“I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be saying to you guys. What do you want to know? I just found out what this was a few minutes ago. Pretty sad, isn’t it? Not good. It’s not good where I come from too. Actually, I’m from Fort Chip. I was working in the oil industry for about eight years. And I just got diagnosed with cancer this year. So I’m battling for my life right now. I got diagnosed with breast cancer. So there are about three of us women back home, out of 1,300, who had breast cancer and they survived it. There’s something different about me though. The doctors have found that I have two kinds of breast cancer. One is pretty rare and not too many people get this. And I really strongly believe that I picked up this disease while I was living out there and working out there and living in Fort Chip off and on for about eight years. That’s my belief. And that’s what I have to live with because I had worked in this place and I didn’t like it. Every day I used to go to work and I didn’t like what I was doing. All I did was clean. Clean. I was a cleaner. And as soon as you arrive in Fort McMurray, you can smell the oil and the gas in the air. Sickening. The pollution is really bad. We don’t even have any water left anymore. I remember the days when you couldn’t cross the Clear Water River without a canoe or a boat, and now you can just walk across. It’s ankle-deep now. They’re taking the water and they’re denying the fact that they’re using all the water to process the oil. And now I see that some of the oil is coming here. It’s going to be dispersing all over the world, all this oil and gas . . . I want to go home and show my grandchildren the way I used to live. But I can’t do that. There’s nothing left. I have nowhere to go from here.”
It takes a new kind of lawmaker to undo what needs to be undone these days.
I’m older, but still of the new school of law that understands change as non-sequitur.
My daughters refuse to eat some nights because they find me “disgusting.” I make them want to “small-puke” in their mouths, they tell me.
They are gastronomically inclined.
But they also seem to understand my meaning when I look around the dining room with its high back chairs, matching plates and spot prawns. They seem to understand the import of the blouses they brought back from Rome and the tenor of the bangles they bought from a street vendor while on holiday in Bombay.
If, since the passing of Bill C-38, the twins have begun to cultivate more humble and divergent public personas, I cannot feign surprise. Only my daughters would go so far as to imply that their monozygotic origins serve as a class indicator. They are teenagers and one of their chief endeavours is to cross boundaries without being shunned.
The radical literature they leave around the house, I could do without. But at least it is not overly intelligent. One brochure in particular could have been cribbed from my own notes!
… dismantled laws for air, water, and land protection … freeways to forest-paving for resource extraction companies … the Canadian population strip-mined of their ability to participate in the formation of their own destinies … an audit fund to defund charities working to protect the thin sheath of knowledge known as the climate … I think, perhaps, my daughters care about these things, and may even have had a hand in crafting the over-wrought prose found in the pamphlets, because they grew up with law. I wonder how much luck they have in making any of it popular.
They complain about many things. Not just disappeared law or legal displacements. They don’t like urban amnesia either. And so I understand why they are “unhappy” with me.
I specialize in the “hole in the ground” phase. I come in after others yank an edifice down and present a nothing. A nothing is a threat. Nothing erodes memory. Erasure is sudden, traumatic, disorienting. But forgetting is gradual, painful, and relentless. Hence, the resentment.
The something that replaces nothing rearranges your brain, your world, and your place in it. And it’s all up to people like me, which is the problem others seem to have with it.
The newly erased laws increase the likelihood of marine pollution. And the people will be the ones who pay. If there’s a mess, especially if there is a mess that combines with a blockade, there will be strife and it will take some very strong people to keep their heads above the waters of controversy.
If my daughters were smart, they’d stock up on good clothes, good food, and good relationships, then go down to the water and set up a think tank.
It would be shocking if our children learned to navigate the white flame of change and mobilize millions around solutions that come from a movement strong enough to insist on hard tactics and succeed in establishing solutions.
People like me would have to learn to remember. We would have to learn the meaning of words like inclusivity, potential, and decades.
In the lead-up to the climate inaction conference in Copenhagen in 2009, Spanner Films released The Age of Stupid, a movie about climate change. I was a student at UBC at the time and organized a screening. To promote the screening, I tabled in front of the Norm Theatre in the Student Union Building for days with a rotation of banners that read things like: “Stupid: lifting ban on tar sands tankers” and “Stupid: building tar sands pipelines.” I had the movie trailer and videos of occupations, including a tar sands mine occupation play in a loop on my laptop.
