—especially Indigenous land defenders—as controversial, deviant, even terrorists.

If Lynne and I have indeed participated in a controversy, it is largely, to my mind, a controversy centered on one aspect of our work as academics. It is not our research that is necessarily controversial, nor is it our teaching. Rather, it is our public outreach and service to the wider community—our functioning as “public intellectuals” (if such beasts are not yet extinct), and our taking of SFU’s mantra—engaging the world—perhaps a little more literally than intended. Advocacy is often a part of what academics do, both from within and outside their respective fields. You might also characterise what Lynne and I have done as to take our social analysis and critique—our understandings of the functioning of the physical and social worlds—and put them at the service not just of our disciplinary community, but at the service of the wider community as well. This is perhaps another form of “embedded” cultural practice—embedding knowledge production and dissemination not in the rarefied and disciplinarily bound institution alone, but in the very communities that are struggling for social change from below—and further, to actually form that knowledge in a collaborative and grassroots milieu.

We have without question desired to be of service. But again I have to ask, what here is controversial or even exceptional? In the kind of political life that I would see as living up to the concept of democracy—of real, participatory democracy—such “engagement,” such direct collective social action, would neither be controversial nor extraordinary. It would be expected. It would be a normal part of daily life—and indeed we would have to reconceive daily life so that it allowed and supported a more fulsome participation in a more autonomous, localized, and engaged form of community self-governance (a topic of discussion, perhaps, to reserve for another occasion). Now imagine—if engaging the world was taken to mean direct and active participation in our own collective self-governance, as well as the attendant ascendancy of the rights and responsibilities of citizens over corporations, we might have to redefine engagement—we might in fact have to rebrand SFU as having a new, more radical mandate—one of revolutionizing the world.

 

 

 

 

Kinder Morgan vs the Future: A Commoner’s Tale

In alder     in maple fern salal and salmonberry     near train &

bird sound     & plane sound     on mountain     on watch

 

Among stumps     red rounds     starling flocks bespeaking a theory

of the swarm     plane drone     train echo     mountain     on watch

 

Beside dead cut boughs their     drying leaf curl     by fallen

trunks & bear presence   on unceded territory     occupied     on watch

 

Over the inlet     down slope     attached to social media     over

proposed pipeline route     under capital     on mountain     on watch

 

IMG_0844

Since we learned, a few weeks ago, that Texas-based oil behemoth Kinder Morgan had entered the conservation area on Burnaby Mountain (in the middle of which sits the public university where I have taught for 15 years), a group of us have been keeping watch for the company’s re-appearance. I think of us as “citizen rangers.” We have chased them off more than once already. And if they return, we will make their attempts to work on the mountain…difficult, to say the least.

We hike downslope in the park, from a field where much of Vancouver and its harbour can be seen. Or we ascend from the base of the mountain. The trail is narrow, steep, muddy. We settle ourselves in the forest clearing Kinder Morgan made—illegally—there with our bodies to prevent their helicopters from landing equipment in the forest conservation area. This is their plan: drill and conduct seismic testing. Then re-submit their proposal to the National Energy Board of Canada.

Our bodies sitting in the forest tell a different story. This is grassroots resistance at its grassy and rootiest. The thing about massive energy projects—the devastation they can wreak on local ecosystems, and the global atmosphere as well—is that they have to pass through very small and localizable spaces. We are small. But a pipeline is narrow. The forest clearing just large enough to set down equipment. Or just small enough for a handful of volunteers to occupy.

Meanwhile, the struggle continues on other levels too. Community groups like BROKE (Burnaby Residents against Kinder Morgan Expansion) are organized, vocal, active. The City of Burnaby continues to pursue legal means of preventing Kinder Morgan from expropriating city parkland. Burnaby NDP MP Kennedy Stewart continues to pursue parliamentary means of opposition. And the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, stewards of these unceded lands, are also making their own constitutional challenge.

Kinder Morgan, with all its wealth and power, of course has the federal government in its back pocket. The National Energy Board, far from an objective arbiter, has provided Kinder Morgan with over $130 million of Canadian tax payer’s money to pursue its application.

And so—sitting on unceded land, in the middle of an urban park and conservation area (where we have on several occasions seen two black bears, amongst many other creatures), and under threat of a massively wealthy private (foreign owned) corporation flush with public Canadian funds—questions about the nature of publicness and the commons almost always come to my mind.

Fossil fuel production threatens the global commons—that shared material fact (I don’t like to say “resource”) of what all living beings depend upon: breathable air, drinkable water, a life-sustaining climate, a sustainable food supply. These things cannot be “owned,” and yet the activities of private corporations directly dispossess us of them, prevent access to them, and destroy them—for us and future generations. Thus what is coming to a head on public land on Burnaby Mountain is the very destruction of the common and public on a planetary scale.

