Fire on the mountain


There is something going on not far from where I live that is making national news. I had another post all ready to go, but decided to change the focus. Sometimes a love for nature can get political. For everyone who has worried about the future world their children will live in, this is for you.

Let’s start with the two minute overview of events as covered by Global News:

Now, I know clips of ranting protestors do not capture the hearts and minds of most people. But, stay with me, there is much history at work here. The events at Burnaby Mountain are becoming an opportunity to connect people from all walks of life with an issue of grave importance for our children and grandchildren.

Even those with little knowledge of Canada probably know we love hockey, we have a funny habit towards being overly polite and two of the greatest icons in Canadian pop culture are Neil Young and David Suzuki. While both of these greats have a deep commitment to environmentalism, David Suzuki is the rock star in this realm. An award-winning geneticist who began his career in broadcasting in 1974, David Suzuki became a household name through his award winning series, The Nature of Things with David Suzuki, that has been running for an incredible 54 years! Living in a small, resource-dependent town (yep, in the oil patch) I clearly remember my grade 9 science teacher wheeling in the TV trolley so he could exuberantly screen Nature of Things episodes for us. He, via David Suzuki, taught us about recycling and ecological limits. I had always spent time outside, but I was also surrounded by a culture where resource extraction equalled money. I still have a feeling of indebtedness to that Grade 9 teacher and to David Suzuki for opening my eyes to the world of science and ecology, and the idea that human activity needs to be balanced. It was the ’90’s, the concept of sustainability was brand new.

david_suzuki_tamo_campos_kinder_morgan_protest_at_rcmp_police_line_burnaby_mountain_sunday_-_mychaylo_prystupa_-_2014-11-23_w3000_1 (1)

David Suzuki has become an institution–as a broadcaster he is under contract with the CBC and the foundation that operates under his namesake has a policy against showing up at protests. So this week, when David Suzuki’s grandson, Tamo Campos, was arrested on Burnaby Mountain protesting the Kinder Morgan pipeline it was news. Then a letter Suzuki wrote to his grandson supporting his action went viral. And then David Suzuki himself showed up at Burnaby Mountain in solidarity with his family–his daughter, granddaughter and grandson were all there. This raw, unscheduled reaction to a real time event made me excited. While the protest on Burnaby Mountain is specifically about stopping the expansion of a Kinder Morgan pipeline, it has become a flashpoint where Canadians are standing up to express their concerns about climate change, the failure of our governments to act in the public interest and the desire to start building a future that is less dependent on fossil fuels.

Why is this such a big deal? Some essential information:

  • Kinder Morgan is one of the largest pipeline companies in the US and it’s run by a former Enron exec
  • One large spill from a KM pipeline could cost $40 billion in damage and be catastrophic to the environment
  • Kinder Morgan has already had 7(!) spills and leaks in BC since 2005
  • At the hearings where the public is supposed to have input into the impacts of the pipeline climate change cannot be discussed
  • This is a pipeline being built to transport oil from the tar sands (oil  sands) from Alberta, which when fully developed will be the largest industrial contributor to greenhouse gases in North America, yet climate change cannot be discussed!
  • The Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is strongly tied to the oil industry and was recently ranked one of the worst climate villains in the world
  • Since Harper has been in power he has retracted Canada’s commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, weakened environmental regulations, gutted leading edge climate change research and systematically silenced Canadian scientists
  • Canada, under Harper, has reversed our previous leadership on global warming and is now ranked with Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia as countries lacking a federal policy to address climate change and no intention to create one
  • Governments at a local level are fighting the pipeline: the City of Vancouver, Burnaby and First Nations have all filed lawsuits in an attempt to halt construction of the pipeline
  • People from all walks of life are gathering at Burnaby Mountain–scientists, writers, nature enthusiasts, grandparents, parents and children

This clip of a well-respected molecular biology professor sums up the sentiment that all the usual things are no longer enough given federal and provincial governments who appear  captured by oil industry interests:

What will your kids think?

Given all of this commotion it seems like a good time to ask, what are we doing to make the world a better place for our children? Will our children wonder why, since we knew fossil fuels contribute to climate change and climate change is negatively impacting the world as we know it, why didn’t we change paths sooner? Why didn’t we do everything in our power to stop it? I think these are the fundamental questions that are motivating the surge of participation at Burnaby Mountain, including the 100+ people who have chosen to be arrested in acts of civil disobedience.

While research is lacking on what today’s children think about climate change, we do know that the Millennial generation (those who are currently 18-33) are the segment most motivated to address this issue. In a US poll, 69% of Millennials surveyed thought governments should be more involved in addressing climate change, not less. For those under 18 it is likely to be an even more defining issue. After all, they will bear the brunt of climate changes’ affects more than we will.

This weekclayoquot_sound_activists_marching_to_arrests_at_kinder_morgan_work_site_burnaby_mount_-_mychaylo_prystupa_-_2014-11-26_w3000 we’ve seen other historical leaders from the BC environmental movement, those who led the largest environmental protests in Canadian history in Clayoquot Sound in the 90’s, make their pilgrimage to Burnaby Mountain. Many of these leaders spoke of their motivation to do this for their grandchildren.

What kind of legacy are we leaving?

If you’d like to join the movement at Burnaby Mountain you can get the details at ComeToTheMountain or follow on facebook. This Saturday there is a special event for grandmothers, mothers and children.

If you’re too far away to join in person you can connect with climate change campaigns locally and globally.

Thanks to everyone who are asking themselves the tough questions and committing to a better world for future generations.

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