Students came to the table and asked if I was from a real club. “How’d you get permission to post these banners?” student union members asked. “And show these videos?”
It never occurred to me that there was anything strange about what I was doing, which is what I told them. And we chatted and made plans to chat some more on the day of the movie.
On the Wednesday, an older gentleman came to shake the business section of the Globe and Mail in my face. “Who told you to post this message?” he asked.
“No one,” I told him, trying to remember which message was in the rotation on that day.
“I’m a Law Professor here at UBC and I think you should sit in on my class.”
“So you can learn to understand yourself as a political actor.”
“I already understand myself as a political actor,” I told him. “I was born in Quebec.”
The Professor left and those of us who were concerned carried on with our actions.
The fall of Enron was sparked over eleven years ago. And in a lovely coincidence, I, a former Enron executive, have gone on to engineer one of the grandest energy deals ever.
Indeed, we announced a $21.1 billion natural gas deal last year.
I was president and chief operating officer of Enron for over sixteen years.
But when Enron asked you in 1996 to stay five more years you went into business with me.
How could I turn down the opportunity to start my own energy company with you, dear friend — a veteran of the natural gas pipeline industry?
With three spills in BC’s Lower Mainland since we started running tar sands through the sixty-year-old Trans Mountain natural gas pipeline, we’re learning. But there doesn’t seem to be any significant barrier to our successful twinning of the old line, yet.
And little chance of a twenty-four-year prison sentence of the kind my successor at Enron is serving.
To the hydrocarbon market!
To never-ending oil exploration!
To our ever-expanding pipeline empire!
To your health!
To your record!
A Modest Politics
Since the 1970s, we’ve had a moratorium on oil tanker traffic on our coast. Since 1988, we’ve had an exclusion zone that accompanied the moratorium. The first was set up by a Liberal government. The second by a Conservative government. They were set up for a very good reason. An oil spill on our coast would be catastrophic, negatively impacting both the ecology of the coast and its economy. —Adrian Dix
They quoted it back to me, when they met with me—Strathmere.
We’re all in agreement about the Enbridge pipeline, the large environmental groups and I. But I won’t announce my decision on the Kinder Morgan pipeline, and how it currently ships tar sands in supertankers that leave the Burrard Inlet, until 2013.
But since Leclerc’s made me a character in a story about the Trans Mountain pipeline, which ends in her backyard, and wants to piece an account of my 2012 meeting with the Strathmere Group into something dramatically interesting, I will repeat: There will be no NDP decision on Trans Mountain until 2013.
But, of course, I’ll admit to Strathmere that my hands are tied, the proposed Kinder Morgan expansion being on an existing pipeline.
Will I see Strathmere in the streets? When one of their groups manages a Kinder Morgan legacy fund? Will anything stand in Kinder Morgan’s way?
Only time will tell, and with the election in May, less than 4,500 hours of it.
The last time I did any door-to-door solicitation, it was to help my sister sell Girl Guide cookies. But supertankers keep pushing through our inlet and you always hear how climate change is whack. I’m an engineering student, and I’m not the most persuasive person on Earth. To be honest, I think even I signed up to canvass for the wrong reason: I wanted the people in Burnaby whose homes were hosed with oil when a pipeline bust in 2007 to convince me. I wanted to drink in their rage against a pipeline company that didn’t have an accurate map of where their pipeline was. Instead, I heard:
“Kinder Morgan’s been great. Would you like to come inside? They bought this widescreen TV for me and my family.”
“Kinder Morgan helped us pay to have both our yards landscaped.”
“Kinder Morgan did a good job after the spill. They replaced our roof and helped us renovate the basement.”
By house number four, I felt like I was part of some demented knock, knock joke.
“A fellow community member.”
“A fellow community member who?”
“A fellow community member who wants to know if you love Kinder Morgan and their tar sands spewing pipeline as much as everyone else on this block seems to.” An electrician drove up during our debrief in a nearby park.