But—and I keep coming back to this issue too—can we consider “common” what is also unceded (that is, never deeded or surrendered) indigenous territory? How does a concern for the global biospheric commons intersect with indigenous claims to traditional and long-occupied land?

My own answer is—delicately, and not unproblematically. The idea of the commons comes from the European (especially British) tradition of common lands as a system for sustaining local communities: much land was technically private (owned by various aristocrats), but people had local access and use rights to unoccupied (non-agricultural) land, which they depended upon for their survival. These rights were taken away, and common lands “enclosed,” between the 16th and 19th centuries—alongside the development of capitalism.

An indigenous sense of land use is not always easy to reconstruct, after 500 years of colonial occupation. Like the idea of the commons, the survival of indigenous communities depended upon access to and use of land—however, no system of property-based ownership seems to have existed. One did not own land: land owned you and your people. As such, you were responsible for the careful stewardship, and even defence, of the land to which you belonged.

Here is the overlap I want to note for now: both the European common and indigenous territorial systems were carefully managed with their extension into the future in mind. They didn’t only have to sustain the community now—they had to do so for generations to come. This is made clear in the recent and landmark Tsilhqot’in Supreme Court definition of aboriginal title:

“It is collective title held not only for the present generation but for all succeeding generations. It cannot be … encumbered in ways that would prevent future generations of the group from using and enjoying it. Nor can the land be developed or misused in a way that would substantially deprive future generations of the benefit of the land.”

Unlike capitalism, commons-based and indigenous senses of land use are premised upon the importance of future access and use. Companies like Kinder Morgan operate according to a logic of limitless accumulation of profits: the only sense they have of the future is future profit. Often, fossil fuel companies only need a short-term access to and use of land. After they are done, the land is often destroyed, irreparably. They move on—seeking something else to destroy in their pursuit of tomorrow’s gains on the stock market, the next-quarter’s returns.

So we sit in the forest—we small group of citizen rangers—trying to ward off tree-fallers, drill operators, and helicopters with our bodies occupying trails and clear-cuts. We are, I like to think, commoners too, one and all—keepers of future possibilities, future access and use of this green lung-space we all need to breathe—these waters we all need for provision. And when I say “we” I think of the black bears too, and the Pacific Sideband Snail, and the raven whose call echoes off the mountain slopes.

70 Theses Against Tar Sands Pipelines

  1. Today is a sensitive location.
  2. Life is not settled it’s unsettling.
  3. Clouds we make form what seems but isn’t really haphazard weather.
  4. Today brittle pipes might crack beneath our feet, loosing toxins.
  5. Today we walk a line between a fossil past and a future afire.
  6. But maybe we could still walk in unspoilt fields of tomorrow, erasing this line.
  7. Maybe we could still walk breathing and indeterminate and open to possibilities not described by this line.
  8. Observe that large jets are missing despite their loads of fuel, technological instrumentation.
  9. Observe that waterfowl in this area and elsewhere seem no less precarious.
  10. Observe the concept of the ocean as a “sink” for carbon and runoff.
  11. Observe that we are walking the path of the pipeline that is a property cutting across properties as it will to the harbour transecting lived space with fossils afire.
  12. Now who I ask is a pauper, who a prince?
  13. Now upon whose door can we nail these theses and stake our honest complaint?
  14. Because you would lay pipe beneath Eagle Creek and Squint Lake.
  15. Because you would lay pipe beneath Stony Creek and Lost Creek, beneath Heron and Dynamite Creeks, and beneath Silver Creek.
  16. Because you would lay pipe beneath great blue herons, red-tailed hawks, belted kingfishers, red-winged blackbirds, the occasional pheasant, river otter, beaver, and raccoon, beneath cutthroat trout and spawning salmon, beneath black-tailed deer and coyote.
  17. Because you would lay pipe beneath big leaf maple, red alder, western hemlock, western red cedar, Douglas fir, salmon berry, Indian plum and red elderberry.
  18. Because you would lay pipe beneath Forest Grove Elementary School, Southside Community Church, and the homes of Drew and Gail Benedict, Allison Stroun, and the entire Dhaliwal family, amongst others.
  19. Because 55 species of fish use the Port Moody Arm Basin for loafing, foraging, in-migration and out-migration, and for all or part of their life-cycle ecology.
  20. Because the Tsleil-Waututh people have lived on beside and around these waters for thousands of years and they are the keepers of these waters sacred to them and unceded and balanced stewardship is how they have always lived here.
  21. Because the Musqueam and Skwomesh peoples have lived near or around here for uncounted generations and clean water has been their necessity too crossing forest paths to take a deer or medicines home.
  22. Because we have a love of parks, green spaces, waterways and coastlines, bays and inlets where we might walk swim and fish away the days at leisure.
  23. Because there is of course oil in the pipe lying beneath our feet.
  24. Because the estimated frequency of significant oil spills on any given new pipeline is approximately two per year.
  25. Because in this case the existing pipeline is over 60 years old and instruments don’t last species do or might longer than banks we will see.
  26. Because the diluted bitumen which in this case Kinder Morgan pipes here beneath our feet is moved at much higher temperatures and under higher pressure than conventional oils, and is more corrosive than conventional oils.
  27. Because when a diluted bitumen spill occurs the chemical condensate evaporates resulting in toxic air-born vapours and the release of carcinogenic benzene and hydrogen sulphide into low-lying areas and waterways.
  28. Because the bitumen once separated from its condensate sinks to the bottom of bodies of water, impacting the very base of the food chain and all the existing methods of spill recovery are based on surface removal (by booms or burning).
  29. Because in July 2007 Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain pipeline burst at the intersection of Inlet and Ridge Drives spilling 250,000 litres of crude oil into streets and the front and back yards of homes and Dynamite Creek and eventually into Burrard Inlet; 250 residents were evacuated and $15 million spent on clean-up—it could have even been worse and it is worse.
  30. Because in January 2012 a pipeline rupture at Kinder Morgan’s Sumas Mountain tank farm spilled over 100,000 litres local resident’s breathing and burning eyes.
  31. Because to take another example after almost four years and $1 billion they are still cleaning up the 2010 Enbridge spill in Kalamazoo Michigan which has caused adverse health effects to some 58% of local residents and killed more than 3000 turtles 170 birds 40 mammals and has essentially eliminated fish and macroinvertibrates from local freshwater habitats that have not recovered and might not ever.
  32. Because as Rex Weyler once said every drop of oil you don’t spill into the water still spills into our atmosphere as carbon dioxide, adding to global climate change.
  33. Because the climate is warming faster and more dangerously than previously believed and the science is clear—this is anthropogenic climate change and even NASA and the UN are warning of the potential collapse of industrial civilization due to unsustainable resource extraction and the increasingly unequal distribution of wealth and I learned this from 12 year old Ta’Kaiya Blaney.
  34. Because as a NASA funded report claims all societal collapses over the past 5000 years have involved both the exceeding of ecological carting capacities and the economic stratification of society into elites and commoners which factors co-implicate and yes we are collapsing too.
  35. Because it’s said that the 85 wealthiest individuals on the planet have the same assets as the poorest 3.5 billion yes half the earth’s population but who’s counting?
  36. Because in 2013 Kinder Morgan was valued at $110 billion and paid shareholder dividends of over $1.7 billion.
  37. Because Kinder Morgan’s CEO and former Enron executive Richard Kinder received over $60 million in salary in 2012 but including stock options made $1.1 billion or so the internet tells me but really who’s counting?
  38. Therefore we beings being life forms and forces of incredible diversity all equally in possession of every possible right to a full and healthy existence according to our various natures;
  39. Being so often concerned with how we might sustain our various existences and sometimes aware and sometimes unaware of our cohabitation, overlapping, and general spatial and temporal coexistence one with each other;
  40. Being so often shaped, limited, and determined by the fact of this coexistence and in many cases sometimes obviously and directly but oftentimes also curiously indirectly and in almost unnoticeable ways co-dependent and carefully balanced each against and with and upon all the others;
  41. Being multiple and stray and various and differently adapted to our diverse ecological niches and fragile continuities;
  42. And one of us being a species named homo sapiens being capable of directly and indirectly impacting all the other species including itself out of proportion to all the other species though no less co-dependent coexisting and no more or less entitled to a full and healthy existence according to its particular nature;
  43. So that this one species having or having asserted and effected a larger impact on all the other coexisting species thereby takes on a kind of mantle of responsibility due in part to this species capacity for self-awareness and modification of its behaviour which is social;