She turned up her stereo. “If you’re wondering why everyone loves Kinder Morgan around here, it’s because most of us signed gag orders,” she said, matter-of-factly—as though nothing could surprise her. As though I should go somewhere else if I was looking for rage.
And in that moment, it didn’t surprise me either. Not the energy industry, not the blockades. Not the disappearing sea ice, or the rare cancers. Not the wolf slaughter or the self-indulgence of the dreams that had had me grinding my teeth into tooth dust in the months that came before.
I wanted the electrician to electrocute me, even though I knew this wasn’t her job. I was bored with my small and unimportant part in the campaign to stop the tankers.
My moms were good—non-Kool-Aid-drinking, though, mind you—lefties. I played the piano, took acting classes, and did the Liberal Arts education thing. It would have made them very happy if I had gone into labour or environmental law. When I came home one holiday and told them I’d apply to Communications schools after undergrad they were happier than I expected, until I mentioned my interest in Public Relations. I could have sworn that new lines etched themselves into the frost peaks of their foreheads in that moment.
Now, I think it’s all they can do to try and love me from the remoteness of the politics they chose before I was born.
I work for a company that’s trying to build a pipeline from the tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico, and I don’t consider myself to be lost. I consider myself to be a well-paid, NGO-supporting person with a nuanced perspective on life and the hero myth.
My moms and I don’t talk.
You might be tempted to assume that I’m pro-pipeline. But, really, I’m pro-doing-my-job.
I love my job because I love stories and how they shepherd political outcomes.
The agenda for tar sands expansion fascinates me. I love that it’s been frontloaded into all these pipelines. It’s brilliant because it increases the number of targets for environmentalists, while keeping the narratives local. For example, The Tar Sands blockade, which has been holding construction on a certain pipeline back for months, is barely reported on in Canada. Police are pepper-spraying peaceful protesters and the people of BC, who face two tar sands pipeline proposals, are barely the wiser.
Kinder Morgan’s been smart on at least two fronts. Enbridge hemorrhaged credibility when pipeline opponents pointed out that they hadn’t established demand for the capacity they proposed to build through the Northern wilderness. So, when Kinder Morgan began to make it’s expansion public, they went out and secured bids for capacity above and beyond what they already serviced.
The other smart thing Kinder Morgan has done is get everyone using the word “expansion” to describe its project. If you want to stop the pipeline, stop calling it an expansion. Expansions are boring and no one cares. Plus, they require no public process.
Kinder Morgan’s proposal could easily be described as three new tar sands pipelines being built in the vicinity of the old Trans Mountain natural gas pipeline.
Call them the Ed, Hardar, and Blackridge.
Talk about how Kinder Morgan pipes tar sands through Jasper National Park. Talk about how new pipelines require public process, not consultations that the company has no intention of withdrawing their plan over. Talk about the largest terrestrial spill in US history and how it was a tar sands spill and how the US’s National Transportation Safety Board report on the Enbridge spill talks about how the company increased pipeline pressure several times in the lead-up to the Kalamazoo catastrophe because of false readings from gas bubbles—bubbles that form as a result of the natural-gas condensate used to dilute the tar sands to get it to flow through the pipeline.
Am I on your side? I don’t know. But I do like the idea of people working together to shake mind-blowing change out of the atmosphere.
Your passions intrigue me.
There’s a story there. »
Impact: Found text taken from speech made by Rose Desjarlais at a Keystone XL solidarity rally at the Kinder Morgan terminal in Burnaby, BC in 2011—http://qik.com/video/43752158.
Erasure: Imagined with notes from the Ecojustice blog.
Actor: Personal anecdote.
Energymen: Based on found text from the Wall Street Journal blog: http://blogs.wsj.com/deals/2011/10/17/richard-kinder-the-luckiest-ex-enron-employee/
A Modest Politics: Anecdote conveyed by Greenpeace Canada Executive Director Bruce Cox.
People: Based on an overheard anecdote.
Public Relations: Observations on Enbridge, TransCanada and Kinder Morgan media coverage 2010-2012.From issue #63