  44. Thus it is on these grounds that this species most directly responsible for environmental and ecological calamities and crises the world over for instance climate change due to the burning of fossil fuels due to the systematic exploitation of people and resources and the private accumulation of capital stands here today to admit these responsibilities and declare that it will no longer permit itself the capacity to unequally impact destroy or otherwise dispossess other life forms of their ability to continue in their coexistence;
  45. Or at least we aspire to strive for such responsible stewardship which we might learn from First Nations and of which the maintenance of a company to extract distribute or pipe fossil fuels takes no part;
  46. And so we as members of this particular species declare or should declare our unrelenting opposition to the plans operations activities and profit-motived machinations of Kinder Morgan, a corporation like any other made and capable of being unmade enabled and capable of being disabled by human beings much as ourselves;
  47. For Kinder Morgan is a company formed out of the body of another company (Enron) and through the purchase of another company (the publicly owned BC Gas Company) where disaster begets disaster just as profit promotes further profit and inequalities always escalate in this system;
  48. For Kinder Morgan is in the business of transporting and distributing fossil fuel energy products and is ultimately part of an industry that produces excessive profits for an elite few and massive ongoing and often unpredictable global consequences for all coexisting life forms on this planet via global warming and its uneven and unjust consequences which are a direct threat to life on this planet;
  49. And the consequences of climate change and global warming impact poor and struggling populations more directly and immediately than they impact those in wealthy nations which so often cause global warming in the first place through their excessive energy consumption and this is to say nothing of other animals which also do not burn fuel but bear the brunt of ecological crises nonetheless.
  50. We say this knowing that we are consumers in a largely affluent society who work for wages and use these wages to purchase consumer goods and thereby sometimes derive enjoyment and certainly our continued material existence;
  51. Who have for instance purchased automobiles which run on fossil fuels to drive perhaps to the store or perhaps on a vacation over sharp-terrained coastal mountains to peer into pristine lakes or possibly spot a bear upslope and loping away from us into a stand of second growth fir;
  52. Who run errands in those automobiles that are of ambiguous import and usefulness and who bring home large amounts of petroleum based plastic products containing processed foods and amusements we will soon dispose of;
  53. Who wear clothes also fashioned from those petroleum products and who have mobile phones that are very distracting and amusing and which are also made of petroleum based products and also contain rare earth metals extracted in disparate parts of the earth and brought to us so we may play Plants vs Zombies by ships and trucks also powered with fossil fuels;
  54. Who after six months still use only 1% of consumer goods we have purchased the rest being disposed of in landfills and oceans and manufacturing and consumption account for more than half of the carbon dioxide we produce pathologically gulping stuff down;
  55. Who did not necessarily mean to do anything harmful but fell for the sleekness of products and the way marketing campaigns made everything seem so sexy and easy and convenience became a truism almost no one could contradict;
  56. We know this yet still declare our opposition to oil pipelines, the tar sands and the entire fossil fuel industry knowing that we are as much a part of the problem as Kinder Morgan or any other company is;
  57. We acknowledge that to oppose this industry is to admit that we must change our lives and consume less and re-localize our economies and do without some and possible many of the consumer goods we have found so distracting and amusing and really whose to blame well we are;
  58. We acknowledge that there are alternative energy sources which are renewable and which will have decidedly less destructive impacts on local ecosystems and the global climate and that these alternatives are becoming more and more realistic and affordable each day and that many countries though not the country of Canada are making progress in transitioning to renewable energy sources and that some of these sources are solar, wind, and geothermal;
  59. We contend that the argument based on job creation is a red herring to employ an ecological metaphor because jobs have many sources and no one type of job should have precedent over any other and the goal anyway should be jobs that are life-promoting and life-sustaining and not life-destroying and apparently anyway more people are employed producing beer than oil in Canada.
  60. Now wouldn’t a beer pipeline be something hmm?
  61. So we declare ourselves to be for life and not for death and for the future and not for the apocalypse.
  62. We walk with these others look around you look others too saying we will no longer stand for a world of pipelines and tar sands and carbon sinks burning futures.
  63. We will no longer burn our futures for unequal and unjust todays however fascinating and filled with distractions and privileges.
  64. We will no longer stand for a world of waste and petroleum products and no thoughts of future consequences of our acts and we will try not to contribute to the problem by say allowing more pipelines to be built and more oil spilled and burned more suffering delivered to so many left outside of benefit.
  65. We will take what actions are necessary despite government decisions media misrepresentations and corporate swindling we will act because we make up whatever we we can imagine it’s complicated but simple too we are and have the real power we just don’t always exercise or feel we can exercise it we can we will.
  66. And these streams we cross and re-cross daily and the smallest of organisms dwelling in and around them we recognize are as real and valid as anything else even more than a designer home overlooking the ocean or Las Vegas or a container ship filled with rubber ducks and certainly far less destructive.
  67. And we recognize that the temptations are great and people are bought off every day and we are very frail and small and temporary individually but can we also agree that we are many and they are few as has been said many times and in many ways?
  68. Now let’s see what we can do walking together along the path of this pipeline or walking to the place we can gather and blockade the new pipelines coming.
  69. Now come outside in the weather we are blossoming.
  70. Now come outside something’s in the air it could be tomorrow we could be different there together if we start today come outside together.

 

Written for the “People’s Procession,” read at the conclusion of the march and attached to the gates of Kinder Morgan’s Westridge Marine Terminal, Burnaby BC, April 12 2014